Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)
For the very early part of his long career, Paul Newman stood in the shadows of his fellow Method School alumni. Touted by Warners Brothers as ‘the next Brando’, he unsuccessfully tested opposite James Dean for a role in East of Eden. The two were also due to appear in a television adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s short story ‘The Battler’ before Dean’s untimely death necessitated a rethink. Taking on the showier title role of a washed-up boxer, Newman’s performance caught the attention of director Robert Wise who was preparing to film Rocky Graziano’s autobiography. After a disastrous film debut in The Silver Chalice, this biopic finally gave the actor a chance to prove that he was more than just a contender.
…and not a bum, which is what fate looked like it had in store for Graziano. Having just escaped from the protectory, the juvenile delinquent teams up with his old gang (Steve McQueen and Sal Mineo in early roles) and takes up where he left off. After bouncing between reformatory, Rikers Island, the US Army and Leavenworth, Graziano manages to keep out of trouble with the help of a promising boxing career and the love of an understanding woman. Yet as a title bout looms, Graziano’s past threatens to catch up with him.
Though Somebody Up There Likes Me tends to creak a bit with age, it nevertheless remains an entertaining film that surprisingly spends little time inside the boxing ring. Owing more to Brando than Dean, Newman appears more comfortable with the film’s lighter moments and is shown to best advantage when opposite his co-star from The Silver Chalice, Pier Angeli. Her naturalness in front of the camera is in stark contrast to some of the film's more studied performances.
As foretold in the movie’s closing lines, Graziano’s reign as a boxing champ was short-lived. Newman’s reign as a box-office champ however lasted considerably longer. Among his earlier films were The Left Handed Gun, originally slated for James Dean, and Adventures of a Young Man in which he reprised his role as ‘The Battler’.
as Rocky Graziano
Movie infers the boxer took his name from a wine bottle, whereas Graziano was actually his grandfather's surname.
Biopic concludes before Rocky Graziano began appearing in films.