Filmmaker Bruce Brown has died at age 80, according to an announcement at his film company’s website.
Brown was known for his independent documentary films, and is best-known to motorcyclists for his 1971 classic titled On Any Sunday, although he worked on several other motorcycle movies, including films about the Baja 1000 and other off-road events. On Any Sunday is considered by many to be the best motorcycle documentary ever made, with its intelligent coverage of a classic era of American motorcycle racing and appearances from stars such as Malcolm Smith, Mert Lawill, and even Steve McQueen, who helped produce the film.
Later in Brown’s life, he said part of his motivation for making that movie was to remove the stigma of motorcyclists as thugs, which he did achieve to a certain extent. At that point, the best-known motorcycle movies all portrayed riders as all belonging to unruly biker gangs, and Brown’s film ran directly opposite to that viewpoint.
Brown first made his name in filmography with the 1966 surfing documentary The Endless Summer, which probably has contributed to the long-standing ties between motorcycle and surfing subcultures. To most people, he’s best-known for his work in the surfing scene.
There’s a good biography of Brown’s life at his website.