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David Brown: Jaws + Cocoon Producer

Jaws - shark Steven Spielberg

David Brown, who co-produced modern cinema classics and/or blockbusters such as Jaws, The Verdict, The Player, and A Few Good Men, died on Feb. 1 at his home in Manhattan. The New York native and former journalist was 93.

In the 1970s, Brown partnered with Richard D. Zanuck, 20th Century Fox’s mogul Darryl F. Zanuck’s son. Their company produced the box office blockbuster and Academy Award winner The Sting (1973), starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Robert Shaw. However, Tony Bill, Julia Phillips, and Michael Phillips were the official producers.

Another notable Brown-Zanuck production – this time they were credited as producers – was The Sugarland Express (1974), an early Steven Spielberg effort that led to his being hired to direct Jaws the following year.

The Verdict (1982), a courtroom drama starring Paul Newman, was another major box office and critical success, but Ron Howard’s Cocoon (1985) was more of a hit with the public than with the critics. Yet, this comedy about rejuvenation earned longtime veteran Don Ameche (MidnightThat Night in Rio) a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Later on, Brown worked with other producers, including former Paramount honcho Robert Evans. Brown continued to develop a number of prestigious and/or high-profile projects, including two 1992 releases: the mordant Hollywood satire The Player, which returned Robert Altman to the forefront of American movie directors, and A Few Good Men, one of Tom Cruise’s biggest hits of the 1990s. This military court drama also earned Jack Nicholson a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Brown, of course, also had his share of flops. Among those were Michael Ritchie’s The Island (1980); Arthur Penn’s Target (1985), starring Gene Hackman; and Alan Parker’s Angela’s Ashes (1999), with Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle.

Jaws image: Universal Pictures.

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