Brian's Song

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents




From Wikipedia

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(November 30, 1971) that it was later shown in theaters, with a major premiere in Chicago; however, it was soon withdrawn due to a lack of business.[1] Some critics have called the movie among the finest telefilms ever made.

The movie is based on Sayers' account of his friendship with Piccolo and coping with 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 movie although based on a true story, presented some fictional scenes. One example was when George Halas (played by Jack Warden) told Gale Sayers that he wanted to bench Brian Piccolo when he suspected that there may be a problem affecting his performance. He later learned of Brian's cancer. In reality Jim Dooley was the head coach at that time. George Halas retired as head coach following the 1968 season.


* James Caan as Brian Piccolo

* Billy Dee Williams as Gale Sayers

* Jack Warden as Coach George Halas

* Shelley Fabares as Joy Piccolo

* Judy Pace as Linda Sayers

* Bernie Casey as J.C. Caroline

* David Huddleston as Ed McCaskey

* Ron Feinberg as Doug Atkins

* Jack Concannon as Himself

* Abe Gibron as Himself

* Ed O'Bradovich as Himself

* Dick Butkus as Himself

* Chicago Bears as Themselves




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.

 Directed by Buzz Kulik

Produced by Paul Junger Witt

Written by Gale Sayers, Al Silverman (original book); William Blinn (teleplay)


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 / Columbia Pictures (producers)

ABC (original broadcaster)

Release date(s) November 30, 1971[1]

Running time 105 min.

Leonard Goldberg on how Billy Dee Williams was cast in the TV movie Brian's Song
Tony Thomas on casting Brian's Song
Leonard Goldberg on William Blinn adding narration to the TV movie Brian's Song
Who talked about this show

William Blinn

View Interview
William Blinn on the title Brian's Song, and on adapting the story
William Blinn on how he came to adapt Brian's Song for television
William Blinn on James Caan as "Brian Piccolo" in Brian's Song
William Blinn on talking to the real-life people who inspired Brian's Song
William Blinn on the reaction to Brian's Song, and on dealing with the racial aspect of the story
William Blinn on expanding on the short article from which Brian's Song was adapted
William Blinn on winning an Emmy Award for Brian's Song
William Blinn on the legacy of Brian's Song

Leonard Goldberg

View Interview
Leonard Goldberg on the creation of the TV movie Brian's Song
Leonard Goldberg on how much he enjoyed working on Brian's Song

Tony Thomas

View Interview
Tony Thomas on casting Brian's Song
Tony Thomas on producing Brian's Song
Tony Thomas on his responsibilities as Associate Producer of Brian's Song and the reaction when it aired

All Shows