Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956)

Goddamn, is it really nearly a year since I last delved into the Golden Age of Television box? *checks* Um… end of last November, so yeah, not far off. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get back into it, cos it’s not like I’d been actively dreading doing so or anything like that… other stuff just getting in the way? I don’t know. Anyway, I return to the collection at a significant point, the expansion of the hour-long live drama into an hour and a half timeslot. Requiem was the first play written (though the second actually broadcast) for the new Playhouse 90 anthology, to see if live drama could actually be performed on TV at such length. (We’ll leave aside entirely the fact that the BBC had been doing it for years, and without ad breaks at that, because we know that until the Americans have done a thing no one’s ever done it anywhere.) I’m not really big on sports films, especially not boxing, but this isn’t really about boxing, I suppose, more about what do you do when you’ve been a boxer but you can’t box any more and you don’t have any other experience… your options are limited, and your manager knows this, and he’s going to try to screw a few more dollars out of you. Dave Blakeslee observes with some justice that Requiem feels like an actual film pulled off in a single take, and no doubt the additional runtime (and pacing) helps give that feel… Jack Palance is great as the washed-up boxer, a maybe not terribly bright country boy but still a man with enough sense of self-worth and dignity that he won’t stoop to what his manager (Keenan Wynn) wants for him. Wynn’s good too, but I was particularly impressed by Ed Wynn (Keenan’s dad) as the trainer who comes between them both; Wynn père had decades of comedic experience but had never really had to act as such before, and apparently he was so horrendous in rehearsal that a veritable disaster threatened. As the kinescope shows, though, he was terrific once everything got underway. Impressive viewing.

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