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LGM Film Club, Part 301: Somebody Up There Likes Me

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Biopics tend to be bad. It almost makes me cry whenever the internet demands a biopic of this or that left/liberal hero since the film, if it does get made, will almost always be bad. Think of the utterly forgettable Nat Turner or Harriet Tubman biopics. Even when the individual is less weighed down with the love of the present, the films tend to be bad. There are exceptions of course–Spike Lee’s Malcolm X as a critical example, but these are few and far between. I suppose one can call Raging Bull a biopic, but it is only technically, since the film is less interested in Jake LaMotta himself than the obsession of a self-destructive man.

So I wasn’t too excited to check out Robert Wise’s Somebody Up There Loves Me, which is a Rocky Graziano biopic that was produced with Graziano on board, shortly after he “wrote” his autobiography. But…this is the first major film role for Paul Newman and it was widely acclaimed at the time. So considering the director, actor, and the fact that I generally like boxing as a film subject, I thought I’d give it a try. And you know, it works pretty well. Much of that is Newman, who provides not only character development through his acting but almost a path from savagery to civilization, as Graziano finally becomes a functional human being through his success at boxing and his marriage. Plus Sal Mineo is part of his gang and the always welcome Everett Sloane plays his manager. One can easily see why Newman would become a big star. This was a big film for Wise too. He had already made his mark with some solid work, especially The Day the Earth Stood Still, but after the success of this, he was able to move on to the really big projects such as Odds Against Tomorrow, The Sound of Music, and West Side Story. So it’s a pretty worthy film for the genre.

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