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Monkey on My Back (1957)

Approved | | Biography, Drama | 1958 (Argentina)
The true story of Barney Ross, a World War II hero and champion professional boxer, who became addicted to morphine.


André De Toth


Ivan Bunny (biographical material furnished by), Paul Dudley | 2 more credits »
1 win. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Cameron Mitchell ... Barney Ross
Dianne Foster ... Cathy Holland
Paul Richards ... Rico
Jack Albertson ... Sam Pian
Kathy Garver ... Noreen
Lisa Golm ... Barney's Mother
Barry Kelley ... Big Ralph
Dayton Lummis Dayton Lummis ... J.L. McAvoy
Lewis Charles ... Lew Surati
Raymond Greenleaf ... Dr. A.J. Latham
Richard Benedict ... Art Winch
Brad Harris ... Spike McAvoy
Robert Holton Robert Holton ... Dr. Sullivan (as Robert Wilson)


The true story of Barney Ross, a World War II hero and champion professional boxer, who became addicted to morphine.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


SHOCK by SHOCK...It Jabs Like a Hopped-Up Needle! See more »


Biography | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


In August 1957, this film was being being shown on a double bill with Island in the Sun (1957). See more »


(at around 33 mins) At the motel, a boom mic can be seen at the top of the screen while Barney and Cathy are hugging just seconds before the scene ends. See more »


Barney Ross: Look Rico. I only got eight bucks.
Rico, Drug Pusher: Start scrathin'. You see, you don't seem to understand. I'm risking ten years of my life with every move I make. I wanna get paid for it. And if I don't, my friends will break your wrists.
Barney Ross: Let me up Rico. Let me up!
Rico, Drug Pusher: You don't understand champ. The real torture hasn't started yet. The monkey will be on your back tomorrow.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"The Beginning" is shown in the closing credits. See more »

Alternate Versions

There is an "Unrated Version" and a "Censored Version" that only effect reel 5a as indicated on elements in MGM/UA's database. No indication was given for what was cut in order to determine what the variation is in these two cuts. See more »


Edited into Dusk to Dawn Drive-In Trash-o-Rama Show Vol. 9 (2002) See more »

User Reviews

Dope Addiction, a perpetually relevant story
25 January 2013 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Monkey On My Back tells the story of Barney Ross, former lightweight and welterweight champion who became a war hero with the US Marines and then after fighting the Japanese became a bigger hero fighting drug addiction. At that time films like this one, A Hatful Of Rain and The Man With The Golden Arm were making the American public get acquainted with the evils of drug addiction.

One of the key elements of Barney Ross's story that was left out was his religion. The man was an orthodox Jew who was the son of a Talmudic scholar whose father was shot to death in a holdup. Barney was born Dov Rosovsky and the Rosovsky had tough going after the death of the family patriarch. Ross rejected the formal religious teachings of his father, but of his heritage you could never make any kind of anti-Semitic crack in his presence. For reasons of a market in some ultra red state territory, that component of his story was eliminated, but it is key to understanding him.

He also worked his way out of poverty first by being a low level strong arm guy for Al Capone in Chicago. After that he decided to go legitimate in the use of his fists and graduated to boxing. The managing team of Sam Pian and Art Winch played here by Jack Albertson and Richard Benedict turned him into a champion of two divisions. That is where the film picks up Barney Ross's story.

Psychologists could best tell you why some folks have an addictive personality and what could and what will always addict people. Ross as is shown here was a free spender who loved to gamble and was constantly in hock. Considering how some fighters end up, he was almost lucky that World War II came along and he joined the Marines.

On Guadalcanal he became a hero and also caught the malaria which could only be treated as far as the pain with morphine. That part of the story is perpetually relevant because after every war we seem to breed a generation of dope addicts.

Cameron Mitchell got his career role in Barney Ross and could have contended for an Oscar if this independent film from United Artists had been properly publicized. Out the same year was A Hatful Of Rain that did have performances so nominated by Don Murray and Tony Franciosa. Mitchell's holds up every bit as well as those two. In fact 1957 was his career year as the highly acclaimed Christmas story All Mine To Give also came out with Mitchell. This should have led to bigger roles and bigger pictures, but Cameron Mitchell was off in a few years to Europe to do Peplum, spaghetti westerns, and other films, some of them pretty dreadful.

Dianne Foster does well as his loyal wife with Kathy Garver as her daughter who Mitchell adopts. And Paul Richards as the dope dealer Rico will make your skin crawl with his evil.

And this film is dedicated to Barney Ross, a champion in life as well as the ring.

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Release Date:

1958 (Argentina) See more »

Also Known As:

Monkey on My Back: The Story of Barney Ross See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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