Fast Break (1979)

PG | 106 mins | Comedy | 1979

Director:

Jack Smight

Writer:

Sandor Stern

Producer:

Stephen Friedman

Cinematographer:

Charles Correll

Production Designer:

Norman Baron
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HISTORY

As described in production notes from AMPAS library files, the cast members of the fictional Cadwallader team were already impressive basketball players or athletes when they were selected for the film, but each had varying degrees of acting experience. Sportscaster Sonny Hill recommended that professional basketball player Bernard King audition for the part of “Hustler.” King had never acted, but as a basketball player, he was “one of the most explosive scorers of his era,” according to the National Basketball Association (NBA) Encyclopedia website. At the time of production, he was a top player with the New Jersey Nets, who drafted him in 1977. Actor Michael Warren (“Preacher”) earned a basketball scholarship at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and played with future NBA basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but decided to pursue acting instead of the NBA draft after making his screen debut in Drive, He Said (1971, see entry). Actor Harold Sylvester (“D. C.”) attended Tulane University on a basketball scholarship while also studying drama. After moving to California in 1976, he earned steady work in film and television productions. Mavis Washington (“Swish”) taught physical education at Rubidoux High School in Riverside, CA and was a star basketball player at the University of California, Riverside. As with Bernard King, the project represented her first experience with acting. Actor Reb Brown, similar to his character “Bull” in the film, was a college football player, but a newcomer to basketball.
       On the UCLA campus, the Cadwallader team practiced for two weeks during pre-production with college basketball coach Jim Harrick, who is credited on screen as technical advisor. ... More Less

As described in production notes from AMPAS library files, the cast members of the fictional Cadwallader team were already impressive basketball players or athletes when they were selected for the film, but each had varying degrees of acting experience. Sportscaster Sonny Hill recommended that professional basketball player Bernard King audition for the part of “Hustler.” King had never acted, but as a basketball player, he was “one of the most explosive scorers of his era,” according to the National Basketball Association (NBA) Encyclopedia website. At the time of production, he was a top player with the New Jersey Nets, who drafted him in 1977. Actor Michael Warren (“Preacher”) earned a basketball scholarship at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and played with future NBA basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but decided to pursue acting instead of the NBA draft after making his screen debut in Drive, He Said (1971, see entry). Actor Harold Sylvester (“D. C.”) attended Tulane University on a basketball scholarship while also studying drama. After moving to California in 1976, he earned steady work in film and television productions. Mavis Washington (“Swish”) taught physical education at Rubidoux High School in Riverside, CA and was a star basketball player at the University of California, Riverside. As with Bernard King, the project represented her first experience with acting. Actor Reb Brown, similar to his character “Bull” in the film, was a college football player, but a newcomer to basketball.
       On the UCLA campus, the Cadwallader team practiced for two weeks during pre-production with college basketball coach Jim Harrick, who is credited on screen as technical advisor. Harrick felt that the fictional squad had the skill to compete with the majority of college teams.
       The film marked the motion picture debuts for television star Gabriel Kaplan, who had completed three season of the hit series Welcome Back, Kotter (ABC, 9 Sep 1975-10 Aug 1979), and actress Randee Heller, who had appeared regularly on Broadway and television.
       According to news items in the 21 Jun 1978 Var, the 20 Apr 1978 HR and the 19 Jul 1978 HR, the film shot on location for six weeks in Los Angeles, CA, followed by a week in New York City during summer 1978. A 19 Jul 1978 Var brief reported that the production filmed at the basketball courts of Claremont Men’s College in Claremont, CA. According to a 12 Jun 1978 LAT article, the production also utilized the Landmark Spiritual Temple of Deliverance church, located in south Los Angeles.
       A 21 Aug 1979 HR article stated that the film had grossed approximately $9.5 million in domestic rentals to date and was produced for less than $3 million, while the 12 Jun 1978 LAT article reported the budget as $3.5 million.
       The unusual promotion for the film made headlines in the 18 Jan 1979 NYT and the 19 Jan 1979 DV. The distributor, Columbia Pictures, created the impression that Cadwallader was an actual university, by generating a press release with a Nevada address announcing that the school would be presenting honorary degrees to Vice President Walter Mondale, singers Dolly Parton and Robert Merrill, businessman Henry Ford, II, television personality David Hartman and basketball player Bernard King. The press release was the first stage of an advertising campaign that would also include a fake alumni newsletter about the filming. As newspaper reporters and state officials began to question the legitimacy of Cadwallader and prospective students mailed in applications, the studio was flooded with inquiries and decided to bring an end to the hoax.
       Critical reaction was tepid. Several reviews, such as the 16 Feb 1979 HR, described the film as the basketball version of The Bad News Bears (1976, see entry). The 21 Feb 1979 Var critic thought the film’s likability, but lack of “vitality,” was better suited to television, while the reviewer in the 23 Feb 1979 LAT wrote that the picture captures “the most spectacular fictional basketball action I’ve seen yet.”
More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 1979
p. 3, 32.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1979
p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jun 1978
Section F, p. 14, 15.
Los Angeles Times
23 Feb 1979
Section F, p. 1.
New York Times
18 Jan 1979
Section C, p. 18.
New York Times
2 Mar 1979
p. 9.
Variety
21 Jun 1978.
---
Variety
19 Jul 1978.
---
Variety
21 Feb 1979.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
A Stephen Friedman/Kings Road Production
In Association With Regal Productions
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Ed apprentice
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Set dressing
Int des consultant
Set const
COSTUMES
SOUND
Supv sd eff ed
Sd ed
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Sd mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Transportation coord
Loc mgr
Extras casting
Prod auditor
Prod coord
Asst auditor
Post prod coord
Prod asst
Tech adv, Basketball
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Color by]
SOURCES
SONGS
"'Go For It' (Theme Song From Fast Break )," music by David Shire, lyrics by Carol Connors, vocals Billy Preston and Syreeta, keyboard Billy Preston, Billy Preston and Syreeta courtesy of Motown Records
"He Didn't Stay Long Enough To Say Goodbye," music by James di Pasquale and Carol Connors, lyrics by Carol Connors, vocal by Syreeta, additional vocals Paulette McWilliams and Jay Gruska.
DETAILS
Release Date:
1979
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 23 February 1979
New York opening: 2 March 1979
Production Date:
summer 1978
Copyright Claimant:
Regal Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
3 April 1979
Copyright Number:
PA28017
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
106
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

David Greene works in a New York City delicatessen, but dreams of coaching basketball. After numerous letters of inquiry, he finally gets an interview for a position at Cadwallader University (C. U.) in Nevada. The president, Alton Gutkas, wants to build the reputation of the unknown school through sports, but has a limited budget. He offers to pay David $60 for every game he wins, and if the team beats Nevada State, Gutkas will give David a three-year, $30,000 contract with benefits. Although David knows that Nevada State is one of best college basketball teams in the country, he is intrigued by the challenge and agrees. However, David's wife Jan, who has been weary of her husband’s obsession with basketball for some time, is not happy about the arrangement and wants to stay in New York. The couple separates, and David lives with his Mom while preparing for the move to Nevada. To recruit players, David relies on his knowledge of New York City street basketball and his first choice is Leroy Monroe. Nicknamed “Hustler,” Leroy earns good money as a pool shark, but because he is no longer welcomed at billiard halls, David is able to persuade Leroy to join the C. U. team in exchange for a free college education. Leroy introduces David to three other talented African-American players who are in need of a new opportunity: Nineteen-year-old evangelist, Tommy “Preacher” White, must leave town because the father of a fifteen-year-old girl he impregnated has hired an assassin to kill him; Roberta “Swish” James has an academic scholarship, but she would rather be recruited for her basketball ... +


David Greene works in a New York City delicatessen, but dreams of coaching basketball. After numerous letters of inquiry, he finally gets an interview for a position at Cadwallader University (C. U.) in Nevada. The president, Alton Gutkas, wants to build the reputation of the unknown school through sports, but has a limited budget. He offers to pay David $60 for every game he wins, and if the team beats Nevada State, Gutkas will give David a three-year, $30,000 contract with benefits. Although David knows that Nevada State is one of best college basketball teams in the country, he is intrigued by the challenge and agrees. However, David's wife Jan, who has been weary of her husband’s obsession with basketball for some time, is not happy about the arrangement and wants to stay in New York. The couple separates, and David lives with his Mom while preparing for the move to Nevada. To recruit players, David relies on his knowledge of New York City street basketball and his first choice is Leroy Monroe. Nicknamed “Hustler,” Leroy earns good money as a pool shark, but because he is no longer welcomed at billiard halls, David is able to persuade Leroy to join the C. U. team in exchange for a free college education. Leroy introduces David to three other talented African-American players who are in need of a new opportunity: Nineteen-year-old evangelist, Tommy “Preacher” White, must leave town because the father of a fifteen-year-old girl he impregnated has hired an assassin to kill him; Roberta “Swish” James has an academic scholarship, but she would rather be recruited for her basketball skills and is willing disguise herself as “Bobby James” to play on David’s team; and former high school basketball star D. C. Davey, who turned down 148 scholarships before disappearing, is hiding from police in a condemned building for illegal gambling. Arriving at Cadwallader, David and the four recruits are dismayed by the rundown campus and neglected gym facilities. However, Gutkas assures them that the basketball court will be repaired and the team manager, Howard, makes an extra effort to arrange single rooms for each player. On his first day as coach, David struggles to find additional players for the team among the clumsy tryouts. Football player Bull has never played basketball, but is an intimidating presence, and David chooses him as the starting center. For the substitutes on the bench, David teaches psychological tricks to make up for their lack of basketball skills. Meanwhile, Swish continues to pose as a male by strapping bandages across her chest and avoiding the men’s locker room. At their first game, C. U. easily wins 103 to 62. Owing to the talent of the New York players, the team continues to dominate opponents by at least forty points, and their success makes headlines in local newspapers. Meanwhile, David keeps his sights on the ultimate opponent, Nevada State, which plays in another, more competitive league. To arrange a game against them, David convinces State’s famous coach, Bo Winnegar to attend one of C. U.’s games as a VIP guest, and afterward, Gutkas hosts a party in Winnegar’s honor. Based on background research obtained by Howard, David learns that Winnegar shoots pool and arranges for Leroy to hustle him. By the end of the evening, Winnegar owes $5,000. However, Leroy and David are willing to erase the debt if Nevada State will play a game against C. U. in two weeks. Realizing the setup, Winnegar reluctantly agrees. On the night of the game, a local law enforcement officer, Wedgewood, informs David that he has a warrant for D. C. issued by New York Police, but David persuades him to wait until after the game to make the arrest. Meanwhile outside the arena, Leroy recognizes the hit man who attempted to shoot Preacher in New York, but despite the threat, Preacher wants to play. During the game, Winnegar urges his players to exploit C. U.’s weaknesses and to force David to rely on substitutes, but the strategy is not entirely effective, and at halftime C. U. is ahead by four points. However, when D. C. discovers that he will be arrested, he decides to fake an ankle sprain and leaves the game. In his absence, Nevada State takes the lead. As D. C. sneaks out, he notices the hit man and changes his mind. Before returning to the game, he catches the hit man off guard and restrains him in the back of a police car. With less than three minutes left, the team is inspired to win now that D. C. is back on court and the gunman is no longer a threat. During the last timeout, Swish removes her disguise, revealing to everyone in the stadium that she is a girl. In the final seconds, she makes the winning shot and C. U. wins by one point. As David celebrates, he sees his mom and his wife Jan cheering in the stands. Meanwhile, Officer Wedgewood assures D. C. that since his is a first offense, he will likely receive only probation. Outside, David reunites with Jan who has changed her mind about his basketball career.


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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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