Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)

112-114 mins | Biography | July 1956

Director:

Robert Wise

Writer:

Ernest Lehman

Producer:

Charles Schnee

Cinematographer:

Joseph Ruttenberg

Editor:

Albert Akst

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Malcolm Brown

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The opening credits begin with the following quote: “‘This is the way I remember it—definitely.'-–Rocky Graziano.” The opening and closing cast credits differ in order. In the opening credits, Paul Newman is listed first, followed by Pier Angeli. In early 1955, HR reported that M-G-M had paid $230,000 for the rights to Graziano’s autobiography, which was to be published in Feb. Studio press notes state that Ernest Lehman based the screenplay on many interviews with Graziano’s friends and family, as well as on the autobiography. As portrayed in the film, Graziano (1919--1990), whose original last name was Barbella, was born in New York to a former boxer and escaped an early life of crime by triumphing in the boxing ring. Graziano was middleweight boxing champion of the world from 1947--1948. As in the film, Graziano won his second title fight over Tony Zale. Although the film ends after Graziano wins the title, Sale regained it in their third and final match. Not shown in the film was the fact that, as a boy, Graziano was sent to live with his grandparents when his parents found him unmanageable. In his later life, the boxer became a popular actor, appearing regularly on The Martha Raye Show and making guest appearances on variety shows, as well as acting as a spokesman in television commercials.
       As confirmed in modern interviews with director Robert Wise, the studio bought the property for James Dean, who died before the completion of the script. “Rambling Reporter” also noted in Jun 1955 that Dewey Martin was being considered for a leading role, and in Sep 1955 that Dean Martin was being loaned to ... More Less

The opening credits begin with the following quote: “‘This is the way I remember it—definitely.'-–Rocky Graziano.” The opening and closing cast credits differ in order. In the opening credits, Paul Newman is listed first, followed by Pier Angeli. In early 1955, HR reported that M-G-M had paid $230,000 for the rights to Graziano’s autobiography, which was to be published in Feb. Studio press notes state that Ernest Lehman based the screenplay on many interviews with Graziano’s friends and family, as well as on the autobiography. As portrayed in the film, Graziano (1919--1990), whose original last name was Barbella, was born in New York to a former boxer and escaped an early life of crime by triumphing in the boxing ring. Graziano was middleweight boxing champion of the world from 1947--1948. As in the film, Graziano won his second title fight over Tony Zale. Although the film ends after Graziano wins the title, Sale regained it in their third and final match. Not shown in the film was the fact that, as a boy, Graziano was sent to live with his grandparents when his parents found him unmanageable. In his later life, the boxer became a popular actor, appearing regularly on The Martha Raye Show and making guest appearances on variety shows, as well as acting as a spokesman in television commercials.
       As confirmed in modern interviews with director Robert Wise, the studio bought the property for James Dean, who died before the completion of the script. “Rambling Reporter” also noted in Jun 1955 that Dewey Martin was being considered for a leading role, and in Sep 1955 that Dean Martin was being loaned to the M-G-M production. In addition, HR news items in Sep and Oct 1955 added that Sam Levene would portray Rocky’s manager and former world champion boxer Jack Dempsey would play himself in the film. None of these stars appeared in the film, however. Although “Rambling Reporter” announced in Aug 1955 that Robin Morse was being considered to play a fight manager, he appears only as a bit player in the picture. A Jan 1956 “Rambling Reporter” item stated that Pier Angeli would sing the film’s title song, but Perry Como sang the song, and later recorded it as a single for RKO Records. Additional HR news items in Jan and Mar 1956 add the following actors to the cast: Elinor Donahue, Charles Easton, Lillian Powell, and boxers Pat Valentino, Bill Filippo and Tommy Herman. Donahue was not in the film and the appearance of the other actors has not been confirmed.
       The film was shot partially on location in New York, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in Brooklyn. Hollywood Diary reported in Apr 1956 that M-G-M had rented out the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles to shoot the Yankee Stadium prizefight scene. Dean Jones and Broadway actress Eileen Heckart (1919--2001) made their feature-film debuts in the picture, as did character actor Frank Campanella (1919--2006). Somebody Up There Likes Me also marked the acting debut of Steve McQueen (1930--1980), although he had appeared as an extra in the 1953 film Girl on the Run (see above). Modern sources note that Paul Newman, who was loaned to M-G-M from Warner Bros. for the role, spent time with Graziano in order to learn his mannerisms and speech patterns. After the release of Somebody Up There Likes Me , contemporary critics regularly compared Newman to Marlon Brando, with HR stating that with this film, “we have a male actor projected to major stardom on the basis of one performance.” The reviews were almost unanimously positive, including Var , which called the film “a superb and outstanding piece of film dramaturgy.” Somebody Up There Likes Me was nominated for an Academy Award for Film Editing (Albert Akst) and won Academy Awards for Art Direction, Black and White (art direction--Cedric Gibbons and Malcolm Brown; set decorations—Edwin B. Willis, Keogh Gleason) and for Cinematography, Black and White (Joseph Ruttenberg). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Jul 1956.
---
Daily Variety
6 Oct 1955.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jul 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Jul 56
p. 6.
Hollywood Diary
26 Apr 1956.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jan 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 1956
p. 3, 12.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Feb 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 1956
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Mar 1956
pp. 5-6.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 1956
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1956
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1956
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 1956
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1956
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 1956
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 1981
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
7 Jul 56
p. 961.
New York Times
6 Jul 56
p. 16.
Time
23 Jul 1956.
---
Variety
4 Jul 56
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Bill Nelson
Jack Kenney
Dick Rich
Tom Garland
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Acting coach for Pier Angeli
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Somebody Up There Likes Me: The Story of My Life Until Today by Rocky Graziano with Rowland Barber (New York, 1955).
SONGS
"Somebody Up There Likes Me," words by Sammy Cahn, music by Bronislau Kaper, sung by Perry Como.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1956
Premiere Information:
World premiere in San Francisco: 3 July 1956
New York opening: 5 July 1956
Production Date:
26 January--late March 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 June 1956
Copyright Number:
LP6763
Physical Properties:
Sound
Perspecta Sound; Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
112-114
Length(in feet):
10,185
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18008
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In Manhattan’s Lower East Side, young Rocky Barbella is abused by his alcoholic father, ex-boxer Nick Barbella. Running from his home life, Rocky begins a career of robbery and petty crime, which continues into his teens, when the local church protectory finally refuses to grant him asylum from the juvenile detention system. After Rocky returns on the run from the police, Nick throws him out, calling him a bum and a devil. Rocky immediately rounds up his gang members, Romolo, Fidel and Shorty the Greek, and leads them on a series of robberies. They sell the goods to a fence in exchange for natty new suits, only to be arrested during a rumble with a rival gang. After Nick refuses to provide Rocky with an alibi, the judge sentences the boy to a prison term in Mackinaw. When Warden George Niles visits Rocky in his cell, Rocky refuses his offer of help and instead burns him with a cigarette, thus earning himself a transfer to a brutal work camp. There, he beats up a guard and, while attempting to shoot him, is forcibly restrained by the other prisoners. Fellow convict Frankie Peppo advises Rocky to use his expert fighting skills to earn money in the boxing ring, but Rocky, disgusted by any similarity to his father, refuses. For assaulting the guard, Rocky is sent to Riker’s Island, where the warden attempts to break his spirit by placing him in solitary confinement. However, it is not until Rocky’s mother, Ida, visits and reveals that she has been in an asylum due to her worry over him, and will give up on him if he does not reform, that he tries ... +


In Manhattan’s Lower East Side, young Rocky Barbella is abused by his alcoholic father, ex-boxer Nick Barbella. Running from his home life, Rocky begins a career of robbery and petty crime, which continues into his teens, when the local church protectory finally refuses to grant him asylum from the juvenile detention system. After Rocky returns on the run from the police, Nick throws him out, calling him a bum and a devil. Rocky immediately rounds up his gang members, Romolo, Fidel and Shorty the Greek, and leads them on a series of robberies. They sell the goods to a fence in exchange for natty new suits, only to be arrested during a rumble with a rival gang. After Nick refuses to provide Rocky with an alibi, the judge sentences the boy to a prison term in Mackinaw. When Warden George Niles visits Rocky in his cell, Rocky refuses his offer of help and instead burns him with a cigarette, thus earning himself a transfer to a brutal work camp. There, he beats up a guard and, while attempting to shoot him, is forcibly restrained by the other prisoners. Fellow convict Frankie Peppo advises Rocky to use his expert fighting skills to earn money in the boxing ring, but Rocky, disgusted by any similarity to his father, refuses. For assaulting the guard, Rocky is sent to Riker’s Island, where the warden attempts to break his spirit by placing him in solitary confinement. However, it is not until Rocky’s mother, Ida, visits and reveals that she has been in an asylum due to her worry over him, and will give up on him if he does not reform, that he tries to go straight. Within years, he earns his release, only to discover that he has been drafted into the Army. When his superior officer disciplines him, Rocky punches him, and upon realizing the depth of trouble he has once again caused for himself, goes AWOL. He returns to New York, where he tells Romolo that he hopes to earn enough money to pay off the army captain and return to basic training. To do so, he recalls Frankie’s advice and searches for him at Lou Stillman’s gym. Although Frankie is back in jail, Rocky volunteers to serve as a sparring partner for a boxer. When trainers Irving Cohen and Whitey Bimstein see Rocky’s power and ability, they invite him to fight for them. Rocky originally rebuffs them, but upon learning that each fight pays $75, agrees. He begins to win fight after fight, but refuses to train properly, hoping to find a different job. One day, the military police find and arrest him, and despite the fact that he shows remorse for his crimes for the first time, the court sentences him to a dishonorable discharge and one year in Leavenworth prison. There, he is a model prisoner, but soon is taunted into a fight. Sgt. Johnny Hyland, who heads the boxing squad, calls him in and offers to train him toward a career in boxing, and although Rocky remains dubious, John’s guidance leads him to new skills and top physical shape. Upon his release, Rocky embarks on a series of boxing triumphs, showering his mother with prize money. One day, after he complains about his father, Ma reveals that it was her insistence that Nick stop fighting, causing him to lose his self-esteem. Later, Rocky’s sister Yolanda introduces him to Norma, a pretty Jewish girl, and although Rocky feigns indifference, he soon offers to walk Norma home to Brooklyn. At her house, she urges him to call her, and despite his aloofness, they are soon dating regularly. One night, she argues with him that boxing is barbaric, but agrees to watch him train. At the gym, however, Lou dissuades Norma from taking up with a fighter, and she runs off, followed by Rocky. He waits for her all day outside her house in the rain, and when she finally returns, tells her, “I never had nothing till the ring,” and she realizes that she must accept his profession. He misses his scheduled fight that night, however, prompting Irving to chastise him for becoming too happy and healthy to be a good fighter. Irving urges him to marry Norma, hoping the increased responsibility will spur him on, and although Rocky is nervous, his love for Norma drives him into the courthouse. Soon, the couple has a daughter Audrey, and Rocky, who wins every bout, becomes a neighborhood hero. During the World Middleweight competition, however, boxer Tony Zale beats Rocky viciously, and when Norma breaks down in tears, Ma reminds her that to ask Rocky to stop boxing would precipitate his ruin. By the time he returns home, Norma is cheerful and rebukes him for his loss, which strengthens his resolve to win next time. He is training hard when Frankie visits, threatening to reveal Rocky’s dishonorable discharge and criminal background unless he throws the Zale rematch. Rocky refuses but, desperate to hide his past from Norma and his fans, fakes a back injury to get the bout canceled. Soon, the authorities discern the attempted fix and order Rocky to identify who blackmailed him. When Rocky refuses, his license is revoked, after which the newspapers report all the details of his past. Rocky feels devastated and doomed to never be able to achieve “legit” status, but still refuses return to crime, despite Frankie’s attempts to ensnare him. Although Irving soon reports that Illinois officials have refused to uphold the New York license revocation and want Rocky to fight Zale in Chicago, Rocky is afraid to fight in front of an unfriendly crowd. He trains in Chicago, but remains angry and apprehensive. Finally, Norma explodes at him that he must learn to live with his past actions, spurring Rocky to go to New York. There, he learns that most of his friends are in jail, except for Romolo, who tells Rocky “we ain’t got a chance, guys like us.” Rocky then visits his father, who refuses to speak to him. Incensed, Rocky calls Nick a quitter, but when Nick begins to cry, Rocky begs to help him, and Nick responds, “Be a champ, like I never was.” Newly inspired, Rocky returns to Chicago and begins training in earnest. As the championship fight begins, all of the Lower East Side listens on the radio, including his parents and John Hyland. Zale has an early lead, but despite the pummeling Rocky is taking, he refuses to give up. Round after round, he insists on returning, even after the referee threatens to stop the fight. Finally, in the sixth round, Rocky finds a last reserve of strength and knocks out Zale, to become the world champion. Upon being welcomed home to New York as a hero, Rocky declares to Norma that although he will one day lose the title, no one can ever take away the true prize he has won: self-respect. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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