While “The Sting,” “Jaws,” “The Player,” “A Few Good Men” and “Chocolat” differ in style and genre, they share one common characteristic — David Brown.
A writer, movie producer and former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, Brown spent over an hour Thursday at a Morse College Master’s Tea speaking about his life and his careers in Hollywood and journalism.
“He’s probably the most famous living producer,” Morse College Master Frank Keil said before the tea began.
Born in 1916 in New York City, Brown graduated from Stanford University at the height of the depression and chose to continue his education at the Columbia School of Journalism, where he is now a trustee. After a series of jobs, including stints as a horoscope writer and a second-string drama critic, Brown became the non-fiction editor at Liberty magazine, one of the top weekly publications of the time. After returning from the Second World War, he came back to Liberty — this time as fiction editor.
It was through the knowledge of stories and storytelling that Brown ended up in Hollywood, working as the executive story editor at Twentieth Century Fox, which his friend and partner, Richard Zanuck, headed. But after a series of conflicts within the company, Brown and Zanuck decided to leave Fox and become producers.
After describing the pair’s first successes, Brown soon opened himself up to questions from the audience.
Producing “Jaws,” Brown said, was a great risk to take.
“If we had read the book twice, we wouldn’t have made the film,” Brown said, explaining that the production crew had always been afraid that audiences would find the film amusing rather than frightening.
“We knew we had it when we showed it to the cast and crew after it was finished and they were scared,” Brown said.
Brown also told the story of a third Jaws movie he wanted to make, a parody entitled “Jaws: 3, People: Nothing.”
Students said they found Brown’s talk interesting and his advice for going into Hollywood inspiring.
Rachel Harrington ’06 said she enjoyed hearing about Brown’s career.
“I really liked listening to his stories and getting behind the scenes,” Harrington said. “I especially liked hearing about Jaws. I had no idea that the wife had an affair with Richard Dreyfus’ character [in the book version of Jaws]. I liked [hearing about] ‘Jaws: 3, People: Nothing,’ too.”
Brown said he enjoys being involved in events like Master’s Teas because they allow him to interact with young people.
“I love it,” Brown said. “I’ve done this in many, many universities. I don’t do it for a living. I do it because it gives me pleasure. It’s very stimulating to me to be with the young generation. I think they’re smarter than we were, and I’ve found it very valuable.”
Keil said he was grateful to guests, like Brown, who come to Master’s Teas.
“We’re just incredibly appreciative that people like that give up their time to come,” Keil said. “They just do it out of the goodness of their hearts. Sometimes the most distinguished people are the most obliging and the most giving.”
At the tea’s conclusion, one student asked how Brown continues to work at the age of 87.
“I have no hobbies,” Brown said.