Original Air Date: April 8, 1960
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Ron Winston
“If you don’t believe, Bolie, it won’t be true. That’s the way magic works.”
“The Big Tall Wish” offers a rare all-black cast for a 1960s television show. Regarding the plight of Black actors, Rod Serling, a known civil rights advocate, once stated the following, “Television, like its big sister, the motion picture, has been guilty of the sin of omission… Hungry for talent, desperate for the so-called ‘new face,’ constantly searching for a transfusion of new blood, it has overlooked a source of wondrous talent that resides under its nose. This is the Negro actor” (as quoted in The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree). “The Big Tall Wish” presents a heart-wrenching tale overlaid with a beautiful, downbeat score by Jerry Goldsmith.
“In this corner of the universe, a prizefighter named Bolie Jackson, 183 pounds and an hour and a half away from a comeback at St. Nick’s Arena. Mr. Bolie Jackson, who, by the standards of his profession is an aging, over-the-hill relic of what was, and who now sees a reflection of a man who has left too many pieces of his youth in too many stadiums for too many years before too many screaming people. Mr. Bolie Jackson, who might do well to look for some gentle magic in the hard-surfaced glass that stares back at him.”
An aging boxer named Bolie Jackson (played by Ivan Dixon) is friends with a neighborhood boy, Henry (played by Stephen Perry) and his mother (played by Kim Hamilton). Henry makes a “big tall wish” that Bolie wins his upcoming fight. Later, one of Bolie’s team members, Thomas, has bet against him. In a fit of rage, Bolie, punches the wall and breaks his hand. The fight goes terribly and Bolie is knocked out.
However, something miraculous occurs. Suddenly, Bolie finds himself standing in the middle of the ring with his hand in the air. He has, in fact, somehow won the fight. Bolie is the only person who remembers breaking his hand and losing the fight. When he returns home he confronts Henry who begs him to believe in the magic of his “big tall wish” but Bolie is jaded and skeptical. At the end of the episode his fortunes are reversed. Bolie’s hand is returned to broken and he loses the fight. He returns home to Henry and the boy says: “I ain’t gonna make no more wishes. I’m too old for wishes.” Bolie sorrowfully replies: “Or maybe… maybe there is magic. And maybe there’s wishes, too. I guess the trouble is… there’s not enough people around to believe…”
“Mr. Bolie Jackson, 183 pounds, who left a second chance lying in a heap on a rosin-spattered canvas at St. Nick’s Arena. Mr. Bolie Jackson, who shares the most common ailment of all men, the strange and perverse disinclination to believe in a miracle, the kind of miracle to come from the mind of a little boy, perhaps only to be found in the Twilight Zone.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- Rod Serling was once a boxer while serving in the army during World War II.
- Jerry Goldsmith offers a wonderfully unique score in this episode with the feature of a harmonica.
- The boxing match takes place at “St. Nick’s Arena” which was the name of a boxing arena in New York City -the St. Nicholas Rink.
- Originally cast in the lead role was champion boxer Archie Moore, who later exclaimed, “Man, I was in the Twilight Zone!” when describing the punch delivered by his opponent Yvon Durelle.
- Ivan Dixon and Stephen Perry were reunited the following year in the 1961 Sydney Poitier film A Raising in the Sun.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.
Click here to read my reflections on Rod Serling’s short story “The Big, Tall Wish.”