PITTSBURGH MADE: Gung Ho (1986)

Not only was this film shot in Beaver, PA, it stars Michael Keaton, who was born in Kennedy Township and grew up in McKees Rocks, Coraopolis and Robinson Township and went to high school at Montour. His first acting work was on public station WQED and he played one of the Flying Zookeeni Brothers on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, where he was also a production assistant. How big of a yinzer is he? He negotiated a break during the filming of Batman in case the Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs that year.

Of course, they didn’t.

While the movie is set in Hadleyville, Pennsylvania, the factory was in Shadyside, Ohio and the town itself is the aforementioned Beaver, a town minutes from where I grew up. It was a big deal for the town that they donated a gazeebo and it’s still there.

Keaton plays Hunt Stevenson, who has traveled to the Japanese offices of Assan Motors Corporation to convince them to reopen the closed plant in his hometown. They agree and send Takahara “Kaz” Kazuhiro (Gedde Watanabe) to run it in the Japanese style, which conflicts with the blue collar workforce played by George Wendt, John Turturro, Rick Oberton and Clint Howard (Ron directed and got him and their father roles, but he’s as always awesome in this; Howard, Keaton and writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel had all worked on Night Shift together).

You can see the conflict coming. Stevenson wants to please everyone and ends up nearly costing the town everything — Rance Howard plays the mayor who has a breakdown and tells the entire assembled townsfolk that much — while losing the respect of his friends and almost causing his girlfriend Audrey (Mimi Rodgers) to finally dump him.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Toyota’s executives in Japan have used this movie as an example of how not to manage Americans.

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