Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)


Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)

The abuse Rocky Barbella endures at the hand of his father and subsequent run-ins with the law lead him in and out of detention centers and prisons. When it seems he has it together, Rocky is drafted but, refusing to adhere to Army rules, goes AWOL. He takes up boxing to earn quick money, but when he discovers he has a natural talent in the ring, he builds the confidence to pursue his love interest, Norma, and fulfill his potential as a fighter.
IMDb   7.5 /10
TheMovieDb    7.3 /10
RottenTomatoes  83 %
FilmAffinity   7.7 /10
Director Robert Wise
Writer Ernest Lehman
Writer Rocky Graziano
Writer Rowland Barber
Release Date1956-07-04
Runtime1h 53min
GenreBiography, Drama, Sport
Content RatingPassed (Passed)
AwardsWon 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations.
CompanyMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Nick Barbella
Sammy White
Sammy White
Whitey Bimstein
District Attorney Hogan (as Robert Lieb)
Athletic Commissioner Edward Eagan

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956 film)

Somebody Up There Likes Me is a 1956 American drama film directed by Robert Wise and starring Paul Newman and Pier Angeli, based on the life of middleweight boxing legend Rocky Graziano.

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, and won two: Best Cinematography (Black and White) (Joseph Ruttenberg) and Best Art Direction (Black and White) (Cedric Gibbons, Malcolm Brown, Edwin B. Willis, F. Keogh Gleason). It lost its nomination for Best Film Editing to Around the World in 80 Days.


Rocky Graziano (Paul Newman) has a difficult childhood and is beaten by his father. He joins a street gang, and undergoes a long history of criminal activities. He is sent to prison, where he is rebellious to all authority figures. After his release, he is drafted by the U.S. Army, but runs away. Needing money, he becomes a boxer, and finds that he has natural talent and wins six fights in a row before the Army finds him and dishonorably discharges him. He serves a year in a United States Disciplinary Barracks, and resumes his career as a boxer as a result.

While working his way to the title, he is introduced to his sister's friend Norma, whom he falls in love with and later marries. Starting a new, clean life, he rises to the top, but loses a title fight with Tony Zale (Court Shepard). A person he knew in prison finds him and blackmails him into throwing a fight over his dishonorable discharge. Rocky fakes an injury and avoids the fight altogether. When he is interrogated by the district attorney, he refuses to name the blackmailer and has his license suspended. His manager gets him a fight in Chicago to fight Zale the middleweight champion, once more. Rocky wins the fight.

Main cast

  • Paul Newman as Rocky Graziano
  • Pier Angeli as Norma Graziano
  • Everett Sloane as Irving Cohen
  • Eileen Heckart as Ma Barbella
  • Harold J. Stone as Nick Barbella
  • Sal Mineo as Romolo
  • Ray Stricklyn as Bryson
  • Robert Loggia as Frankie Peppo
  • Steve McQueen as Fidel (uncredited)
  • Angela Cartwright as Rocky's daughter (uncredited)


The role of Rocky Graziano was originally to be played by James Dean, but he died before filming began, and Paul Newman was asked to take the part. Australian actor Rod Taylor was also considered for the part; although unsuccessful, his screen test impressed MGM enough for them to offer him a long term contract.

The film was also notable for being one of Paul Newman's first starring roles and for being one of the first films in which Steve McQueen appeared. It also marked the film debuts of Frank Campanella, Robert Loggia, Angela Cartwright, and Dean Jones, all in uncredited bit parts.


Perry Como's version of the song, "Somebody Up There Likes Me," is played over the opening and closing credits.

Box office

According to MGM records, the film earned $1,915,000 in the US and Canada and $1,445,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $609,000.


The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2006: AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – Nominated
  • 2008: AFI's 10 Top 10: Nominated Sports Film
  • Nominated Sports Film