Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

A review by Shlomoh Sherman
March 24, 2015

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
Plot: Mountain Rivera, a punchy has-been managed by the unprincipled Maish, is mauled in a fight and forced to quit boxing. His devoted cutman and a sympathetic social worker try to help him find a new life.
Director: Ralph Nelson
Writers: Rod Serling (teleplay), Rod Serling
Stars: Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney
Plot Keywords: wrestling - social worker - boxing - drunkenness - second chance
Taglines They beat him... they broke him... they betrayed him... but they could not crush the towering dignity of a real fighter!
Genres: Drama - Sport
Ratings: Canada:PG / Finland:K-12 / UK:PG (DVD rating) / UK:A (original rating)
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: November 16, 1962 (West Germany)
Also Known As: Blood Money, Requiem pour un champion, Una faccia piena di pugni, Die Faust im Gesicht
Filming Locations: Downing Stadium, Randall's Island, East River, New York City, New York, USA
Company Credits:
Production Co: Columbia Pictures Corporation
Show detailed company contact information on IMDbPro »
Technical Specs:
Runtime: 95 min - 85 min (TCM print)
Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color: Black and White

Last week, Turner Classic Movies showed this remarkable, classic film which I had seen when it first came out in 1962.

Requiem is the story of Louis 'Mountain' Rivera, a washed up heavyweight prize fighter whose manager, Maish Rennick, wants to financially exploit as a loser and comic wrestling figure.

But Rivera has his pride and wants nothing more to do with the fight game. A social worker, Grace Miller, gets him an interview for a job as a counselor in a children's camp but Rennick manages to distract Ribera by getting him druck and causing him to appear at the interview in a state of intoxication, causing him to be rejected for the job. When a scout seeking new faces for Wrestling approaches Rennick about convincing Rivera to become a wrestler, Rivera at first refuses to humiliate himself as a wrestling villain but eventually, with nowhere to turn, he accepts the wrestling deal.

Anthony Quinn as Rivera, Mickey Rooney as Rivera's ring man, Army, and Julie Harris as the social worker, Grace Miller all give admirable performances. I don't remember seeing Julie Harris more beautiful or give a more sensitive portrayal than in this film.

But the real KUDOS must go to Jackie Gleason as Maish Rennick.

People of my generation remember Gleason as a comic, first as the host of his own variety show, Cavalcade of Stars variety hour in 1950, on the DuMont Television Network. Later renamed The Jackie Gleason Show, the program became the country’s second-highest-rated television show during the 1954–55 season. Gleason would do an opening monologue. Then, accompanied by “a little travelin’ music” (“That’s a Plenty,” a Dixieland classic from 1914), he would shuffle toward the wings, clapping his hands inversely and shouting, “And awaaay we go!” The phrase became one of his trademarks, along with “How sweet it is!”. One of his more memorable roles was Reginald Van Gleason III, a top-hatted millionaire with a taste for both the good life and fantasy.

By far Gleason’s most popular character was blustery bus driver Ralph Kramden. Largely drawn from Gleason’s harsh Brooklyn childhood, these sketches became known as The Honeymooners. The show customarily centered on Ralph’s many get-rich-quick schemes, his ambition, antics with his best friend and neighbor, scatterbrained sewer worker Ed Norton, and clashes with sensible wife Alice, who typically pulled Ralph’s head down from the clouds. The Honeymooners also became the birthplace of catchphrases invented by Gleason, such as harmless threats to Alice: “One of these days, Alice, pow, right in the kisser” or “To the moon Alice, to the moon.”

Today there is a life sized statue of Gleason as Kramden outside of New York City's major bus terminal located at 8th Avenue and 40th street.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Gleason enjoyed a secondary music career, lending his name to a series of best-selling “mood music” albums with jazz overtones for Capitol Records. Gleason felt there was a ready market for romantic instrumentals. His goal was to make “musical wallpaper that should never be intrusive, but conducive.”

But Gleason was more than just a comic and musician. In later years, he became an accomplished serious actor. Among his notable film roles were Minnesota Fats in the 1961 drama The Hustler (starring Paul Newman) and Buford T. Justice in the Smokey and the Bandit series. His other films include Navy Blues (1941), All Through the Night (1941), Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1942), and Twentieth Century-Fox Orchestra Wives (1942) where he played Glenn Miller Orchestra bassist Ben Beck. He also had a small part as a soda shop clerk in Larceny, Inc., (1942) with Edward G. Robinson, and a modest part as an actor’s agent in the 1942 Betty Grable–Harry James musical Springtime in the Rockies. These last data were gleaned from the wbpage at

Alhough Gleason gives a great performance in REQUIEM, he won no award for the role.

Jack Dempsey, Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay), and a few other boxing greats have cameos in this movie. Whpratt1 (United States), in his October, 2003 review remarks, "These great boxers gave this film the great realism that it has and it was great to see them ... Jack Dempsey owned a food establishment on Broadway NYC. This film clearly shows the horrible results of boxing in the ring for a profession; however, all boxers and future boxers should be praised for their great gifts in that field of endeavor."

Did You Know?

When CBS acquired "Requiem" for TV broadcast, the film ran 87 minutes. The network wanted to expand it to 100 minutes to fill a two hour time slot. It took deleted odds and ends including a restaurant scene with Rooney, Quinn, and Gleason that lasted seven minutes. Director Ralph Nelson was so upset that he demanded that his name be removed from the credits. The owner of the film, Columbia Pictures, insisted it stay in, but even with the new cobbled together version, the film still ran short.
Opening traveling shot of bar customers watching fight on TV was apparently filmed in mirror behind bar because all beer labels and signs in background read backwards.
Anthony Quinn did this film when Lawrence of Arabia (1962) went on a two month hiatus between October and December of 1961. The film was released before "Lawrence" came out.

[after Grace slaps Maish]
Maish Rennick: Do you really want to help him? Here's how you can help him. Leave him alone. If you gotta' say anything to him, tell him you pity him. Tell him you feel so sorry for him you could cry. But don't con him. Don't tell him he could be a counsellor at a boys' camp. He's been chasing ghosts so long he'll believe anything. Any kind of a ghost. Championship belt, pretty girl... maybe just 24 hours without an ache in his body. Doesn't make any difference. It all passed him.
Muhammad Ali: Great fight kid. You were great.
Louis 'Mountain' Rivera: Mountain Rivera was no punk. Mountain Rivera was almost the Heavyweight Champion of the World!
Ma Greeny: [to Maish] Take a good look in the mirror and then say goodbye to what you see.
Army: [to Maish] Anybody ever tell you what a prince of a guy you were?
Louis 'Mountain' Rivera: [to Grace] Do you know why I talk so funny? Because I've been hit a million times.
Louis 'Mountain' Rivera: You bet against me? Why Maish? Why did you bet against me?
Maish Rennick: You're not a winner anymore, Mountain. There's only one thing left. Let's make some money from the losing.
Maish Rennick: You wanna fight. You fool. You damn stupid fool. Don't you understand? Can't you get it into your silly head? There are only eight champions in this business. Everybody else is an also-ran. The good's great, but the bad stinks! Don't you understand? The odds are all you'll wind up a mumbling idiot! A STUTTERING JERK! WHY DON'T YOU GO HOME! GO HOME!

Home on the Range (uncredited) From poem written by Dr. Brewster M. Higley (1873) Music by Daniel E. Kelley Sung by Anthony Quinn

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Quinn ... Louis 'Mountain' Rivera
Jackie Gleason ... Maish Rennick
Mickey Rooney ... Army
Julie Harris ... Grace Miller
Stanley Adams ... Perelli
Madame Spivy ... Ma Greeny
Val Avery ... Young fighter's promoter
Herbie Faye ... Charlie, the Bartender
Jack Dempsey ... Himself
Rory Calhoun ... Himself
Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) ... Himself

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