By Lynn Elber, Associated Press | William Blinn, a screenwriter for the landmark TV projects “Brian’s Song” and “Roots” and the Prince film “Purple Rain,” has died. He was 83.
Blinn died Thursday of natural causes at an assisted living community in Burbank, California, his daughter, Anneliese Johnson, said Saturday.
He won Emmy and Peabody honors for the 1971 TV movie “Brian’s Song,” which dramatized the friendship of Chicago Bears players Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers. It was a hit when it aired and is a enduring favorite with sports fans and critics.
Blinn’s work on “Roots,” the blockbuster 1977 miniseries adapted from Alex Haley’s book about his African American ancestors in slavery and freedom, won an Emmy and a Humanitas Prize.
“He was a master of his art and a gentleman of the first order. Rest easy, my friend,” actor Jim Beaver (“Deadwood,” “Supernatural”) posted on Twitter.
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Purple Rain is a 1984 American rock musical drama film directed by Albert Magnoli, written by Magnoli and William Blinn, and produced by Robert Cavallo, Joseph Ruffalo and Steven Fargnoli. The film stars Prince in his acting debut playing The Kid, a character based in part on Prince himself. Purple Rain was developed to showcase Prince’s talents, and the film contains several concert sequences.
Principal photography took place almost entirely in Minneapolis: the film features many local landmarks, including the Crystal Court of the IDS Center and the legendary First Avenue nightclub. First Avenue was paid $100,000 for use of the club in filming; it was closed for 25 days.
Purple Rain grossed over $72 million worldwide, against its $7.2 million budget. The film won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score. In 2019, the film was added by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Purple Rain has been regarded by publications and critics as one of the greatest musical films.
Purple Rain was supported with its soundtrack album of the same name, which featured two US chart-topping singles, “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy”, as well as the number-two hit “Purple Rain”. The soundtrack is certified 13x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and has sold over 25 million copies worldwide.