The Greatest “Guy Movie” Ever Made Turns 50
I was nine when the film debuted in the fall of 1971. My buddies and I then watched it multiple times in reruns and learned the dialogue. To the point where we could extemporaneously act out the scenes. It was such a monster hit for a low budget TV film that it then moved into theaters! When I saw the ending during my first viewing, I cried. And every other time I watched the picture. It was my first experience with death involving someone I cared about (my Grandfather Colley would die a few months later). It speaks highly of the movie and its young actors. In 90 minutes they made people care about the characters. To the point you believed you actually knew them.
In the book he makes it clear Piccolo’s death before the age of 30 made Sayers put the important things in life into perspective.
It inspired me to read I Am Third, Gayle Sayers’s autobiography. An entire chapter is devoted to his friendship with Brian Piccolo. Sayers, who was likely on his way to being the greatest rusher in NFL history, had a career derailed by injuries. In the book he makes it clear Piccolo’s death before the age of 30 made Sayers put the important things in life into perspective.
Brian’s Song also featured a strong supporting role by Abe Gibron. Gibron was an actual assistant and later head coach of the Bears.
The two main actors, James Caan and Billy Dee Williams later went on to storied Hollywood careers. Caan best remembered for the Godfather and Williams for Star Wars.
For men of my generation and many others, both will always be associated with a small film that taught us the value of friendship, loyalty and bravery in the face of deadly adversity.
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