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Brian's Song
Directed by Buzz Kulik
Produced by Paul Junger Witt
Written by Gale Sayers with Al Silverman (original book); William Blinn (teleplay)
Starring James Caan
Billy Dee Williams
Jack Warden
Shelley Fabares
Music by Michel Legrand
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Editing by Bud S. Isaacs
Distributed by Screen Gems / Sony Pictures Television (producers)
ABC (original broadcaster)
Release date(s) 30-Nov-1971[1]
Running time 73 min.
Country USA
Language English

Brian's Song is a 1971 ABC Movie of the Week, recalling the details of the life of Brian Piccolo (played by James Caan), a white football player stricken with terminal cancer, and his friendship with African American Chicago Bears running back teammate and Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams), who helps him through the difficult struggle. The true story was such a success on ABC television (November 30, 1971) that it was later shown in theaters,[2] with a major premiere in Chicago; however, it was soon withdrawn due to a lack of business.[1] Some critics have called the movie among the finest telefilms ever made.[1][3]

The movie is based on Sayers' account of his friendship with Piccolo and Piccolo's illness in Sayers' autobiography, I Am Third. The film was written by veteran screenwriter William Blinn, whose script one Dallas television critic called "highly restrained, steering clear of any overt sentimentality [yet conveying] the genuine affection the two men felt so deeply for each other."[3]




The musical theme to Brian's Song, "The Hands of Time," was a popular tune during the early 1970s and has become a standard.[1] The music for the film was by Michel Legrand, with lyrics to the song by Marilyn and Alan Bergman. Nashville pianist Floyd Cramer performed a popular version of "The Hands of Time".

Awards and nominations

The film won an Emmy Award for Best Dramatic Program (1971-72). William Blinn won an Emmy for his teleplay, and Jack Warden won for his performance as Coach Halas. Caan and Williams were also nominated.[1]


Thirty years after its original airing, a remake was aired in 2001 on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney starring Mekhi Phifer as Sayers and Sean Maher as Piccolo.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Marill, Alvin H. (1987). Movies Made For Television: The Telefeature and the Mini-series, 1964-1986. New York: Baseline/New York Zoetrope. pp. 53-4. ISBN 0-918-432-85-5.  
  2. ^ Thomas, Bob. "TV 'Brian's Song' on movie screens," The Dallas Morning News, April 29, 1972, page 2.
  3. ^ a b Harry Bowman. "Broadcast Beat [TV column]: 'Brian's Song' superior film," The Dallas Morning News, November 27, 1971, page 7A.
  4. ^ Brian's Song (2001)

External links



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