Sunday, April 13, 2014
Mickey Rooney in REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT (1962)
REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT was a teleplay written by Rod Serling and produced for the live television show Playhouse 90 on October 11, 1956. Six years later, it was adapted as a 1962 feature film starring Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney.
Ralph Nelson directed the movie version in 1962 with Anthony Quinn in the role originated by Jack Palance, Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney in the parts portrayed on television by Keenan Wynn and his father Ed Wynn, and social worker Grace Miller was portrayed by Julie Harris.
Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, appears as Quinn's opponent in a boxing match at the beginning of the movie, a memorable sequence filmed with the camera providing Quinn's point of view as the unstoppable Clay rapidly punches directly at the movie audience. Afterward, Maish is confronted by bookies who threaten his life if he fails to repay the bet he just lost on the fight.
The film version is somewhat darker in its plotline than the original teleplay. Mountain Rivera (Quinn) is to interview for a counselor position at a children's camp, arranged by Grace Miller, but Maish takes him to a bar where they both get drunk, hoping that Mountain will forget about the job interview. Army (Rooney) arrives at the bar to remind Mountain about the appointment, but he embarrasses himself at the hotel where the interview is to take place, behaving drunkenly in plain sight of the camp owners. Grace follows Mountain home to try to understand what went wrong, and though they are attracted to each other, Mountain's aggression scares Grace off. She confronts Maish in tears, condemning him for controlling Mountain and ruining his chance to make a new life for himself.
To pay off Maish's gambling debts, Mountain agrees to perform as Native American wrestling persona "Big Chief Mountain Rivera." Just prior to entering the ring for his first match, an overwhelming tide of humiliation sweeps over Mountain, causing him to change his mind. Maish blurts out that he bet against Mountain in the fight against Clay, and as Rivera attempts to leave the locker room, "Ma" Greeny and her thugs enter, threatening Maish. However, Mountain changes his mind and agrees to wrestle, thereby allowing "Ma" to be paid and saving Maish's life. In the epic final scene of the film, Mountain enters the ring amidst jeering ridicule to face "Haystack Calhoun," a grappler from Arkansas billed at 601 lbs.