Friday, August 9, 2013


"Requiem for a Heavyweight" began as a teleplay for a new CBS television anthology, Playhouse 90. Little did Rod Serling know at the time of completion that, sitting back in his desk, he won an Emmy. The teleplay would ultimately become a stage play, a novel and a motion-picture. But the original teleplay is still the best version (and worth seeking out on DVD). 

The story was bitter, mordant and yet moving at the same time. A washed up heavyweight prize fighter is put to pasture after 111 bone-bruising bouts and finds it jarringly difficult to adjust to society. He is a tough, disfigured blob of flesh who "could take a cannonball in the face." A gentle man, he is painfully aware of his ugliness. His condition does not allow him easy access to a new job, especially since all he knows is fighting -- he never took time to learn a trade. He is bounced around by some seedy managers until a pretty employment agent helps him find work. Deeply in debt, he is subjected to the final degradation of booking him as a clown wrestler with coonskip cap and buckskin suit. The fighter, however, was disgusted by the fakery of it all and took a walk. Thanks to the sympathetic woman at the employment bureau, he boards a train and returns to his home in Tennessee.

Here are a few archival letters and correspondence related to that historic telecast, which caused William S. Paley himself to call down to the director's booth and congratulate the cast and crew. (FYI: Letters that appear unsigned were typed by Rod Serling.) Enjoy!

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