Vanessa Brown (Smylla Brind)
The attractive daughter of Austrian-Jewish émigrés who fled their homeland to Paris in 1937 before coming to America, "B" actress Vanessa Brown grew up exceptionally fluent in German, French, Italian and English. She auditioned for Lillian Hellman at age 13 sporting a perfect Teutonic accent and earned the chance to understudy Ann Blyth on Broadway in the classic stage drama "Watch on the Rhine" in 1941. She eventually was given a featured role and followed that with a tour of the play using the stage name of Tessa Brind. Read more... high school, she was a pure natural when she appeared on the radio quiz show "Quiz Kid." Hollywood and David O. Selznick took notice of her charms and transferred her to Hollywood High. She quickly made her film debut in Youth Runs Wild (1944) and continued in secondary teen roles with The Girl of the Limberlost (1945), I've Always Loved You (1946), Margie (1946), and The Late George Apley (1947), the last being her best and showiest to date. Following high school graduation, the now-billed "Vanessa Brown" progressed to young adult roles. She received lots of attention when she won the role of "Jane" opposite Lex Barker's loin-clothed swinger in Tarzan and the Slave Girl (1950), but abruptly left the series after only one attempt. In the 1950s she moved to TV where she became a perky panelist in such quiz shows as "Leave It to the Girls" (1949) and "Pantomime Quiz," in addition to regular dramatic programming. After a small part in the classic film The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Vanessa found renewed attention on Broadway co-starring as the girl who lives upstairs in the phenomenal hit "The Seven Year Itch" opposite Tom Ewell. Of course, she wasn't given the chance to repeat her sexy role in Hollywood. The meteoric Marilyn Monroe was an absolute sensation in Vanessa's part opposite Ewell in the 1955 movie version. On TV, Vanessa did, however, replace Joan Caulfield on the sitcom My Favorite Husband (1953) with Barry Nelson, enjoying a couple seasons of steady paychecks. Politics overrode all other interests in 1956 when she actively served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Acting took a further back seat in the early 60s when she married her second husband, TV director Mark Sandrich Jr., and gave birth to two children. From then on she was glimpsed here and there in small, matronly roles in such films as Rosie! (1967) and Bless the Beasts & Children (1971). In addition she had some running parts on a couple of daytime and nighttime TV programs. Vanessa's last years were marred by a second divorce (from Sandrich) and ill health. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988, she had successful surgery, but the cancer returned and she died in 1999 at the Motion Picture Country Home at age 71.