Jim Brown, among the NFL’s greatest players at any position who went on to star in Hollywood Films like “The Dirty Dozen” and “Any Given Sunday,” has died, his wife Monique Brown said Friday on Instagram. He was 87.
Brown’s singular dominance in the NFL of the late 1950s and 1960s was unmatched. Brown made the Pro Bowl in every season from 1957-1965, was a three-time MVP, and won a championship with the Cleveland Browns in 1964. Of his nine seasons, he led the league in rushing yards for eight, and held most of the league’s major rushing records upon his retirement.
Brown was born in St. Simons Island, Georgia, the son of a pro boxer and a homemaker. He excelled at every sport he tried, from football and baseball to lacrosse and track. His average of 38 points per game, a record for Long Island, where his family had moved.
Tall, imposing, and impossibly swift for his size, Brown’s highlight reels are a never-ending loop of him shoving opponents to the ground like bowling pins, running away from smaller defenders and bulldozing linebackers who dared to stand in his way.
Few running backs of any era would match his blend of speed, balance and power.
Brown’s film career began at the end of his football days in 1964, playing a buffalo soldier in a B-Western called “Rio Conchos.” It never amounted to much, but Brown carried that experience into “The Dirty Dozen,” a war film being produced by MGM in 1966.
Brown played one of the 12 convicts sent to France during World War II with a pre- D-Day assassination mission. The film was shot in London and beset by problems due to bad weather, severely annoying Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, who threatened to fine Brown for every week of training camp he missed. Brown announced his retirement and finished the film.
The film was a smash, of course, and Brown was signed to a multi-film contract at MGM, but that deal turned out only middling efforts like “Dark of the Sun” and “Ice Station Zebra.” Another MGM film, “The Split” (1968), was his first leading role, and paid $125,000
Brown worked steadily until the 1970s, when he starred in a series of blaxploitation films like “Slaughter,” “Black Gunn” and later the 1988 spoof “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.” Brown turned to television in the 1980s, on now-iconic shows like “Knight Rider,” “CHiPs” and “The A-Team.”
Brown’s personal life was beset by domestic violence incidents and issues with women, including accusations of rape and battery that continued to resurface through the years. He was arrested, charged and taken to court for various allegations from many different women, but was repeatedly acquitted or had the charges dismissed.
He never served significant jail time until 2002, when he served three months of a six-month term for violating court orders in the aftermath of a shovel attack on his wife’s car.
Brown is survived by two children with Monique Brown, whom he married in 1997.