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Filmmaker, photographer, playwright, and philanthropist Arch Brown died of natural causes at his home in Palm Springs, California, on September 3, 2012. He was 76 years old.
Brown gained famed during the 1970s and early 1980s as the director of a series of feature-length gay pornographic films, including, among others, The Night Before (1973), Five Hard Pieces (1977), Harley’s Angels (1977), Dynamite! (1978; starring Jack Wrangler), So Many Men, So Little Time (1979) and All Tied Up (1981). During this period, he also worked as photographer, taking erotic photographs that appeared in gay slicks such as Mandate and Honcho.
In the late 1970s, Brown began writing plays, which he continued to do until very recently. His first play, News Boy, was his most successful, receiving an Off Broadway production in 1979; centering on the coming-out of the gay son of a conservative politician, the play was later produced by numerous community theater groups around the country. A 1998 comedy by Brown, FREEZE!, received the Eric Bentley Playwriting Prize that year and has been produced several times. During the last decade of his life, Brown founded and ran the Thorny Theater, in Palm Springs, which mounted several gay-themed plays each season; the theater closed in 2010.
Born Arnold Krueger in Chicago on June 2, 1936, Brown attended Northwestern University before moving to New York City in the late 1950s. There, he met his life partner, Bruce Brown, whose last name he used professionally. Following Bruce Brown’s death in 1993, Arch Brown established the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation, which gives grants to LGBT playwrights and to theater groups mounting LGBT-themed plays and which has sponsored periodic literary competitions awarding prizes to playwrights and fiction writers whose works are “based on, or inspired by, a historic person, culture, event, or work of art.” Among the works the Foundation awarded recognition through its literary grants were plays by Carolyn Gage (The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman), David Brendan Hopes (St. Patrick’s Well), David Johnston (Candy & Dorothy), Quiara Alegria Hudes (Pennsylvania for Stargazers), and novels by Jameson Currier (Where the Rainbow Ends), Harlan Greene (The Lost Light), Raymond Luczak (Men With Their Hands), and Merlyn A. Hermes (The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet).
Brown’s remains will be interred at a cemetery in Charlotte, Michigan, in a grave next to that of Bruce Brown. There are no survivors.
(Photo via The Arch and Brown Brown Foundation)