The Happy Warriors of 1940: Everett Daniels, Dan Eftimoff, George Gages, Andy Hagopian, Ed Hoff, John Markarian, Sam Mouradian, Ebbie Mueller, Evon Parsaghian, Andy Phillip. Coach: Byron Bozarth, Assistant Coach: Leonard Davis, Manager: Harold Brown

By Theo Tate

GRANITE CITY, Ill. — The 1940 Granite City Warriors boys basketball team poses after winning the state championship.

For over 30 years, Arthur Sarkissian has been a successful Hollywood producer, making 17 motion pictures, including three in the “Rush Hour” series starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.

Now, he’s setting his sights on producing “Men of Granite,” a film about the 1940 Granite City boys basketball team winning a state championship.

“It’s not so much about sports, although I love basketball very much, but it’s about the challenges that anyone faces in any particular field,” Sarkissian said. “It’s a challenge that I  connect with these kids. They had nothing and didn’t give up and I like that.”

The motion picture will be based on the 2007 book written by Dan Manoyan, a former longtime sportswriter from Milwaukee.

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“I’ll be happy when it gets moving,” Manoyan said.

This will be the second attempt for “Men of Granite” to hit the big screen. Production for the movie was originally scheduled to start in 2015 after Milwaukee philanthropist Albert Nicholas — who died in 2016 — invested $1.3 million in the project and Valerie McCaffrey was hired as producer. But lack of funding halted production for four years.

Two years ago, Manoyan sued the producers for mismanagement of money for the film. A three-day trial ended earlier this summer in Milwaukee and the judge will decide within the next several months who will pay back the money that remained in the production account when the project was shut down.

“It was a bench case, which means you don’t get a verdict right away,” Manoyan said. “You have to wait about two months.”

Manoyan said he’s happy that the project has started back up with a new producer.

“It’s great to get the Men of Granite project back on track, especially with a proven producer like Arthur Sarkissian,” the author said. “He has a track record of producing quality films and I couldn’t be happier that he is interested in the project. The project is still in the early stages, but with the court case behind us, I’m sure things will start happening rapidly now.”

Sarkissian said there is no specific timetable on when the movie will be made.

“It’s finding the right person to adapt it and finding the right director,” the producer said. “I don’t think it’s a difficult movie to make. I’m hoping that within the next six months, I’m hoping to be able to be in production with it.”

Sarkissian said he contacted Manoyan through Anita Busch, a Granite City native who used to work for Deadline Hollywood.

“She brought the story to my attention and she said I should get in touch with him and I did,” Sarkissian said. “The rest is basically talking about what I wanted to know, like what has transpired, who was involved and what happened.”

“Men of Granite” tells the story about the players growing up in the Lincoln Place neighborhood. Most of the players on the team came from Hungarian, Armenian, Yugoslavian and Macedonian backgrounds.

Granite City beat Herrin in the 1940 state championship game and finished 29-5.

“It’s a story that I feel is timeless and I love true stories and what these guys have accomplished,” Sarkissian said. “It’s something I felt very strong about and I want to find a good way to bring it to the screen.”

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