R.I.P. Bruce Brown, Director of “On Any Sunday”

Bruce Brown
Bruce Brown

Legendary filmmaker Bruce Brown, who produced the classic motorcycling movie “On Any Sunday,” died Sunday, Dec. 10. He was 80.

“Bruce Brown’s influence on motorcycling in the 1970s was profound,” said American Motorcyclist Association President and CEO Rob Dingman. “‘On Any Sunday’ highlighted the unique talents needed for different forms of racing and showcased the fun that people find in motorcycling.”

Movie poster for Bruce Brown's 1971 documentary, "On Any Sunday."
Movie poster for Bruce Brown’s 1971 documentary, “On Any Sunday.”

Mr. Brown’s early acclaim resulted from his groundbreaking surfing movie, “Endless Summer,” which was released in 1966. “On Any Sunday,” released in 1971, helped spur the explosive growth of motorcycling in the 1970s.

“I think many people changed their minds about motorcyclists after watching the movie,” Mr. Brown once said.

“On Any Sunday” earned Mr. Brown an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary in 1971.

Mr. Brown was born in San Francisco on Dec. 1, 1937. He grew up in Southern California, attending school in Long Beach before moving to Dana Point.

In the late 1960s, motorcycling was sweeping across the country and Southern California was the Mecca of the sport. While visiting Japan, Mr. Brown and his wife rented a Honda scooter and enjoyed the freedom of riding. When he returned home to California, he bought a used Triumph Cub.

Many of the surfers whom Brown hung out with were getting into riding as well. Several of them took up desert racing. Brown got more involved in the sport and began attending races around Southern California.

Even with financial backing from legendary actor and motorcyclist Steve McQueen, Mr. Brown did not have a large budget for “On Any Sunday.” So he improvised by using 24-volt batteries in the 12-volt film cameras, producing a makeshift high-speed camera. He also used a helmet-mounted camera on some of the riders, one of the earliest times something like that was attempted.

Mr. Brown was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. His complete bio can be found here.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I had just turned 16 when I saw On Any Sunday. That film had a tremendous influence on me. I had been bitten by the motorcycling bug since the TV series Then Came Bronson came out two years before, when I was in 9th grade. I had a 8mm movie camera and later got a Super 8mm movie camera the following Christmas. In 10th grade I began formulating an idea for making my own motorcycling movie. Seeing On Any Sunday only made me want to do it more. In the spring of 1972, my junior year of high school, I shot it using my motorcycling friends and myself. The film included segments on scrambles at the Piston Poppers raceway near Coatesville, PA, trail riding, road riding, touring, and hill climbs. It was 22 minutes long (with about an equal length of outtakes edited out) and I synchronized a soundtrack of music and audio narration. I thought about making a 40 year anniversary “look back” in 2012 but I have completely lost track of all of the guys that I rode with (I have, however, stayed in occasional contact with one girl I rode with). RIP in peace Bruce Brown.

    • Any way you, Kevin M., can share your film with us? Post it on Youtube and drop the link here. Films like yours are historically valuable, and they are of great interest to those who want to glimpse into how riding was back in the day.

  2. We would love to see it Kevn, as I grew up riding dirt bikes near Paoli in the late 60’s early 70’s. Now I’m commuting daily from Coatesville, Pa. on my 2006 FZ6. It’s great there are still venues like Piston Poppers around now days. It’s great to view and relive history thru historic films like what you’ve produced.

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