Fever Pitch is a 1985 American drama film starring Ryan O'Neal, and written and directed by Richard Brooks. This turned out to be the final film for Brooks, director of such acclaimed pictures as Blackboard Jungle, Elmer Gantry, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and In Cold Blood. Co-starring in the film were Giancarlo Giannini, Chad Everett, John Saxon and Catherine Hicks. The original music score was composed by Thomas Dolby.
The film failed at the box office after it grossed only a little more than $600,000. Fever Pitch was nominated for four Razzie Awards, including Worst Picture, as well as contributing to O'Neal's later Razzie nomination for Worst Actor of the Decade. The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.
Sports writer Steve Taggart (O'Neal) volunteers to do a series of articles for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner about a compulsive gambler he calls "Mr. Green"...who is, in fact, himself.
Taggart becomes obsessed with gambling, which lands him deeply into debt. He compounds his money and gambling problems by dealing with associated loan sharks, including the dangerous L.A. bookmaker known as "The Dutchman" (Chad Everett). Taggart soon learns that a local pro football quarterback, whose story he covers, is also on the Dutchman's payroll - as a means of cutting his own gambling debts. Taggart journeys to Las Vegas for a field report on his gambling series; through a casino owner he meets a sexy casino cocktail hostess named Flo (Catherine Hicks). Loving the tables, he gambles with Flo at roulette and wins, instead of taking her to bed.In Las Vegas Taggart also checks out assorted Las Vegas bookmakers, including Leroy. He meets various Vegas gambling and business figures, including famed Las Vegas Sun publisher Hank Greenspun, for more insight into the gambling world. He is unaware that the Dutchman's tough guy enforcer, "Panama Hat" is closely following him until the Hat William Smith confronts him at the hotel pool as Taggart attempts to relax on a chaise lounge. Panama Hat tells Taggart to return to Los Angeles immediately and settle up with the Dutchman, or there will be dire consequences.
Taggart's risk-addiction and perennial gambling money-losses ultimately spill over into his personal life. After a day trip to Knott's Berry Farm Taggart brings his young daughter (Bridgette Andersen) to Hollywood Park; At the track pressbox, they meet famed newspaper sportswriters Jim Murray and Alan Malamud. Taggart is trying to stop gambling-but at the racetrack he is physically assaulted by a track-goer to whom he owes money. Reporting to work the next day at the Herald Examiner, his newspaper editor (John Saxon) says he loves the "Mr. Green" series which the newspaper has been running, enough so that Saxon advances Taggart $10,000 dollars for "Mr. Green" to use as seed money for more gambling.
Upon more reflection on how truly dangerous gambling can be, Taggart visits Gamblers Anonymous in order to end his gambling compulsion. Taggart returns to Las Vegas, where he becomes increasingly acquainted with Las Vegas high-roller Charley Peru (Giancarlo Giannini),in hopes of making a large score and breaking even. He also hopes of Peru helping him get the Dutchman's head thug, Panama Hat (William Smith), off Taggart's back. Finally Taggart decides to stop gambling "forever"
Returning to Los Angeles, to celebrate "kicking" his gambling habit, Taggart places a few dollars into a slot machine at the Las Vegas Airport, where he magically scores a huge jackpot. Taggart immediately gets an attorney to hold the huge score in trust fund for his daughter. When he asks the attorney to reassure him "even I cannot touch the money?", his attorney replies, "especially not you."Ryan O'Neal as Steve Taggart
Catherine Hicks as Flo
Giancarlo Giannini as Charley
Bridgette Andersen as Amy
Chad Everett as The Dutchman
John Saxon as Sports Editor
Hank Greenspun as The Las Vegas Sun publisher
William Smith as Panama Hat
Keith Hefner as Sweeney
Patrick Cassidy as Soldier
William Prince as Mitchell
Chad McQueen as Convict
Richard Brooks became interested in the problem of gambling in America while recovering from a heart attack in 1983. He began researching the topic and wrote the script over two years. It was originally to be produced by Dino de Laurentiis under the title The Fever and Brooks wanted Sam Shepard to play the lead. De Laurentiis dropped out and Ryan O'Neal was cast instead. Filming took place from October 1984 to January 1985 and Brooks spent nine months editing it.
The newspaper editorial office scenes were all filmed at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, which always had a popular horse racing page, and solid sports gambling coverage. Many Herald Examiner and Los Angeles Times staffers had bit parts in the movie. The Herald Examiner newspaper closed in 1989.