Customer Reviews: Brian's Song
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on October 22, 2000
I was fifteen years old when "Brian's Song" premiered as a "Movie of the Week" on ABC-TV. I had no interest in sports then (I still don't), and had no intentions of watching this movie, but my dad persuaded me. "Just watch the first few minutes," he said. He knew that this was NOT a sports movie. He had read Gale Sayers' book "I Am Third" (upon which this movie is partially based), and knew that this was a movie about PEOPLE, not about football. The fact that the two lead characters are football players is almost incidental. This is a movie about friendship, love and courage. Needless to say, I watched it from start to finish, and have watched it many times since. Although its roots as a TV movie are obvious (the production values are nothing more than ordinary), "Brian's Song" is one of the most extraordinary films ever made, a particularly remarkable achievement when you consider its length of only 74 minutes. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, both virtual unknowns at the time, play Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers with a sense of realism, and with respect for their real-life counterparts. Jack Warden is excellent (as always) as coach George Halas, and Shelley Fabares and Judy Pace turn in fine performances as Joy Piccolo and Linda Sayers. David Huddleston and Bernie Casey make the most of their small parts, and even real-life Chicago Bears provide some fine moments, particularly the "hazing" sequence. The sincere performances, along with William Blinn's beautifully-written teleplay, keep the action from becoming mawkish or sappy, Buzz Kulik's direction brought out the best in his actors, and Michel Legrand's score comments on the emotions in the film with exactly the right tone. (Legrand's penchant for marking musical cues to sudden movement onscreen is notable, and the gorgeous theme is one of the most emotionally charged pieces of music ever written.) The film ends on a freeze-frame of James Caan's face over narration by Jack Warden of William Blinn's words, and when that musical theme pulls out all the stops after Warden's narration ends, well...even the Chicago Bears themselves would be dissolved in tears. It's one of my all-time favorite movies, and I would recommend it without reservation to anyone, sports fan or not. Thanks, Dad.
The DVD version includes an exclusive short featurette, "Gale Sayers: First and Goal" in which present-day Gale Sayers discusses the movie and his career. It's interesting, but nothing special. Also included in audio commentary by Williams and Caan. Caan is a cutup and does most of the talking, and little of any real substance is said, but it IS quite entertaining, and definitely worth another viewing.
But then, "Brian's Song" is ALWAYS worth another viewing...
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on November 30, 2001
Whe I heard that the folks at ABC were remaking "Brian's song",
I was really upset... Why tamper with success,and why remake one of the most beautiful movies ever! I saw Brian's song during its original broadcast back in 1971, and thought it was one of the best. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams are superb as Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. The supporting cast, including Shelly Fabares as Joy and Judy Pace as Linda are also excellent as is Jack Warden as Papa Bear Halas. If you really want to see this movie go for the original!
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on December 27, 1999
Brian's Song is one of the saddest movies ever made, based on the too-true story of the black/white friendship between Gale Sayer and Brian Piccolo. James Caan does a credible, if self-absorbed job as Brian -- his sickly scenes definitely do not hold up as well as you might remember, and though this movie definitely looks and sounds dated, it still packs a powerful emotional punch, in the same way that Terms of Endearment does. Beware: you are headed for very rough waters. And that Michel Legrand theme song, a classic for the ages, turns the nozzle to full-tilt. That final still image remains firmly etched in my mind, and the special relationship engendered here carries a special weight as one of the first of its kind ever seen in a film.
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on June 29, 2004
I'm a huge sports fan. I want to be a sports writer and it's stuff that Brian's Song that makes me want to do it even more.
Brian's Song is based on the true story of Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. Both were rookies when they joined the Chicago Bears. Brian Piccolo(Caan) was the funny loudmouth that everybody loved. He wans't the most gifted athlete in the world and his determination made him the player that he was. Gale Sayers(Williams) was the quiet one. He was the easily the most talented player on the team maybe in the league. The two are paired as roomates and the friendship starts.
The two are opposites and don't get along that well at first. Opposites attract and they especially do with these two. They quickly feed off each other though and become the best of friends. They fuel each other and are inspeperable. They become the first white and black roomates in the NFL. They ignore the whole idea of race and are like brothers.
When Sayers tears his ACL the next year Brain gets the chance to step up and show his talent. He however feels for his friend and is determined to get Gale back into his form as the best RB in the league. There bond becomes even stronger during this time as does the friendship of there families.
The tide changes though when Brian starts not to play well. It's a new season and the two are enjoying finally playing with each other as one of the best backfields in the league. Brians play starts to diminsh though and he's sent to the doctor. What the doctor finds is that Brian has cancer and is terminal. It's now up to Gale to help his friend through this most difficult time of his life.
This movie isn't about football. It's about the bond of love and friendship that these two men have for each other. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams play these roles to perfection. Both weren't known all that well at this time in 1971. Caan hadn't delivered his legendary performance as Sonny Corleone and Wiliams hadn't played Lando yet. The two give dramatic performances though that are sure to make anybody cry.
This is one of the greatest tear jerkers of all time. I've never wathced it were a member of the audience isn't sobbing at the end of it. I've cried numerous times while watching this movie.
You can tell it's a tv made movie. It doesn't take away from the quality though and this movie cleaned the Emmy's out in 1971 and in my opinion is the greatest made for TV movie EVER!
I love this movie. It's not about sports but is about life. You won't find a better tale of love and friendship anywhere. Everybody should see this movie at one time or another. It's a cinematic masterpiece. Buy this movie you won't regret that descion.
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on May 20, 2007
I have watched Brian's Song many, many times over the years and with every viewing, I am warmed by this story of friendship, courage and hope. It is based on the true story of Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers, two Chicago Bears football players who played back in the 1960's.

Like many movies based on life, certain aspects of the story are fictionalized. For example, Brian did not have cancer in his right lung as the movie attests, but embryonal cell carcinoma in his chest cavity that eventually metastasized to his left breast and left lung, heart and liver--and even into his jaw. He did not die as easily or look nearly as healthy as Cann does; his illness and death are really sanitized and "Hollywood-ized". Also, although Brian and Gale were good friends in real life, they were not best friends. However, Caan and Williams do a brilliant job portraying their characters and it is easy to believe from their performances that these two characters do indeed care for one another.

There are several moving moments in this movie. The locker room scene is particularly touching because many of the players featured in this scene had heard the *real* Gale Sayers tell them that "Pic is sick. . .real sick" only a year and a half before, so we can assume the tears welling up in the players' eyes are genuine. Ed O'Bradovich and Dick Butkus, both of whom were friends of Piccolo's (and were pallbearers at his funeral), make appearances in the film.

Another great touch is the archival footage of Sayers and Piccolo running the ball and making touchdowns. Not only does the footage remind us of what an amazing player Sayers was and the dogged determination to succeed that Brian possessed, it reminds us that these people were real, that they did indeed exist. These "real life" touches adds a lot of poignancy to the story. Most of the footage of the real Brian comes from a game the Bears played against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 9, 1969--the only game the Bears won that season. Although he did not know it, Brian was already very sick with cancer during this game, yet he played his heart out and even scored a touchdown--which is captured in the movie. This was the second to the last game he ever played. He was diagnosed with cancer only a week and a half later.

A final touch that really "makes" the movie is the musical score by Michal Legrand. The Brian's Song theme is a perfect blend of hope and sadness and is enough to make you cry all by itself. Interestingly, the real Brian's wife, Joy, said that Legrand was one of his favorite composers.

The DVD contains a few "extras" including a so-so audio commentary by Billy Dee Williams and James Caan. The commentary is witty in some spots, but it does not provide much insight into the movie's "behind the scenes" elements. Caan reminds us that the movie was made only about a year after Brian Piccolo's death and several times he mentions that he felt the "weight" of playing the role of a person that the entire Chicago Bears team dearly loved.

If you enjoy this movie, I highly recommend that you read Jeannie Morris' biography of Brian Piccolo entitled Brian Piccolo: A Short Season. It tells the whole story of Brian's life both on and off the field and goes into great detail about his illness and the tremendous courage and humor with which he faced it.
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on November 7, 1999
One of the best films to have ever been made. When you stop and think about the time frame this movie and this real life situation occured, you have to be amazed. I'm sure there is renewed interest now with the passing of another Bears great, Walter Payton. This movie will leave you touched beyond words, you will feel the need to watch it over and over. This is a movie for all sex's, ages and races. Enjoy, but remember to bring the tissues, fo you WILL need them.
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VINE VOICEon March 4, 2007
When I was playing HS football, this movie hit the air waves. It did so with such a powerful stir as well.

Guys crying at or watching a movie was never heard of, but for weeks afterwards, my teammates and other friends admitted to crying when we all discovered that "Pic" had cancer and especially when he was told after an operation that he still did.

This is the first of many James Caan great acts. The week before the Superbowl this year one of the networks showcased the foundations for cancer run by the families of Brian Piccolo and Walter Peyton. It was amazing seeing old news footage and videos of Brian with his wife. Caan and Fabresze looked just like them.

The movie really broke a lot of ground. First, a white and a black player sharing hotel rooms on the road. Even coach Hallas warned them that there may be trouble. But these two, who vied for the same position, would become the best of friends.

Piccolo even ups the ante when Sayers gets injured working with him to get back to playing. Brian tells him that since he was second team, he did not want to be first team if Sayers could not play. He told him he was going to beat him at his best and they worked together to get Sayers back in playing shape.

Eventually, they both start in the backfield and they are elated.

Brian's illness comes on quickly, yet you feel the sadness and the suffering of all around him.

After the movie I found the book written by Gayle Sayers entitled; "I am Third." The movie was based on Sayers autobiography. For anyone interested in playing sports at any level, this book is a must and is related to the movie for sure.

The movie shows that the ultimate of teamwork is working together and sacrificing for one another. Practing what you learn in Brian's Song will take your work life, family life and social life to a much higher level. Enjoy this movie with your family and friends. And really, it is okay for guys to cry, they will even brag about it.
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on December 14, 1998
I watched this show when I was 13, I am now 39 and remember it still. It was so moving it made me shed a tear. It also taught me to never give up. It taught me what friendship was, in spite fo race, creed, or politics. Watch this movie. If you know of a football fan, this movie is sure to touch their heart!
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on January 25, 2004
I just need to say I am looking at this movie as I am writing this for about the 100th time, still with tears running down my face. I have loved this movie every since it came out when I was 10 years old. With the lost of my father the year before the movie really touched me and made my mother never want to look at it again. Then growing up with old timeer stopping me to tell me I looked so much like the real Gale Sayers made me love the movie even more. Now with what is running through my blood and not knowing what will happen to me all I can think of now is my best friend of 25 years and him standing by my side. As you can see this move has really been a part of my life almost all my life.
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on June 13, 2016
Brian's Song is a made for television movie made for ABC in 1971, that features James Caan and Billy D. Williams.This sports movie is based on the book, "I Am Third", the autobiography written by Gayle Sayres. The story deals with the friendship of future hall of fame running back, Gayle Sayres and his roommate, Brian Piccolo and how they cope with Brian's terminal illness. The movie was such a success for ABC, ABC released the movie to theaters where the movie did no business.
Adapted by veteran screenwriter, William Blinn, A Dallas newspaper critic said that Blinn's screenplay was highly restrained and avoided overt sentimentalityyet conveyed the true friendshio that the men had for each other. In a 2005 Entertainment weekly survey, "Brian's Song" was listed as the 7th best "guy cry" movie ever made.
Note: The movie was remade by Disney in 2001. The remake is not worth watching.
Highly recommended.
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