A Movie A Day: Quint on SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956)
Don’t worry ‘bout a ting!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Ooooo… the gambler in me is getting restless. I’m in a fucking gorgeous room at the Venetian and itching to go down and play some poker, but I know me. I’ll be gone for the day and when I get in late tonight I won’t want to write this movie up, so here I am being a good boy and getting my work done before playtime.
Today’s movie is SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, following star Paul Newman and director Robert Wise over from yesterday’s obscure (NOT ON DVD… I cheated and recorded it off of TCM a while back) romantic drama UNTIL THEY SAIL.
SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME is a much more well known picture, widely regarded as the film that launced Newman to stardom for his portrayal of real life rags to riches boxer Rocky Graziano.
I see it. I see the gleam in Newman’s eye, the charisma… I see how this is a calling card. Newman throws himself into the role without a thought to looking ridiculous, going hellbent for leather with the accent and quirkiness of this man.
That said, I found Newman’s performance here reminded me a lot of his work in THE RACK a couple AMADs back, both released the same year. Newman swings for the bleachers, not settling for a base-hit, which means he strikes out a few times. But his character is just so damn likable and Newman’s so damn charming that you forgive the little bits that don’t work.
I have no idea if Sly took inspiration from this movie or from Graziano’s life. I haven’t fully explored the commentaries and extra features on my ROCKY DVD, so I might be stating the obvious, but this movie is definitely ROCKY’s father.
You have a likable, street kid who finds love in young, supportive brunette while going for the gold, the underdog going for the glory. Hell, Graziano wears the same hat Stallone wears in ROCKY, he’s got a cranky old manager and the way Newman carries himself is without a doubt a precursor to Stallone’s portrayal of Rocky in the first film.
In SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME we’re introduced to little Rocky Graziano as kid sparring with his drunk father. He doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t like it… his drunk father’s drunk friends watch them and egg them on, ultimately getting the kid a real punch to the face.
From here on out this kid hates his father and carries that anger into his teen years where he’s a real hooligan. He’s a thief, a brawler, can’t stand any authority figure with the exception of poor, suffering mother. No matter what Rocky does to reform, he just can’t help but fall back in with his gang, composed of Sal Mineo and mother-humpin’ Steve McQueen! Who wouldn’t want to fall into that group?
Anyway, he gets in some real trouble, ends up in jail where he learns to control his anger a little bit, but before he even steps out after his time served the local fuzz walk him over to the army recruitment office and he’s signed up to fight the Germans.
Well, with Rocky’s… well, rocky relationship with authority (read father) figures, he doesn’t do well and ends up AWOL after punching out a superior officer.
It’s while he’s hiding out he figures he can raise enough money to bribe his way out of the mess, but everyone is light so despite him wanting to emulate his dickhead daddy (a failed boxer) he steps into the ring to raise some dough.
And the man is a machine. He just wants to end the fights as quickly as possible, his arms spinning like Popeye sometimes, bludgeoning whatever poor bastard he’s put up against.
But we don’t ever really see him fight (in the ring that is) until the climactic match for the middleweight championship. Sure, we some sparring, but Rocky’s rise to fame and fortune isn’t about the action, but about his character, how it changes him… or moreover how his wife Norma (Pier Angeli) centers him. He has an outlet for his rage… in the ring. And now he has a reason, other than his mother, to stay straight.
The flick is really damn good and then we get to the final boxing match. By this time we’re so invested in Graziano, we’re so invested in what this means to his friends and family… if he loses this fight it literally could take away the only hope that his low-on-luck old gang have.
This is where Wise’s genius comes into play. If we had seen a lot of matches leading up to the final one, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. If the rest of the film hadn’t focused so heavily on character building then we wouldn’t be so invested.
Which gives us without a doubt one of the best boxing matches ever committed to celluloid.
That’s not to say the rest of the movie is without drama, but the drama is mostly inner-drama, Rocky working out his aggression, finding some common ground with his father and being tempted back to his petty criminal life when he’s at his worst. The offer of a fall, $100,000 in cash, is made… by a friend… at a time when he doesn’t trust his new friends and by this time you’re so invested in this dude that you don’t want to see him tempted at all. You don’t want to see him weigh the decision even, you want to see him clock the slimey dickhole straight in the kisser.
It’s a testament to the power of this film that I was so invested while watching and that, as I type this, the same emotions I felt then are resurfacing as I think back on it. Not to mention it’s keeping me from my beloved Hold ‘Em.
Final Thoughts: A must see. Not flawless, but the movie’s so goddamn good that it paints a pretty coat over the flaws and makes them invisible to the naked eye. Sure, you know it’s there, but out of sight, out of mind. My highest recommendation on this one… especially if you double feature it and watch ROCKY right after.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Wednesday, August 27th: THE SET-UP (1949)
Thursday, August 28th: THE DEVIL & DANIEL WEBSTER (1941)
Friday, August 29th: CAT PEOPLE (1942)
Saturday, August 30th: CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944)
Sunday, August 31st: THE 7TH VICTIM (1943)
Monday, September 1st: THE GHOST SHIP (1943)
Tuesday, September 2nd: ISLE OF THE DEAD (1945)
Tomorrow we stick with the boxing theme, following director Robert Wise to THE SET-UP. But let’s say good-bye to Paul Newman (not the man, may he live another 80 some-odd years), but he gets a rest from AMAD for a little while. Insteady, welcome another AMAD regular tomorrow when Robert Ryan heads up the flick. Oh, how I’ve missed you…
Now it’s time to hit the tables! See you folks tomorrow!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Aug. 26, 2008, 4:09 p.m. CST
Aug. 26, 2008, 4:09 p.m. CST
dont ya think?
Aug. 26, 2008, 4:11 p.m. CST
they mentioned it in a documentary about a metal band I saw one time.
Aug. 26, 2008, 4:19 p.m. CST
Fucking beat me to it. Damn you!
Aug. 26, 2008, 4:20 p.m. CST
It took three posts to turn this into a thread about The Dark Knight. <P> Congratulations, Tugg.
Aug. 26, 2008, 4:33 p.m. CST
Fair enough, Tugg. <P> Back to Somebody Up There Likes Me, wasn't James Dean originally going to play the lead in this?
Aug. 26, 2008, 4:56 p.m. CST
I remembered reading something about that in a Dean biography, but I was too lazy to check.
Aug. 26, 2008, 4:58 p.m. CST
Aug. 26, 2008, 6:12 p.m. CST
by Bosch Fawstin
to Giant. Signed on for it as part of his 10 pic deal WB contract at that time. Would have loved to see what he would have done with the role.
Aug. 26, 2008, 6:33 p.m. CST
I love this column, Quint.
Aug. 26, 2008, 6:51 p.m. CST
...hurry up and get Paul Newman a Holy Grail or a Golden Apple. Like, NOW!
Aug. 26, 2008, 7:24 p.m. CST
... want to do a musical version of Somebody Up There Likes Me? Or was that Nigel Tuffnel?
Aug. 26, 2008, 7:26 p.m. CST
I may take 90 minutes of my Labor Day to watch that again.
Aug. 26, 2008, 10:17 p.m. CST
by Red Dawn Don
I Think I Remember ROCKY GRAZIANO In 1970's Beer Commercials. He seemed like a nice guy. STEVE McQUEEN carried a grudge against PAUL NEWMAN for being the STAR in this movie. It cropped up often resulting in the whole THE TOWERING INFERNO starring credits thing McQUEEN tried to put over on NEWMAN. The director of INFERNO out-smarted McQUEEN though.
Aug. 26, 2008, 10:22 p.m. CST
by Red Dawn Don
HARRY as I stated in another thread, you EDITED your BELLY with surgery but we can not edit our posts. Why not?
Aug. 26, 2008, 11:02 p.m. CST
So underrated. Be sure to check out the awesome Scorsese commentary on the DVD.
Aug. 27, 2008, 4:12 a.m. CST
Double feature with RAGING BULL - that'd be the way to go.
Aug. 27, 2008, 5:47 a.m. CST
by Anna Valerious
She's working at a flea market, selling old albums. Customer: Do you have the original cast recording of "Somebody Up There Likes Me"? Daria: No, but we have the original cast recording of "Someone Down Here Doesn't".
Aug. 27, 2008, 7:10 a.m. CST
I’ll try to be on board here for a while. I have The Set-Up, seen it once in a theatre but more than happy to see it again, and my unwatched Val Lewton box set awaits.<p>Thoughts on Somebody Up There Likes Me: In the first half, the cast’s jittery energy persuades that twitching mayhem may break out at any second. There’s no movie star vanity here, but pure dedication to the roles. The naturalism feels more like Elia Kazan than Robert Wise, and that’s a compliment to Wise. The first half’s direction has little fat. The second half gets bogged down in a “throw-the-fight” plot which feels shopworn. The New York commission are either naive pricks or in cahoots with the mob. Maybe because this isn’t explored is part of the problem. Wise conveys boxing’s brutality in the final fight much like in The Set-Up tomorrow. Wise’s lean direction in his earlier films make me want to see more of them. Fortunately, it looks like there are two in the Lewton set. Newman is terrific. Yes, some story aspects are predictable. But there’s much to savor in this very good movie that deserves its reputation.<p>So out here in the wild west again, eh Quint. If you swing into L.A., drop a line if you have a chance. Don’t lose too much $ in Vegas.
Aug. 27, 2008, 7:50 a.m. CST
Yet, for some reason (perhaps those minor flaws Quint mentioned), it isn't really that well known. It's sad how few of the great older movies are actually known and appreciated by the average filmgoer. It's mostly Casablanca and It's a Wonderful Life, and that's about it. This is, to me, a perfect lazy-public-holiday movie.
Aug. 27, 2008, 8:14 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Yeah, good flick. Typical Newman charm. Nuff said.
Aug. 27, 2008, 10:10 a.m. CST
Was inspired by Chuck Wepner and his fight w/ Ali. Chuck was a brawler who gave Ali a great fight. Sly was in the audience.
Aug. 27, 2008, 10:33 a.m. CST
And give the Star Trek Experience one last wave since its closing in September. Have a great time.
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