The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
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|The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh|
|Directed by||Gilbert Moses|
|Produced by||David Dashev
|Written by||David Dashev (story)
Gary Stromberg (story)
|November 6, 1979|
The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is an American sports/fantasy comedy film that was released in 1979. The movie was directed by Gilbert Moses and co-produced by David Dashev and Gary Stromberg. It was produced by Lorimar and distributed by United Artists. The rights to the film are currently owned by Warner Bros. through its 1989 acquisition of Lorimar.
The movie has attracted a cult following, most notably for its disco-inspired setting and soundtrack, as well as the appearances of many NBA stars (including lead actor Julius Erving) and early roles for Debbie Allen, Stockard Channing and Harry Shearer. The film also has a cameo by long time Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguiri as himself, hosting the fictional team at a rally and shaking hands with Erving.
The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh tells the story of a struggling professional basketball team, the Pittsburgh Pythons, whose continuous losing streak and lack of talent has made them the laughing stock of Pittsburgh. Several players ask to be transferred to other teams, partly due to the bad publicity and the presence of the difficult but highly paid star player, Moses Guthrie (Julius Erving).
Believing that the team needs a miracle, ballboy/waterboy Tyrone Millman (James Bond III) turns to astrology to improve the team's fortunes. He brings his idea to astrologer Mona Mondieu (Stockard Channing), and they come up with the perfect concept: a team composed entirely of players born under the astrological sign of Pisces, the star sign of Moses Guthrie. The team is reborn as the "Pittsburgh Pisces".
Although Moses and Tyrone's sister (Margaret Avery) think that Tyrone's idea is absurd, they ultimately embrace the concept. The plan succeeds wildly due to the new team's eccentric skills, teamwork, and Mona's astrological readings, culminating in a championship opportunity.
Singer/actress Cher was originally cast as Mona Mondieu, but she backed out at the last minute. Singer/actress Dee Dee Bridgewater who played Brandy, previously won a Tony Award for her role as Glinda in The Wiz on Broadway also under the direction of Gilbert Moses. The two later married.
A novelization was released in 1979, written by Richard Woodley, based upon an early draft of the screenplay by Jaison Starkes and Edmond Stevens. As a consequence the novel differed in several respects from the finished film. In the film, the Pisces were seen winning every game, but the novel mentions the team losing two games. Another scene involved a group of people in wheelchairs causing havoc at one game; that scene was shown during the film's preview trailer but was later scrapped.
- Julius Erving - Moses Guthrie
- Jonathan Winters - H.S. and Harvey Tilson
- Meadowlark Lemon - Rev. Grady Jackson
- Jack Kehoe - Setshot
- Margaret Avery - Toby Millman
- James Bond III - Tyrone Millman
- Michael V. Gazzo - Harry the Trainer
- Peter Isacksen - Driftwood
- Dwayne Mooney - Benny Rae
- Daryl Mooney - Kenny Rae
- Nicholas Pryor - George Brockington
- M. Emmet Walsh - Wally Cantrell
- Stockard Channing - Mona Mondieu
- Flip Wilson - Coach 'Jock' Delaney
- Debbie Allen - Ola
- Dee Dee Bridgewater - Brandy
- Julius Carry - Malik Jamal Truth
- Jerry Chambers - Lucian Tucker
- Jessie Lawrence Ferguson - Jackhammer Washington
- Clayton Hill - Security Guard
- Eric Mercury - Rudy and League Commissioner
- Branscombe Richmond - Winston Running Hawk
- Joe Seneca - Mr. Sweets
- Harry Shearer - Murray Sports
- Jerry Tarkanian - Coach (also the film's consultant)
- Ron Carter
- Connie Hawkins
- Lou Hudson
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Luther Rackley
- Norm Nixon
- "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" (Warner Archive Collection)