DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (director: Robert Wise; screenwriters: Ernest Lehman/based on the autobiography of Rocky Graziano, written with Rowland Barber; cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg; editor: Albert Akst; music: Bronislau Kaper; cast: Paul Newman (Rocky Graziano), Pier Angeli (Norma Graziano), Everett Sloane (Irving Cohen), Eileen Heckart (Ma Barbella), Sal Mineo (Romolo), Harold Stone (Nick Barbella), Robert Loggia (Frankie Peppo), Frank Campanella (Detective), Steve McQueen (Fidel), Matt Crowley (Lou Stillman), Court Shepard (Tony Zale); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charles Schnee; MGM; 1956)

"The film's money shot is the well-staged fight between Zale and Rocky."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Robert Wise ("West Side Story"/"The Body Snatcher"/"Blood on the Moon") directs this inspirational biopic on Rocky Graziano, who overcame being a troubled juvenile delinquent raised in the slums of New York's Lower East Side to become the middleweight champion of the world. Paul Newman in his third film, after the disappointing The Silver Chalice (1954), and the equally disappointing The Rack (1956), delivers a scene-stealing Method Acting star performance as Rocky. It's based on the autobiography of Rocky Graziano, written with Rowland Barber. Ernest Lehman turns in a formulaic screenplay, that nevertheless rises occasionally with a few powerful moments. Though Wise's film noir boxing pic "The Set-Up," TKOs this one in its tautness and more observant story telling. 

The first part of the film is set in Manhattan's Lower East Side, where young Rocky Barbella is abused by his alcoholic father, ex-boxer Nick Barbella (Harold Stone) and tenderly loved by his depressed and fragile mom (Eileen Heckart). Unable to cope with his family situation, with being poor and with hanging around with local hoodlums, Rocky lives a crime-filled life that starts with petty juvenile crimes and escalates to heavier crimes. Sent to a reform school and then drafted into the army, where he beats up a captain and goes AWOL. Rocky end up as a fighter in Stillman's gym and takes the last name of Graziano--the name of an Italian wine. After winning six fights by knock-outs, Rocky is sent for a year to the Leavenworth Penitentiary and is given a dishonorable discharge. Upon his return, the reformed Rocky is trained by his honest manager Cohen (Everett Sloane) and through his sister meets a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn named Norma (Pier Angeli) and marries her. Refusing to dump a fight or squeal on the rat Frankie Peppo (Robert Loggia), a former gangster acquaintance, Rocky has his boxing license revoked in NY state for refusing to cooperate. But he's granted a license in Illinois and fights the middleweight champion Tony Zale for the title in Chicago. The film's money shot is the well-staged fight between Zale and Rocky.

The pic becomes too sentimental and falsely uplifting, as its agenda to blend together violence and mush seems disingenuous and a bit tawdry. James Dean was offered the Rocky part, but was killed in a car crash. I doubt if he could have been a better middleweight than the physically fit Newman

REVIEWED ON 9/6/2012       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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