The Big Tall Wish

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Ivan Dixon: Bolie Jackson
Steven Perry: Henry
Kim Hamilton: Frances
Walter Burke: Joe Mizell
Henry Scott: Thomas
Charles Horvath: Joey Consiglio
Carl McIntire: Announcer
Frankie Van: Referee

"The Big Tall Wish" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone, with an original score by Jerry Goldsmith.



Bolie Jackson is a washed-up boxer who accidentally breaks the knuckles of his hand right before his big comeback fight. He is knocked down and just about to be counted out when he suddenly, magically switches places with the other boxer. Bolie is now standing over his vanquished opponent.

Bolie celebrates his victory, though he cannot understand what happened. He remembers being knocked down and has no memory of getting back up to win, nor can he figure out why his knuckles feel fine. His manager tells Bolie that he must be crazy, that he was never knocked down at all. Bolie figures his knuckles must have only been bruised.

However, there is one other person who knows Bolie lost. Henry, the young son of Bolie's neighbor not only remembers, he also has an explanation for what happened. Henry tells Bolie that he made the biggest, tallest wish he could come up with for Bolie, for the two boxers to switch positions, and it came true.

Bolie cannot accept this. Henry warns him that the only way the wish can have its power is if you believe in it. If Bolie doesn't believe, the wish will not work. But ultimately Bolie is unswayed. As soon as he finally rejects the idea that a wish could have been responsible for what happened, he is returned back to the fight, on the canvas. This time the referee finishes counting Bolie out.

Neither Bolie or Henry have any memory of the alternate outcome. Henry remembers making the biggest wish he possibly could for Bolie, but obviously it did not work, so he declares with resignation that he will not be making any more wishes. He no longer believes in their power. Henry has lost this magic of his youth. "There ain't no such thing as magic, is there?", he asks Bolie. "I guess not, Henry", Bolie answers. "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..."

Episode notes

The all-black principal cast was a novelty for television in 1960. Said Rod Serling at the time (quoted in The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree):

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.

A few other Twilight Zones would follow the example of this episode and cast blacks in significant roles, including the pastor in "I Am the Night—Color Me Black", with Ivan Dixon, and the electrician in "The Brain Center at Whipple's". These inclusions, though seemingly insignificant by modern standards, were so revolutionary at the time that The Twilight Zone was awarded the Unity Award for Outstanding Contributions to Better Race Relations in 1961.

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