Playhouse 90 (1956–1961)
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Requiem for a Heavyweight 

An over-the-hill heavyweight boxing champion who suffers from the ravages of years of head trauma is exploited by his manager, despite the efforts of a compassionate young woman who tries to help him recover his self-respect.





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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Steve (as Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom)
Edgar Stehli ...
Fighter in Bar
Lyn Osborn ...
Joe Abdullah ...
Fight Announcer
Ivan Rasputin ...


An over-the-hill heavyweight boxing champion who suffers from the ravages of years of head trauma is exploited by his manager, despite the efforts of a compassionate young woman who tries to help him recover his self-respect.

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Plot Keywords:

boxing | boxer | See All (2) »





Release Date:

11 October 1956 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Ed Wynn (Army) was the real life father of Keenan Wynn (Maish Rennick). See more »


Harlan 'Mountain' McClintock: You know that all the dirty, crummy fourteen years I fought for you, I never felt ashamed, Maish. Not one round, not one single minute! And now I feel ashamed!
See more »

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User Reviews

As good as television got in the 1950s.
27 August 2010 | by See all my reviews

The 1950s was an amazing time for television. There was a proliferation of live teleplays--movies written for television. Some of these productions were actually better than the material coming out in theaters. And, in the case of "Requiem for a Heavyweight", the normal 50 minutes was stretched to 72--allowing for great depth and character development. Fortunately, Criterion has released a set of three DVDs packed with some of the most memorable teleplays.

"Requiem for a Heavyweight" is a pretty ugly teleplay to see today, as it was filmed using the primitive Kinescope method. So, when you watch it, be patient and look past the fuzziness of the print.

This story helped to make Rod Serling famous. If it hadn't been for the success of this story (and the Emmy he won for writing it), he probably never would have gone on to create "The Twilight Zone". The cast is very capable and is made up of Jack Palance as the aging boxer and the father-son teaming of Ed and Keenan Wynn as his cut man and trainer.

The teleplay begins with Palance being taken to the dressing room following a loss. It's rather shocking to see him, as unlike what you'd normally see on TV, Palance is a man bloody and badly beaten--and the makeup job was incredibly good. The fight doctor examines him and announces that the guy is through--14 years of beatings have taken their toll and his career is over. Sadly, after these miserable years, you've got a punch-drunk guy who has less than $100 to his name and no job prospects. In essence, he's been used and is now ready to be tossed out like an old newspaper--and the show is a strong indictment of this dirty 'sport'. In fact, like the best boxing films, it is strongly anti-boxing in its message--and does so unflinchingly. The film really packs an emotional wallop and it tears your guts out watching Palance--who did an incredible job in the lead. It's probably the best thing he ever did--it was that good.

In addition to Palance, the teleplay features some great supporting actors. Keenan Wynn is great as the manager who is practically heartlesss. Ed Wynn is wonderful as the cut man who has trouble living with the guilt for having produced this washed out boxer. Kim Hunter is very nice as a well-meaning employment counselor who is touched by Palance's predicament. And I loved how they also got some real ex-boxers for color--Max Baer and Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom--both actual ex-champs. Rosenbloom in particular was great, as he really was very punchy in real life--yet despite serious head injuries he had an amazing career in films and as a restaurant owner loved by his patrons for his colorful stories. Here, he tells tales and shows clearly the effects of all the head blows he'd endured.

The overall effect of brilliant writing and acting is probably the best or among the best television had to offer in the 1950s. Despite a few rough aspects (mostly the crappy Kinescope look), it is still an amazing film today because of its unflinching realism. Aside from this, perhaps the only other teleplays that reach this same level of excellent are "Marty" and "Days of Wine and Roses". And, like "Requiem", all three went on to be super-successful movies.

By the way, some other exceptional anti-boxing films that are well worth seeing include: "Champion", "The Harder They Fall" and "The Set-Up". But, of these, I still think "Requiem" is the best...and that's saying a lot. And, I think it's MUCH better than the later movie version starring Anthony Quinn--mostly because the teleplay offers a ray of hope and the movie is just a real downer.

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