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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
Robert Wise was a film editor before he became a director. Having edited some of Orson Welles films when he was starting out, made him a natural director. After all, Mr. Wise knows how to move his camera and how to capture great moments in film. "Somebody Up There Likes Me" is a rarity these days, in that it's seldom seen.
This is also a film that has a rich texture. The story, photographed using New York as a backdrop offers a rare view of how it looked in those years. We are taken to Brooklyn, downtown Manhattan and other natural locations that were an asset in the film. It helps that Mr. Wise had the inspiration to engage Joseph Ruttenberg as his cinematographer because of the excellence of his work in the films he photographed.
This is a story of Rocky Graziano, a boxing champion, who came from a poor family. The father, Nick Barbella, is seen at the beginning trying to show young Rocco to box. When he doesn't get the response he wants, he punches the boy squarely on his nose, making him bleed. Rocco would grow up to become a hoodlum doing petty crime and being sent to jail.
Rocco's story could have ended in tragedy, but didn't. It helped to have met good friends along the way like Irving Cohen who helped him with his boxing career. The love of Nora is another of the blessings this man was blessed with. In fact, yes, somebody up there must have liked Rocco Barbella, a man who is a legend in boxing circles.
The young Paul Newman was lucky to land this part. James Dean had been selected to play the role, but it went to Mr. Newman who took it and ran away with the film. This was his big break through in films. Paul Newman was formed at the famous Actor Studio. His technique is in sharp contrast with other, formally trained actors, but in a way, by making Rocky's character so complex, we get a detailed account of the man by an inspired young actor that went to become a legend in his own right.
The supporting cast was excellent. Eileen Heckart is the suffering Ida Barbella, a woman who has been cheated out of everything by a husband that is a brute. Harold Stone is also good as Nick Barbella. Pier Angeli is sweet as Norma and Sal Mineo makes the best out of Romolo, the childhood friend. Everett Sloan plays the pivotal role of Irving Cohen.
In the film we see a lot of interesting young actors who went to have their own distinguished careers later on. Steve McQueen, Robert Loggia, George C. Scott, Frank Campanella, and other New York based theater actors are seen in the background without any credit.
This is a boxing film that was way ahead of the others because of the tight direction of Robert Wise.
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