Actress-writer Vanessa Brown, who escaped Nazi Europe to become the toast of Broadway in “The Seven Year Itch” and the respected author of a book on labor policy, died Friday of cancer in the Motion Picture and Television Country Home at Woodland Hills. She was 71.
Brown was born Smylla Brind in Vienna, the daughter of a language teacher and psychologist. She fled to the United States from Austria in 1937 at the age of 9 and began her stage career shortly after when she heard producers were looking for a girl with a German accent to play in Lillian Hellman’s anti-Nazi drama “Watch on the Rhine.” By 14, Brown, who spoke four languages, was a member of the hit radio show “The Quiz Kids.”
She starred in several films during the 1940s and 1950s including “Tarzan and the Slave Girl” (1950) and appeared in “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1947), “The Foxes of Harrow” (1947), “The Late George Apley” (1947) and “The Heiress” (1949).
In 1952, at the age of 24, Brown co-starred on Broadway with Tom Ewell in the comedy “The Seven Year Itch,” a role played on film by Marilyn Monroe.
Brown left film in the 1950s to marry television director Mark Sandrich Jr. but returned in the 1970s, when she appeared in several television dramas. She also built a career as a painter and author, writing several books including “The Manpower Policies of Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz” and a novel, “Europa and the Bull.”
She is survived by two children.
Memorial services are scheduled for today at 3 p.m. at Stephen S. Wise Temple.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund, 23388 Mulholland Drive, Woodland Hills, CA 91364.