Requiem for a Heavyweight
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Written by Rod Sterling from his teleplay
Columbia Pictures Corporation
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant
Why are all boxing movies so darned sad?
Mountain Rivera (Anthony Quinn) is coming to the end of his seventeen-year career. He’s still strong enough to last seven rounds against Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali (who has a cameo). The trouble is that his long-time manager Maish (Jackie Gleason) had bet the farm that he would not last four and, worse, convinced a gangster to make the same bet. Also, the beating has left Mountain unfit to fight due to an eye that will probably be blinded with the next blow.
Mountain has never done anything else but fight. He’s too big to fit into a movie usher’s uniform. He meets Grace (Julie Harris), a social worker who has worked with disabled vets, and she gets him an interview for a camp counselor job. They also look to be starting a tentative romance.
This does not suit Maish in the least. He is desperate to get the money to get the gangster off his back and figures Mountain owes him. The idea is to get Mountain to sign a contract to wrestle. It will be a major blow to Mountain’s dignity. With Mickey Rooney as a trainer.
This is a solid, if predictable, tale of corruption and cynicism in the boxing world. All the acting is good, with Gleason being the standout. Quinn plays his part with a delivery that we should see as punch-drunk but somehow seems slightly off. It takes some getting used to.