REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT (1962)

Ads heralded this mordant view of the last professional days of a failed boxer as “The Gutsiest Picture Ever Made!” It may well have been as writer Rod Sterling and director Ralph Nelson created an even more critical view of the characters than in their acclaimed live television drama. In opening up their story of a boxer (Anthony Quinn) caught between a debt-ridden manager (Jackie Gleason) who needs him to keep fighting and an employment counselor (Julie Harris) who thinks she can build him a new life, they added more dimension to the characters. Gleason’s crooked manager was given a stronger case for keeping Quinn in the game while Harris was given ulterior motives for helping him, leading to complex, compelling drama. Quinn had been unable to do the TV version, which ended up starring Jack Palance. He made the film during a two-month hiatus while shooting Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Two months was more than enough time for him to create an indelible characterization, with scars making him almost unrecognizable and a wheezy voice modeled on one of the film’s fight coordinators, an ex-boxer who had taken one too many blows to the throat. (d. Ralph Nelson, 95m, 35mm)

In attendance: EDDIE MULLER