“A Fistful of Love,” an episode of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars aired January 2, 1959 starring Lee Marvin, proving the actor’s amazing versatility in a poignant tale of an aging boxer.
it’s a simple yet elegiac tale told very much in the style of Rod Serling’s groundbreaking TV and movie script for “Requiem For A Heavyweight,” which aired live in 1956 and later filmed in 1962. In fact, the stylized opening to “A Fistful” is almost identical to Requiem For A Heavyweight.
When I was researching Lee Marvin Point Blank I was amazed to discover the depth and breadth of the actor’s TV work. He proved infinitely more versatile on the small screen than he ever was on the big screen. Even when it came to military-themed stories, as the only time he ever portrayed Marine (which he was in real-life) was on television. Consequently, I devoted an entire chapter just to his TV appearances.
At the time he appeared on “Fistful” it was during the golden age of television in which anthology programs were sponsored by large corporations that cranked out dozens of unique stand-alone stories without recurring characters. As a result, the quality ultimately suffered. Veteran TV and film director put it best when he said to me, “You must understand that anthology TV is a very difficult form. The canvas is very small in which to develop. Consequently, it wasn’t very good unless you were doing sci-fi or something of that nature. Audiences had to latch on in Scene 1, Act 1 with the character. That’s why anthology never worked. The successful shows were rare ones.” Martinson’s concept probably explains the longevity of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone.”
Several of the supporting cast may look familiar. Marvin, portraying a boxer named Pete Pulaski, aka ‘The Pittsburgh Kid,” is managed by Buddy Lester, probably best known for his appearances in several Jerry Lewis movies. Speaking of Jerry Lewis movies, Pulaski’s trainer is the rotund character actor Stanley Addams. Addams was a friend and neighbor of Lee and Betty Marvin best known for playing Lewis’s bellicose boss in The Errand Boy (1961).
Written and directed by veteran Allen Miner, he probably got Marvin to do the show based on having written directed several episodes of “M Squad,” which Marvin co-produced. So, with all that in mind, return for a moment to early 1959 and the black and white city realm of a boxer’s faded glory. Enjoy!
– Dwayne Epstein