Mr. Brown was well established as a film producer, with movies like "Jaws," "The Sting," "The Verdict" and "Cocoon" to his credit, when he accidently became a successful Broadway producer in 1989. As the New York Times told it, Mr. Brown had just completed the Paul Newman movie "The Verdict" and was interested in doing another courtroom film when an agent sent him a play by an unknown named Aaron Sorkin. It was called A Few Good Men.
Mr. Brown wanted to buy the film rights, but Sorkin refused, saying that it would make the stage rights less attractive for another producer. Mr. Brown responded by buying the stage rights, too. He ended up with a Broadway hit that ran for over a year and made Sorkin's name. Mr. Brown later produced the hit movie version of the play.
The producer quickly followed his Broadway debut with another hit, the solo show Tru, starring Robert Morse as Truman Capote. The play ran nearly a year and won Morse a Tony Award.
Following a flop production of The Cemetery Club, Mr. Brown took a decade-long break from Broadway, returning with the 2002 musical Sweet Smell of Success, based on the film of the same name. It did not do well, but his next effort, another musical based on a movie, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, was better received and ran for a year and a half. Both were nominated for the Tony Award as Best Musical.
For all his success in Hollywood and Broadway, Mr. Brown was better known to a segment of the public as the husband of the more famous Helen Gurley Brown, flamboyant and opinionated editor of Cosmopolitan. They met in Los Angeles, where she was an advertising copywriter, and married in 1959. It was his third marriage. In addition to her, he is survived by a half-brother, Edward, of Montecito, CA. Mr. Brown's other film credits included "The Player," "Along Came a Spider," "Kiss the Girls," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Chocolat" and "The Sugarland Express." He tended to work with certain artists time and again — Stephen Spielberg, Morgan Freeman and John Lithgow among them.