Bruce Brown, the filmmaker of classic sports movies On Any Sunday and The Endless Summer, passed away in his sleep over the weekend per a statement by his family. He was 80 years old.
A California native, Brown’s work showed the masses the fun but a polished side of surfing that many outside of the West Coast of the United States were unaware existed. His most well-known surf project, The Endless Summer, was filmed in locations around the world as he and a crew of surfers followed the season around both hemispheres and in locations previously unseen in surf films.
Following the release of The Endless Summer, Brown turned his attention from the water to the land in order to document his passion for motorcycling. With the financial support of Hollywood megastar and fellow motorcyclist Steve McQueen, Brown began work on what later became On Any Sunday. In many ways, the film changed the public perception of motorcycle riders as a whole, who had up to that point been portrayed as hooligans and vandals that were only alive to cause disorder in the world. With Brown’s footage from road racing, dirt track, off-road events including Baja and ISDT, and motocross, viewers around the United States were shown a new side of the two-wheel world and the film received a nomination for Best Documentary in the 1972 Academy Awards and accolades in mainstream print publications around the world. On Any Sunday is credited with cementing the legacies of Mert Lawill, Bud Ekins, Dave Aldana, and Malcolm Smith as icons to the sport, and Brown was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame as a result.
It’s impossible to fully explain the impact that On Any Sunday had on motorcycling. People of all ages were transfixed by the adventures they saw on the screen and this resulted in a boom in motorcycle sales during the 1970s, with many of the young and impressionable viewers ultimately becoming world-renowned racers through the next two decades. Brown’s innovate camera techniques also had a major impact on the way motorsports were filmed, thanks to the rigs he mounted to motorcycles and rider’s helmets that showed the true speed and sensation of racing.
Brown later released a number of sequels titled On Any Sunday II, On Any Sunday: Revisited, and On Any Sunday: Motocross, Malcolm & More. Brown’s love for filmmaking was passed down to his son Dana, who documented the true grit of the Baja 1000 with the film Dust To Glory, showed the modern era of motorcycle riding with On Any Sunday, The Next Chapter, and continued the family legacy in surfing with Step Into Liquid.
On Any Sunday was a key piece of youth to many in the motocross industry and the staff at TransWorld Motocross. We extend our condolences to the Brown family during this time and thank Bruce Brown for his impact on all of motorcycle riding.