An aging boxer finds himself the winner of a match he thought he had lost, the result a six year old's frantic wish. But can a world-weary, embittered man still believe in miracles, or will he turn his back on it?
Bolie Jackson is a professional boxer whose best years are behind him. He's well-liked in his neighborhood and adored by Henry, a young lad who lives next door. He hurts his hand in an altercation with sleazy boxing manager and as a result is badly beaten in a televised boxing match. He's apparently down and out for the count but young Henry has a special ability - something his mother calls the big wish - that changes the outcome of the match. When Bolie learns what he's done he refuses to believe in what Henry's done with the inevitable consequences. Written by
After airing this episode, with its nearly all-black cast being revolutionary for American television, Twilight Zone (1959) was awarded the 1961 Unity Award for Outstanding Contributions to Better Race Relations. See more »
Mr. Bolie Jackson, a hundred and eighty-three pounds, who left a second chance lying in a heap on a rosin-spattered canvas at St. Nick's Arena. Mr. Bolie Jackson, who shares the most common ailment of all men, the strange and perverse disinclination to believe in a miracle, the kind of miracle to come from the mind of a little boy, perhaps only to be found in the Twilight Zone.
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It took me more than thirty years to catch this classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode, and it was worth it! THE BIG TALL WISH is one of the most poignant, realistic, and mature episodes in the entire series. Rod Serling had written boxing stories before, and would again, but in many ways this story of a washed up black heavyweight and his biggest fan is the most mature and complex.
Several reviewers have commented that it was ground-breaking for the time to tell a story about a black man and boy without making race and racial prejudice the central issue of the story. That is certainly true. But if you look closely, there is a theme in "The Big Tall Wish" that reflects on the early Civil Rights Movement and the conflicts within the black community.
The young black boy, Henry, believes that magic can change reality as long as people believe. Bolie Jackson believes there are no miracles and that life can never change for the better. If you read Martin Luther King's book WHY WE CAN'T WAIT he describes this very conflict at great length. While adults and seniors in the black community were initially cautious and pessimistic about the early sit-ins and boycotts, it was the young people and especially the children who were most eager to risk everything to make a change. Dr. King talks in his book about the old pessimism of Booker T. Washington giving way to the new dream of an integrated society.
Now listen to the feverish back and forth between Henry and Bolie and you can almost hear black America's anguished dialog with itself. After so many centuries of horror and heartbreak, the very idea of wishing for a better future seems like a sick joke, and surely an agonizing "gut ache" will result. But the alternative is death itself, man's final defeat in the ring. The "big tall wish" that Henry believes in is actually the very same "dream" that Martin Luther King was to express just a year or two after this television episode was broadcast.
A couple of technical notes: if you compare this early Season One episode to a Season Five boxing episode like "Steel" you can really see the way the show's budget was gutted as ratings began to fade. You can also see the way the TWILIGHT ZONE writers began to parody themselves. Granted that "Steel" is a fine episode in its own right, (thanks largely to an explosive performance by Lee Marvin and solid support by Joe Mantell) but the series decline is very much in evidence.
One wonders why an episode like "The Big Tall Wish" was never included in the TWILIGHT ZONE FAN FAVORITES collections now on sale at big box stores like TARGET. There's no reason devoted fans should have to sit through dreck like "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank" when masterpieces like this are relegated to that modern day Twilight Zone known as YouTube!
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