The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh

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The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
Poster of the movie "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh".jpg
Directed byGilbert Moses
Produced byDavid Dashev
Don Phillips
Gary Stromberg
Written byDavid Dashev (story)
Gary Stromberg (story)
Jaison Starkes
Edmond Stevens
StarringJulius Erving
Jonathan Winters
Meadowlark Lemon
Jack Kehoe
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Margaret Avery
James Bond III
Michael V. Gazzo
Peter Isacksen
Nicholas Pryor
M. Emmet Walsh
Stockard Channing
Flip Wilson
Music byThom Bell
CinematographyFrank Stanley
Edited byFrank Mazzola
Peter Zinner
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • November 6, 1979 (1979-11-06)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States

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.

It was filmed on location in Pittsburgh and at Pittsburgh's Civic Arena as well as suburban Moon Township, Pennsylvania.

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 longtime 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 traded 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.

Production notes[edit]

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. The Spinners recorded two songs for the movie.[1] Actress/choreographer Debbie Allen and athlete Norm Nixon both appear in the film; they married in 1984.


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.

DVD releases[edit]

In 2010 Warner Bros. Home Video made the film available on DVD and digital download as part of its Warner Archive Collection.[2]


As themselves[edit]

Basketball teams[edit]


  1. ^ Billboard - Nov 10, 1979 Vol. 91, No. 45 "The Spinners recently reteamed with producer Thorn Bell to do two songs for his upcoming film score to "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh." The group sings "Do It Cause No One Does It Better," a mid-tempo tune which may be a single, and ."
  2. ^ "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" (Warner Archive Collection)

External links[edit]