Somebody Up There Likes Me
Paul Newman is a knock-out!

Paul Newman's film career had been widely anticipated, but his first performance (in THE SILVER CHALICE, also with Pier Angeli) was disappointing, to say the least. His unforgettable portrayal of the tough boxer fighting the most difficult opponents—his past and the
Paul Newman and Everett Sloane

Paul Newman and Everett Sloane

public's reaction to it—firmly established him as a true star.

Both Wise and Newman were able to spend a considerable amount of time with Rocky Graziano in preparation for the film that would tell his life story. Newman studied his mannerisms and speech patterns, and Wise was inspired to model the film's pacing after the boxer's fidgety movements. In a 1975 AFI seminar, Wise explained some techniques he employed to achieve a "staccato" feel: "I tried not to have a single lap or dissolve or fade-in to it. I had a whole pattern in the film that when I'd end a sequence, I started the next scene with a close-up of Paul. I also started a technique that I have done much since: in order to give that on-rushing kind of feeling, I started the dialogue for the incoming scene ten or twelve frames ahead of the actual cut to it to give us a thrust into the scene...I also tried to beat the timing on each sequence by ten per cent, if I could."*

Former middleweight champion Tony Zale (who is finally defeated by Graziano in the film's climactic fight sequence) almost played himself in the movie. He was still in great shape, so Wise signed him up. But when Zale and Newman were rehearsing the fight (which Wise compared to "rehearsing a dance number"*), Wise noticed that the inexperienced Newman "was a little gun-shy of this guy, Zale. He didn't quite know what to do. Paul was afraid that if he accidentally clipped Tony, Tony in just a fighter's reflex reaction, would cold-cock him....I've never forgotten the experience of seeing Paul pulling back from him."* Rocky was supposed to win the bout, not duck his opponent, so Zale was replaced, much to his disappointment.

Synopsis Having grown up with a father whose own dreams of a boxing championship were drowned in a sea of cheap wine, young Rocky takes to the streets to commit petty crimes with his buddy Romolo. From there he graduates to reform school, and then to the Army where he is dishonorably discharged after going slugging an officer and going AWOL. Rocky eventually ends up in Leavenworth Prison and it appears that he will be nothing other than Posteran ex-con and petty criminal for the rest of his life. Luckily Johnny Hyland, the physical instructor at the prison, sees Rocky's potential and encourages him to use the rage and fury bubbling inside him to get somewhere in life—legally. Rocky takes up boxing, and when he is released from prison he hits the circuit with a fury. He hooks up with a small-time manager, Irving Cohen, and soon learns that the world of boxing is just as corrupt and diseased as the environment that spawned him. Rocky finds himself being manipulated and pushed by characters looking to make big bucks. Though he's out on the streets and making money without stealing, Rocky is still something of a thug—until he meets and falls in love with Norma. His attempts at romance are clumsy, but the effort endears him to her. The relationship with Norman brings new meaning and direction to Rocky's life. Now given someone and something to care about, Rocky beings to strive for self-respect and takes more control over his destiny. He takes a crack at champion Tony Zale and gets flattened. When he finally gets a rematch, Frankie Peppo (a former fellow inmate), threatens to reveal his past (specifically his dishonorable discharge) unless he throws the fight. He calls off the fight, and his past does get out. His license to fight in New York state is revoked because he failed to report the bribe attempt and he refuses to name names. He does get a chance to meet Zale again in a title match in Chicago. It is a lengthy, brutal contest but Rocky attains his glory, returning to New York a humble hero, ever mindful of how lucky he's been. Finally having achieved respect in the "legit world," he serves as a beacon for youngsters, proving that they too can live through adversity and make something of themselves.

From The Motion Picture Guide, Volume VII, p. 3013 and The Motion Picture Exhibitor, July 11, 1956

Wise Facts
  • Wise thought MGM's Lower East Side sets looked phony in daylight, so he only used them for the night exteriors and shot the daylight sequences in New York City.
  • Wise discovered Steve McQueen while in New York and cast him as a street tough. McQueen received no credit for this role, but he got his chance to shine ten years later in THE SAND PEBBLES.
  • Credits: 114 min. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer;  Directed by: Robert Wise;  Produced by: Charles Schnee;  Screenplay by: Ernest Lehman;  Edited by: Albert Akst.;  Director of Photography: Joseph Ruttenberg;  Music by: Bronislau Kaper;  Production Design by: Cedric Gibbons, Malcolm Brown;  Sound by: Dr. Wesley C. Miller;  Make-up by: William Tuttle; 
    Sal Mineo Cast  Paul Newman (Rocky Graziano), Pier Angeli (Norma), Everett Sloane (Irving Cohen), Eileen Heckart (Ma Barbella), Sal Mineo (Romolo), Harold J. Stone (Nick Barbella), Joseph Buloff (Benny), Sammy White (Whitney Bimstein), Arch Johnson (Heldon), Robert Lieb (Questioner), Theodore Newton (Commissioner Eagan), Steve McQueen (Fidel), Robert Easton (Corporal), Ray Walker (Ring Announcer), Billy Nelson (Commissioner), Robert Loggia (Frankie Peppo), Matt Crowley (Lou Stillman), Judson Pratt (Johnny Hyland), Donna Jo Gribble (Yolanda Barbella), James Todd (Colonel), Jack Kelk (George), Russ Conway (Captain Grifton), Harry Wismen (Himself), Courtland Shepard (Tony Zale), Sam Taub (Radio Announcer), Terry Rangno (Rocky, age 8), Jan Gillum (Yolanda, age 12), Ralph Vitti (Shorty), Walter Cartier (Polack), John Eldredge (Warden Niles), Clancy Cooper (Captain Lancheck), Dean Jones (Private), Ray Stricklyn (Bryson), Caswell Adams (Sam), Charles Green (Curtis Hightower), Angela Cartwright (Audrey), David Leonard (Mr. Mueller).

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    1. AFI Seminar, May 1975
    2. AFI Seminar, October 1980
    3. AFI Seminar, October 1980

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