Sunday, August 28, 2011

Waltons 4.3: “The Fighter”

Airdate: 9/25/75
James Travis Clark, a young, itinerant African-American, is hired by John to help with the lumber mill, but is instantly disliked by Olivia and Grandma when John-Boy finds out he is a prizefighter. Olivia changes her mind when she discovers James’ true intentions: to fight in one last “purse fight” and use the winnings to set up a local church for other African-Americans. Unfortunately, after he signs up he discovers it is a fixed fight, with himself as the loser, and refuses to take a fall. Knowing the repercussions, only John-Boy will manage him, and with all eyes (and ears, at home on the radio) on the main event, James loses. Recuperating at home, the Waltons nurse him back to physical health, and after everyone pitches in to help build him hi church, he finds the road back to spiritual salvation as welll.

The Waltons tackles the other big sport of the 30s, boxing, in this episode. Aired in 1975, its ringside drama suffers a bit from narrowly predating Rocky, which really set the standard for boxing on film and TV (the fake blood really sets it back). Nevertheless, actor Cleavon Little, who starred in the Waltons pilot and recently established himself as the sheriff in Blazing Saddles a year earlier, is solid as the fighter on a mission, and the building of the church at the end is rousing if a bit reminiscent of Lilies of the Field.

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