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The abuse Rocky Barbella endures at the hand of his father and subsequent run-ins with the law lead him in and out of detention centers and prisons. When it seems he has it together, Rocky is drafted but, refusing to adhere to Army rules, goes AWOL. He takes up boxing to earn quick money, but when he discovers he has a natural talent in the ring, he builds the confidence to pursue his love interest, Norma, and fulfill his potential as a fighter.Written by
Paul Newman stars as Rocky Graziano in the middleweight champion's life story, "Somebody Up There Likes Me," directed with spirit by Robert Wise. The film covers Rocky Barbella's young life on the mean streets of New York, made all the meaner by his juvenile delinquent presence and that of his friends. Totally out of control, Barbella steals, runs, and punches his way through his home life, reform school, and prison, including his army stint where he knocks out a corporal and goes AWOL, then assuming the name Graziano. It's not long before his talent is put to good use in the ring. The respectability and success he gains is short-lived, however, when he refuses to take a dive but then fails to report it to the boxing commission or identify the criminals.
The film covers Graziano's marriage to his wife of 47 years, Norma, and his historic fight with Tony Zale. Pier Angeli plays the petite but tough Norma, who knows just how to handle her husband; Eileen Heckert is marvelous as Rocky's mother. Harold Stone, as Rocky's disillusioned father, is very good in the difficult role of an unlikeable man with an uneasy relationship with his son. Sal Mineo is effective as Romolo, Rocky's friend from the neighborhood.
James Dean was to play Graziano but after his death, the role went to Paul Newman. Words are not really adequate to describe the young Newman's work in this film. He totally inhabits the character of Graziano and loses what one thinks of as "Paul Newman" in the bargain. One of the hardest accents to do without making it sound phony is a New York one, yet Newman pulls it off with no problem. Though Dean would have been excellent, Newman's portrayal is a treasure. He's angry, sympathetic, scrappy, vulnerable and caring - in short, a flawed human being. It's one of the finest performances on film.
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