Based on boxer Rocky Graziano’s autobiography and directed by Robert Wise, this poignant biopic nabbed Oscars for Cinematography and Art Direction. Raised in a slum, young Graziano (Paul Newman) has turned to a life of petty crime. He eventually discovers boxing and makes a living fighting in fixed games. But as he develops his talent, Graziano gradually gains self-respect — and spars his way to becoming the Middleweight Champion of the World.
Rating: 8 out of 10
I have always been amazed by director Robert Wises’ versatility. His near perfect command at helming such iconic genre gems like “The Haunting,” “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” “The Sound of Music,” “Audrey Rose” and even “Star Trek The Motion Picture” has made a long standing impression on me. It was once again a pleasant experience re-watching this great American drama film he directed back in 1956 called “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” Pardon the pun but they don’t make them like this anymore. Think of this film as your grandfather’s “Rocky,” except that this all really happened. It is a biopic about the grisled, hard, ex-convict Rocky Graziano who was dishonorably discharged from the army.
On his way to the top of the boxing circuit, though, Graziano stumbled across a fellow inmate from prison and was blackmailed into taking a fall and faking an injury. It is quite a test of character for Graziano, portrayed by Paul Newman, whoo sees it can be no easy feat.
Wise, of course, elicits great performances from everyone involved in the film and Newman stands out. He is vibrant, intense and very fit in the role. He exudes vitality and just the right amount of ignorance and vulnerability to make it all really gel. Newman’s acting excels here and he looks great doing it. He delivers his lines with perfect pitch and accent due the character and locale. It was fun watching him grow through the punches and even the comedy of the film. Pier Angeli as his wife Norma is a sight to behold and plays beautifully opposite Newman. She keeps him very grounded in the real moments of the film and the believability comes through.The supporting cast which includes a very creepy Robert Loggia, Sal Mineo and even a young Steve McQueen all impress.
The elegant, but at times gritty black and white cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg, won an Oscar as did the art direction. Highly Recommended.