The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) Classic Movie Review 103

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Mountain Rivera was no punk. Mountain Rivera was almost the Heavyweight Champion of the World!


This is a very sad, sort of buddy movie. The guys never had a chance. Today’s movie is Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). This movie tells the story of a boxer, his trainer, and his manager. The boxer is the primary character. Actor Anthony Quinn shot this film during a two-month break in the filming of Lawrence of Arabia (1962).

This story and the screenplay were written by Rod Serling 1924–1975. Serling was best known for “The Twilight Zone” 1959 – 1964 and his horror television show, “Night Gallery” 1970 – 1973 and. He was also involved in the writing of Seven Days in May (1964),  Planet of the Apes (1968), and Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) posthumously.

So on to the actors.


Anthony Quinn played the pugilist Louis ‘Mountain’ Rivera. Quinn was covered in Episode 31 – Warlock (1959).

Jackie Gleason played Maish Rennick, Mountain’s manager. John Herbert “Jackie” Gleason was born in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. When Gleason was nine years old, his father abandoned the family. This led Gleason to spend time on the streets and in pool halls. He never finished high school and started working at theaters.

His mother died tragically in 1935. Gleason moved in with another comic and got his first professional comedic work shortly after. Gleason worked his way up to work at Club 18 where he used his acerbic wit to insult the guests. Jack Warner says Gleason in the club and started him in the movies. Early movies included Navy Blues (1941), All Through the Night (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (1942), and a small bit with Edward G. Robinson in Larceny, Inc. (1942). However, Gleason did not take Hollywood by storm.

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Gleason returned to work in nightclubs until he got his first big break. In 1949, he was cast as Riley in “The Life of Riley” 1949. Following the cancellation of this show, he began working on a television variety show that would later become “The Jackie Gleason Show” 1952-1959. This is where he developed his trademark “And awaaaay we go.” His next hit show was “The Honeymooners” 1955-1956 where he played a beloved, verbal if not physical abuser. One actress that was part of the skit was not selected for the show because her name was listed in the Red Channel, a book containing the names of suspected communist.

Gleason was on a few variety shows and made jazz mood music albums. His first big film was The Hustler (1961), playing the role of pool player Minnesota Fats, opposite Paul Newman and George C. Scott. He played a heel in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). Among other films he was in a strange buddy-film, Solider in the Rain (1963) with Steve McQueen. Skipping many lesser films, he was in Don’t Drink the Water (1969) where his family was accused of spying on the mythical country of Vulgaria. Gleason rose in popularity with his role as redneck sheriff Buford T. Justice in Smokey and the Bandit (1977). Unfortunately, he was in Bandit II (1980). Bandit III (1983), and The Sting II (1983). He was pretty good in The Toy (1982). His final movie was Nothing in Common (1986) with Tom Hanks.

By the time, Gleason made his last movie; he was dying from colon cancer. He died in Florida in 1987.

Mickey Rooney played Army, Mountain’s trainer. Mickey Rooney was born in 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. As a baby, he participated in his parent’s vaudeville act. Apparently never having formal training, he was turning up in short films by 1926. His first full-length film appears to be My Pal, the King (1932). He continued in films, playing mostly children until his amazing performance as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935). He hit a lucky streak with A Family Affair (1937) when he started playing beloved teenager Andy Hardy. He made almost 20 films as Andy Hardy. He played a tough kid in Boys Town (1938) with Spencer Tracy. He was awarded a “juvenile Academy Award” for this role.

The young actor was teamed with Judy Garland in a series of musicals that include Babes in Arms (1939), Strike Up the Band (1940), Babes on Broadway (1941), and Girl Crazy (1943). During this same period, he worked with Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet (1944). That year he joined the military and worked in special services, never to be confused with Special Forces.

Rooney returned to film after about 21 months. He was still able to play Andy Hardy in Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946) but he had some better roles in films such as Killer McCoy (1947) and Words and Music (1948). For some reason, he was cast a coke-bottle glasses wearing Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). Big mistake! In Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) Rooney showed his talent and range. For his work in The Black Stallion (1979) Rooney again showed what an amazing talent he was. He was nominated for a best-supporting actor Oscar. Following this, he returned to stage work.

Rooney was in 4 sitcoms with the best being “The Mickey Rooney Show” 1954-1955. In total, he was nominated for 4 Oscar. In 1983, he was given an honorary Oscar for 50 of versatile film performance. But Rooney was not done yet.

He was great as Gus in Night at the Museum (2006) with Ben Stiller and The Muppets (2011) with Amy Adams. He returned as Gus in Night at the Museum 3 (2014).

Sadly, Rooney was a victim of elder abuse but he stood up to it and found relief through the Superior Court. This great actor died in 2014.

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Julie Harris played social worker with a heart of gold, Grace Miller. Harris was born in 1925, in Michigan. Coming from a well to do family her performing talents were encouraged. She went to Yale Drama School for a year and attended the New York School of Drama and was one of the early members of the Acting Studio. She debuted on Broadway in 1945 at the age of 19.

Harris did well in stage work and based on her performance in “The Member of the Wedding” she and Brandon De Wilde was cast in the film The Member of the Wedding (1952). Harris received her only Oscar nomination for this role.

Harris continued to be successful on stage and occasionally took the film role of a play she had acted in such as I am a Camera (1955). She was great with James Dean in East of Eden (1955). She mixed stage and film turning out movies such as Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), The Haunting (1963), Hamlet (1964), Harper (1966), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), The Bell Jar (1979), Home for the Holidays (1972), and Gorillas in the Mist (1988). She was equally active on television.

Suffering from poor health, Harris faced breast cancer in 1981 and had a stroke in 2001 and 2010. Harris died in 2013, of congestive heart failure in Massachusetts at the age of 87.

Boxer Jack Dempsey played Himself.

Boxer Muhammad Ali played himself but he was Cassius Clay at the time.

Argentine Boxer Alex Miteff was shown being beaten by Cassius Clay.


Boxer Mountain Rivera (Anthony Quinn) loses a fight to a younger fighter, Cassius Clay before he was Muhammad Ali. They show clips of the Clay fight against Argentine Boxer Alex Miteff. Of course, back in those days, Ali was light and pretty and no one could lay a glove on him. The first part of the movie is shown from Mountain’s point of view and it’s warped and surreal. When he hears a bell ring for another fight, he jumps to action. They change to a regular view after you seed Mountain’ mangled face for the first time.

The two friends get him into the locker room. Shortly a doctor (Lou Gilbert) tells Maish Rennick (Jackie Gleason) that if Mountain fights again he could go blind from a detached retina. A detachment happens when fluid leaks in from a hole or a tear. Like when you make a living getting your head pounded in.

Army (Mickey Rooney) takes care of Mountain and wakes him up with smelling salts the doctor left. While Mountain is in the shower, Army and Maish have a little spat because Maish is up to something. We also find out that Army is a former fighter turned cut-man. Mountain has been a fighter for 17-years.

Maish and trainer Army, break the news to Mountain. He doesn’t believe it but when Army tells him again he believes. Mountain is crushed. Mountain wonders what he will do for work. They did a good job with the makeup and Mountain didn’t look too good, something like a line from a Simon and Garfunkel song – and he carries the reminder of ev’ry glove that laid him down or cut him till he cried out. Having squandered his youth in the fight game, Mountain has not have any skills or talents that he can use to support himself. The three men had been more than a team, they were also friends and drinking buddies.

But Maish, like a typical huckster, has bet a lot of money on the fight and know he owes a mean gangster, Ma Green (Madame Spivy). Ma has a gang of big thugs to collect and one of the thugs is played by Michael Conrad, most recently of “Hill Street Blues” 1981-1984. So Maish will get his head bashed in if he doesn’t pay. The thugs are waiting for Maish outside of the locker room.

While the thugs follow Maish, they pass Ma Green, wearing her hat low, giving off a Boris of Boris and Natasha vibe. Maish, who is a rather large man, makes a run for it. The thugs and Ma Green catch him in the now empty boxing arena. They turn on the lights and it seems to be Maish’s turn in the ring. Maish had called Ma Green and said his fighter, Mountain, would not go more than four rounds against Clay. She lost not only Maish’s money and a bundle of her money as well. The thugs give Maish an off camera beating in the ring.

Mountain and Army go out looking for jobs. The first one is for a movie usher. You know, the guys that use to walk around with flashlights, not the teenagers that tear your tickets now. But Mountain never had a chance for the job because he was too big to fit into the uniform.

Maish is out trying to hustle up the money, while Mountain and Army go to the employment office. Mountain wants to go drinking because it is taking too long but his name is finally called. His worker is Grace Miller (Julie Harris) who is pretty good at her job but seems to have a soft spot for hard cases. She puts him at easy by not judging him. She is fascinated that he was a prizefighter. Mountain talks about his eye problem and she is determined to help him.

She tries to talk to him about special needs jobs and he leaves angrily. That night, Mountain wanders the street until he passes the arena where they are pasting over his poster. Back at their room, Maish and Army are playing cards. Maish is being a cranky ass because he is worried about the money. Army is worried about Mountain.

Maish gets a call from a wrestling promoter, Perelli (Stanley Adams). Army gets mad because Maish wants Mountain to wrestle. Army knows this will be degrading to the washed up fighter. Maish is conflicted by his love for Mountain and his need to make money.

After Army leaves, Maish starts packing, but is stopped when the phone rings. It’s Ma Green warning him not to run.

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Grace shows up at a dive boxer hangout. It is full of pugs of all ages and shapes. The bartender tells Grace that unescorted ladies are not permitted. She asks for Mountain and the bartender retrieves him. They get a table and she tells him about a summer camp job that might be great for him. The owners of the camp are in town and Grace wants to set up a meeting for that evening. She has a beer with him in the dive. They have a nice visit and Mountain talks about how much he owes Maish. Mountain gets a little too exuberant telling a boxing story and luckily doesn’t scare Grace off. Later Grace gets a cab to her place and Mountain goes back to wait for the call about the appointment.

Before Mountain gets back to their room Army comes in and sees that Perelli is waiting with Maish. Mountain comes in and is on top of the world about his job interview. But Maish and Perelli pitch the wrestling idea. Perelli wants him to dress as an Indian and blow smoke on the ref with his peace pipe. Mountain thinks is is degrading and doesn’t want to do it. Maish pulls the “you owe me bit.” Mountain doesn’t want to be considered a stumblebum when that is in fact what he has become.

The call comes in from Grace and she tells him where the job interview is to be held. Maish tells Army that Mountain has won and he has lost. He then sends Army out for some sandwiches. Maish takes whiskey into Mountain while Army is out. He then takes him out drinking at Jack Dempsey’s place and they have a drink with the former champ. Maish is trying to get Mountain drunk so he can sabotage the interview. Army finds them and sends Mountain to the interview.

Mountain is drunk at the hotel and gets confused about the room number. He starts wandering around call out the man’s name and banging on doors. He crashes into a room service cart and the noise brings Grace and camp owners out of their room. When Mountain sees them he runs away.

Grace shows up at Mountain’s place and she starts chewing on him pretty hard about messing up the appointment. Grace asks him why he threw away the job and he says he was kidding himself about the summer camp job. She sees that he is ashamed to be a wrestler but Mountain says he will do anything for Maish.

As Grace tries to motivate Mountain he begins to kiss her hand. They start kissing but when he pulls her on the bed she reacts badly. He sends her away. Mountain stops her to return her scarf and she kisses him on the cheek as she leaves. Going down the stairs she runs into Maish. She rips into Maish and he gets pretty sarcastic. When Maish calls Mountain an ape, Grace slaps him. Then Maish gets serious and says that it too late to give Mountain dreams. Maish would make his dreams come true if he could.

Mountain is in the dressing room wearing the Indian costume. Perelli laughs right in his face not knowing the effect it will have. Another promoter brings in a young boxer that wants to work with Maish, but he tells them to come back later.

Mountain has a little bit of dignity left and refuses to go into the wrestling match. Maish gets angry and tells of the bet and how he betted that Mountain would fall before the 4th round. Army calls him a fink and walks out. Mountain says he was never ashamed of his fighting until Maish bet against him.

Two of Ma Green thugs come in and call Mountain Hiawatha. He mops the floor with them. Perelli comes in and says he will get Maish’s license pulled and then Ma Green says her thugs are going to destroy Maish physically. Mountain agrees to wrestle.

Maish makes a plea to keep the team together and get the new boxer. However, what they had is gone. Mountain climbs into the ring, and the crowd is mocking him feverishly. Army stands in the aisle crying. Mountain starts war whooping to feed the crowds frenzy.

World-Famous Short Summary – Trio of buddies have a spat

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Beware the moors

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

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