This Happy Days jock became Captain America in the Seventies

Reb Brown went from boxing with Ralph Malph to being a superhero.

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Today, Captain America is a billion-dollar movie franchise with one of the highest paid actors of our time Chris Evans starring.

But in 1979, Captain America was just a TV movie that cast a relatively unknown actor Reb Brown to star. TV ratings were surprisingly so strong for the two-hour TV movie that the studio promptly cast Brown in the sequel, which aired the next year.

For Reb Brown, an actor with very little experience, becoming Captain America came almost out of nowhere.

He was working as a bouncer in a Pasadena club when an agent approached him.

"This nice little man comes over to me and asks if I can act," Brown told The Commercial Appeal in 1978. "I didn’t know what to do, so I said yes."

Brown was previously a college football player on the same team with NFL footballer O.J. Simpson.

Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 220 pounds of pure muscle, he made an impact onscreen, playing imposing figures in early Seventies movies and TV shows like Kojak, The Six Million Dollar Man and CHiPs.

MeTV fans might recognize Brown best for playing a jock who boxes Ralph Malph in the Happy Days episode "Requiem for a Malph." Their fight is, of course, over a pretty cheerleader whom Ralph tries to steal away from Brown’s jock character.

Brown said he took on those early TV roles hoping to gain experience, but not entirely confident in his acting talents yet.

"You know, opportunity often knocks, but if you’re not prepared for it, what good is it?" Brown told The Columbia Record in 1980. "I started to prepare myself to get a shot at something, and my chance came along."

That chance was playing Captain America in the only major TV rendition of the comic at that point to focus exclusively on the character.

Right before being offered the role, Brown had actually followed in his police officer father’s footsteps and joined the Sheriff’s Department.

He saw this as a back-up career in case acting didn’t work out, but once he got cast as Captain America, he saw his brief time in law enforcement as another part of his life that ultimately prepared him to take on the crime-fighter role.

"I think that everything I have done as a human being has prepared me for this role," Brown said. "I’ve been a policeman, I’ve been in street fights, I’ve been law-and-order, and I know what it’s like. I know what authority is like. I know that if you handle authority with the proper attitude, and try not to come down on somebody, people will respond and respect that. Just be a human being, and a gentleman, and treat people the way you want to be treated yourself."

According to newspapers, Brown was the perfect Captain America, and TV viewers respected him in the role enough to tune back in to see the sequel.

Brown never went back to the police force, instead acting on TV and in movies through the 1990s. Classic TV fans watched him in hit shows like The Facts of Life, Three’s Company, The Love Boat and Miami Vice.

It’s likely that those Captain America TV movies was his best-remembered role, though, and Brown told The Daily Press in 1979 that he thought all those viewers tuning in to drive up the TV movie ratings turned the dial because they were starved for real heroes in a sea of movies featuring anti-heroes.

"The time has come for heroes," Brown said. "And I think the anti-hero is on the way out. I mean those characters that actors like Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman play. American kids need somebody they can look up to – and I’d like to be that somebody."

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Stoney 26 months ago
Reb Brown's Captain America movies are pretty enjoyable. If you enjoyed "The Incredible Hulk" with Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno, you'll enjoy these. Also enjoyed Nicholas Hammond as Spider-Man.
Barry22 26 months ago
You know what, now that I remember, in those movies wasn't he the son of Captain America?
JeffBaker 26 months ago
Got to see the movies a while back---they are a lot of fun! Wish they'd made a few more! And I met Reb Brown at a convention a few years ago. He couldn't have been nicer and he is still big and imposing!
MichaelFields 26 months ago
I remember Those Captain America Movies (Somewhat) I think in one of them he had a Motorcycle that he had in the back of his Van, so he could be Regular guy driving the Van, then when he needed to be Captain America he got in the back and flew out of the back of the van as Captain America, never figured out how he could be sitting on a Bike and ride out of a Van, I mean there is not enough headroom for
JamesB 26 months ago
Reb Brown was decent in Gabe Kaplan's 1979 hoops flick "Fast Break". Reb looked huge next to the actors, as only the real basketball player (Bernard King) was bigger! It was a stupid-fun movie for basketball or Kaplan (who was a good athlete) fans.
RkBke 26 months ago
miami vice the viking biker....he commanded the screen....
A35Barber 26 months ago
I love Reb! His yell is infamous! Such an underrated actor from B movies. If you aren’t familiar with him and watch MST3K, you will remember him from Space Mutiny. He was also in Yor! The hunter from the future, Death of a Soldier, Howling 2 (with the late great Christopher Lee) and Uncommon Valor (with Gene Hackman and Patrick Swayze), to name a few movies. The guy is a B movie legend and it is great seeing him get some notoriety!
Barry22 26 months ago
Those Captain America movies with him were terrible. He was good in the movie Uncommon Valor and as biker in Miami Vice.
WordsmithWorks 26 months ago
He was also good as "Blaster" in a movie called "Uncommon Valor," which also starred, among others, Gene Hackman and Patrick Swayze.
Barry22 WordsmithWorks 26 months ago
Remember Sailor?
pacmancdi 26 months ago
I have these movies on DVD. The second one is good cheesy fun but the first one is a drag to get through. Since mst3k is getting new episodes soon they would both make great riffing material for them
harlow1313 26 months ago
Of course, Reb Brown starred in "Space Mutiny," excellently riffed by the MST3k gang. I've forgotten the character name, either Steel Ramrod, Buck Naked or Biff Hardtack.
Barry22 harlow1313 26 months ago
That was hilarious.
A35Barber harlow1313 26 months ago
David Ryder was the character’s name… or Roll Fizzlebeef
Michael 27 months ago
I always liked Captain Action better than Captain America. I even had the first issue of the comic book
Tresix Michael 26 months ago
And who was Captain Action’s archenemy (incidentally, this was the first time I saw this word)? None other than Dr. Evil!
Michael Tresix 26 months ago
Of course, Captain Action as a toy was multi-purpose, costumes to make him existing superheroes. So all of those arch-e.nemies would have been the foes of Captain Action.

When the comic came out, the comic books didn't want their characters used, so Captain Action became more standalone. He finds a bunch of gold coins in a cave, and that gives him powers.

Dr Evil came later,and yes, had a Nehru jacket.

To this day, I picture The Phantom with a sword, because Captain Action had one.
Barry22 Michael 26 months ago
My brother had Captain Action, with a lot of it's costumes. One of which was Captain America.
Andybandit 27 months ago
That was cool that Reb Brown played Captain America in the 70's and it was successful. I never heard of him.
eddiecantorfan 27 months ago
Rebel (Reb Brown) and
Bruiser (Paul Linke) were the two guys who threatened to beat up
Ralph Malph Donny Most on
Happy Days. Bruiser was in the
Happy Days episode called LAST
Of The Big Time Malphs about
Ralph offering nets on football
games. If REBEL and BRUISER
Had both been in the same episode of Happy Days it would mean
Bruiser played by Paul Linke
Later became a cop on CHIPS.
Bobbo eddiecantorfan 26 months ago
He also was the hero cop from the horror comedy movie, Motel Hell!
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