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How Brian's Song became one of the most beloved sports films of all time

  • Even though NFL great Gale Sayers -- who died Wednesday at age 77 -- didn't have a formal role in the 1971 ABC low-budget, made-for-TV biopic about his relationship with dying Chicago Bears teammate Brian Piccolo, Brian's Song is the most lasting video artifact of his amazing life, says Dave McKenna. "For all its shoddy production values and ridiculously hurried production schedule, the film would become one of the most beloved and popular sports movies of all time," says McKenna. "Even President Richard Nixon, after a private screening at the White House about six months before the Watergate break-in that did him in, weighed in...The film garnered 11 Emmy nominations and a Peabody Award and rave reviews all over. The movie’s theme song, written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman (who also wrote the Oscar-winning theme for The Way We Were) got the Grammy for best instrumental. Because it was such a smash, Brian’s Song’s producer, Screen Gems, released the movie to theaters in April 1972, mere months after its debut broadcast. This was at a time when the line between TV and feature films was far wider than it is today."

    TOPICS: Gale Sayers, Brian's Song, Billy Dee Williams, Retro TV