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Rocky Graziano is building a career in crime, when he's finally caught and arrested. In jail, he is undisciplined, always getting into trouble. When he gets out after many years he has decided to start a new life. However, he is immediately drafted to the army. But they can't keep him and he goes AWOL. Rocky discovers boxing as a way of earning quick money, and is discovered as a new talent. Written by
The "Hollywood" version of boxer Rocky Graziano's autobiographical life story has Paul Newman (as Mr. Graziano, née Barbella) beaten by an abusive father, growing into criminal gangland activity, and rising up to succeed in the sport of boxing. This is, of course, the inspirational plot of the "boxing picture"; and, it was very much a part of the "American Dream". Graziano was one of the biggest boxing stars of his time - according to my grandfather, the era feathered several Muhammad Ali-caliber boxers (which must have been quite exciting). Grandfather saw Mr. Newman as a good casting choice; better, in fact, than the originally cast James Dean.
Mainly, "Somebody Up There Likes Me" falters under its increasingly implausible "based-on-fact" storyline. Director Robert Wise starts off well, foreshadowing his own "West Side Story" (1961). Soon, the stylization becomes hard to stomach; and, the movie, obviously, compares unfavorably with more realistic boxing films. The "love story" between Newman and Pier Angeli (as Norma) is particularly unrealistic; romantically, they act like a couple of 12-year-olds.
Sal Mineo (as Romolo) heads up an enjoyable supporting cast, as Newman's friend from childhood. Certainly the film's "Best Supporting Actor", Mr. Mineo provides Newman with a warm bed, and cheers on his career. Pool-hustling Steve McQueen (as Fidel) and Michael Dante (as Shorty) are two other interesting members of Mineo's gang. Mr. McQueen is quite charismatic; and, Mr. Dante's enviable prowess with women is depicted very effectively. A slew of other notables appear; including impressionable Everett Sloane (as Irving Cohen). Eileen Heckart and Harold J. Stone are a little strange, as Rocky's parents.
The photography (Joseph Ruttenberg) and writing (Ernest Lehman) are strengths. Listen up for Newman telling a smiling Mineo, "I need to get some shut-eye before the bed cools"; and, wisecracking Sloane's observation, "I should have never left the lingerie business; I was the happiest man in ladies underwear." You will have no problem reading the credit identifying PERRY COMO as the mawkish title song singer; at the time, he was probably the biggest name associated with the film.
****** Somebody Up There Likes Me (7/3/56) Robert Wise ~ Paul Newman, Pier Angeli, Sal Mineo, Everett Sloane
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