Somebody Up There Likes Me
Starring – Paul Newman (Thomas Rocco Barbella/Rocky Graziano), Pier Angeli (Norma Graziano), Everett Sloane (Irving Cohen), Eileen Heckart (Ma Barbella), Sal Mineo (Romolo), Harold J. Stone (Nick Barbella).
Released – July, 1956
Directed By – Robert Wise
Produced By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributed By – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Description – The life of Rocky Graziano started out tough. His difficult childhood included being beaten by his father (a former boxer), membership in a street gang, and a long list of criminal activities that led to his inevitable arrest and imprisonment.
Undisciplined, and possessing a strong resentment of authority figures, even his time spent in prison was a series of one problem after another. After finally being released, Rocky decides to start a new life.
However, before being able to settle into something, Rocky is drafted by the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey. His propensity for trouble follows him to training and, after punching a Captain, he goes AWOL.
Desperate to make some money, Rocky turns to fighting and changes his name to Rocky Graziano. His natural talent, and punching power, lead him to win all of his early bouts, but even with a new name, the military catches up to him.
After one of his fights, he is called to his manager’s office to speak with a couple of military personnel. Expecting to be taken back to the Army and again put in prison he decides to run. Realizing that he can’t run forever he turns himself in.
After serving a year in a United States Disciplinary Barracks, he is dishonorably discharged and looks to resume his boxing career. Rocky’s skills move him up the middleweight ranks and he is introduced to his sister’s friend Norma. Love has hit Rocky right between the eyes and the two soon marry.
Rocky’s rise continues and he becomes middleweight champion. A title defense against former champ Tony Zale is next. This will be the first of three legendary fights with Zale and will result in Rocky being knocked out in the sixth round.
1946 proved to be a tough year for Graziano as he not only lost his title, but was a victim of a blackmail attempt by someone he knew while in prison. He was told to throw a fight, but just couldn’t do it. Rocky faked an injury and did not fight the intended opponent.
His failure to notify the Boxing Commission of the blackmail attempt result in his suspension from the fight game. Eventually, his suspension is lifted and Rocky gets another chance to meet Tony Zale in the second of their memorable fights.
The stage is set for the up-and-down life of Rocky Graziano to get back to the top.
NOTABLE: Somebody Up There Likes Me won Oscar’s for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, and Best Art Direction, Set Decoration, Black-and-White. The film also received a nomination for Best Film Editing.
The role of Rocky Graziano was originally intended for James Dean. However, Dean was killed in an automobile accident before shooting. Paul Newman was asked to take the part. This was a break for Newman as some considered him to be too old for the part, and his first film The Silver Chalice proved to be a flop.
Actor Rod Taylor auditioned for the role and, although he did not get the part, the audition impressed MGM enough for them to sign him to a long-term contract.
Somebody Up There Likes Me provided the screen debut’s for Dean Jones, Robert Loggia, and Frank Campanella. It was also one of the first films in which Steve McQueen appeared.