Jim Brown, NFL legend turned Hollywood action hero, dies at 87

Jim Brown, NFL legend turned Hollywood action hero, dies at 87

Jim Brown, the incomparable fullback for the Cleveland Browns who left the NFL at the peak of his ability to become a Hollywood action hero in films like The Dirty Dozen, Zebra ice station AND 100 rifles, is dead. He was 87 years old.

A staunch civil rights advocate, Brown died at his Los Angeles home Thursday night with wife Monique by his side, his family spokesperson told the Associated Press.

In a statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell praised Brown’s skills on the field, as well as calling him a “cultural figure who has helped foster change.” The message continued: “During his nine-year NFL career, which coincided with the civil rights movement here at home, he has become a pioneer and role model for athletes involved in social initiatives outside of their sport. . He inspired other athletes to make a difference, especially in the communities where they lived.”

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A synthesis of speed, strength, balance, determination and intelligence – a blend of skills never before or since seen in a player – the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Brown played nine seasons (1957-65) in the NFL, all with the Browns. He has captured eight league titles and three Most Valuable Player awards and has never missed a game due to injury.

Following his ninth season – in which he led the NFL with 1,544 rushing yards, scored 21 touchdowns and won the MVP trophy – Brown was cast in his second film in The Dirty Dozen (1967), directed by Roberto Aldrich and played by Lee Marvin.

He played Robert Jefferson, one of 12 military criminals sent on a suicide mission during WWII to assassinate German officers before the D-Day invasion. The college-educated Jefferson had been sentenced to death for killing a racist white soldier who assaulted him.

When asked about his co-star’s acting abilities, Marvin replied, “Well, Brown is a better actor than Sir Laurence Olivier would be as a member of the Cleveland Browns.”

When production on the film dragged on, Browns owner Art Model he told his star player he would be fined $100 a day for being late to training camp. Brown, who still had a year left on his contract, later elected to retire as the league’s all-time leader, making the announcement from the Dirty dozen set in London while wearing army uniform.

He was just 30 years old.

“My original intent was to try and make it to the 1966 NFL season, but due to the circumstances, that’s impossible,” he said.

Brown later signed with MGM and played the hard-nosed Marine Captain. Leslie Anders alongside Rock Hudson and Ernest Borgnino in the 1968 blockbuster action-adventure Zebra ice station. And in the West 100 rifles (1969), broke taboos when he shared a steaming love scene with a white actress (Raquel Welch).

The muscular Brown also played a mercenary in the Congo set Dark from the sun (1968), staged a robbery of the Los Angeles Coliseum in the middle of a Rams game The Split (1968) and played a black sheriff in the South in … check… check… check… (1970). He has sought revenge against the Mafia as a former Green Beret in Slaughter (1972) and a 1973 sequel and as a nightclub owner in Gunn Black (1972).

Along the way, Brown opened doors for other black actors, and his Hollywood career spanned five decades, more than three dozen films, and dozens of television appearances. (He was played by Aldis Hodge in the 2020 film directed by Regina King One night in Miami.)

“I had a great appreciation for Harry Belfonte and Sydney (Poitier) and Sammy Davis (Jr.) They were all great in their own way, ”he said in A football life NFL Films documentary that premiered in November 2016. “But I was a physical actor, I was a hero… We needed that as African Americans.”

Subsequently, Brown worked in films such as Three the hard way (1974), Fingers (1978), The runner (1987), I am Going Idiot You Sigh (1988), Mars Attacks! (1996), Original Gangstas (1996), He has the game (1998), Little Soldiers (1998), Every Sunday (1999) and Draft day (2014).

He has also worked as a talent manager for bands including earth, wind and fire.

James Nathanial Brown was born February 17, 1936 on the segregated St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia. His father was a boxer and his mother a housewife. At age 7, he moved to live with his divorced mother on Long Island in New York and attended Manhattan High School, where he starred in five sports and earned 13 letters.

Brown received athletic scholarship offers from 42 schools and chose Syracuse University. There, he was a sensation on the football field, also excelling on the track, basketball, and lacrosse teams (he was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1984, 13 years after inducting the Pro Football Hall of Fame).

Brown scored six touchdowns and kicked seven extra points in his final regular season game at Syracuse and was named a unanimous All-America. He finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting and was selected sixth overall in the NFL Draft by the Browns.

In his ninth pro game, Brown had an NFL record when he rushed for 237 yards against the Rams en route to being named Rookie of the Year. In 1964, he propelled the Browns to the NFL championship, Cleveland’s last in a major sport until LeBron James and the Cavaliers captured the NBA crown in 2016.

Brown made his acting debut before the 1964 NFL season as an ordeal soldier in the Western Rio with who. “Believe me, action that excites you both on the gridiron and on screen takes hard work and precise timing,” he said in a promotional piece for the 1964 Fox film. “Here Richard Boone and I blow up a wagon of gunpowder intended for the Apaches indians.”

“Have you ever been in a nigga movie theater with a nigga in it? Well, you can just feel the tension in that audience, pushing this guy to do something good, something that gives them some pride.” Brown said Alex Haley in February 1968 Playboy interview. “That’s why I feel so good that niggas are finally starting to play roles that other niggas, watching, will feel proud of, and will respond and identify and feel real, instead of being crushed by an on-screen Uncle Tom making a fool of himself” .

Brown has stated that one of the reasons he left the NFL was a desire to “have a hand in the struggle that is going on in our country.” He organized the National Negro Industrial and Economic Union and on June 4, 1967 attended a press conference in Cleveland to support boxer Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the service. In a now famous photo, he is seen together with Boston Celtics’ Bill Russell, Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul Jabbar) of UCLA and NFL champions such as Bobby Mitchell and Willie Davis.

“I’ve been dealing with race since I was born,” Brown said in the Football life documentary. “In my inner self, my strength was unyielding when it came to accepting that bs, racial discrimination. I would never let anyone make me feel like I wasn’t top notch. It was a battle that raged and I could use a lot of it in the field.

Brown has had a few run-ins with the law and has been accused of violence against women multiple times. In his 1989 memoir, Out of boundshe admitted to slapping women but wrote “I don’t think any man should slap anyone” and that he “should have been more in control of myself, stronger, more grown up.”

In 1988, Brown founded the American programme, working with gang members to enable them to “take responsibility for their lives and reach their full potential”. He drafted the organization’s handbook, which he said combined Malcolm X’s self-determination, Ronald Reagan’s capitalism and Alcoholics Anonymous’ recovery plan.

duane Byrge contributed to this report.