On July 3, 1956, a biography on boxer Rocky Graziano premiered in San Francisco, California. This biography is Robert Wise’s Somebody Up There Likes Me, which is based on an autobiography written by Graziano himself. Written by Ernest Lehman, the screenplay tells the story of Rocky’s triumph after facing disheartenment throughout most of his life. Joseph Ruttenberg, the cinematographer of this film, earned an Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 1957. Cinematography is the element that I will be basing my essay on.
The story centers around Rocky Barbella and his transition from rags to riches. Rocky starts off as a criminal, being involved in a street gang and participating in criminal activities such as stealing material objects to sell off for money. The police finally catch him with stolen money; Rocky says that he got it from his father, Nick Barbella. Nick doesn’t provide him with an alibi, and Rocky is sent to prison, but is soon transported to a work camp after misbehaving. Frankie Peppo sees his amazing fighting skills after Rocky takes down a guard and asks for Rocky to use those skills for boxing; Rocky refuses the offer. Rocky is sent to Riker’s Island, and is released years later only to find that he is being drafted into the Army. Rocky knocks out his commanding officer, and runs off in order to earn some money to cover up the issue. Rocky goes into boxing and is hired, winning fight after fight under his alias, Rocky Graziano. He’s caught by military officers and earns a dishonorable discharge and a one-year prison sentence. His sister introduces him to a Jewish girl named Norma, whom he soon falls in love with. Rocky’s trainer, Irving, prompts him to either get married to Norma or leave her because she’s interfering with his boxing. Norma and Rocky get married and have a daughter. He’s soon defeated by boxer Tony Zale, which causes his career to fall to shambles. Peppo visits him and encourages him to throw the rematch against Tony Zale or Peppo will reveal Graziano’s military discharge and prison sentence. Rocky pretends to have a back injury, but the police want to interrogate him about the blackmail. When he refuses to cooperate, they revoke his boxing license; however, Irving lands him a rematch with Zale in Chicago. The match starts off with Zale overpowering Graziano until the very end when Graziano finds his strength to knock out Zale and claim the title of world champion.
The opening scene, when Rocky escorts Norma home, and the rematch between Graziano and Zale are all prime examples of cinematography in Somebody Up There Likes Me. They are all pivotal points in Rocky’s life, and the cinematography helps to convey the emotion and severity of each scene. All these scenes are an indication of Rocky’s transformation from becoming a criminal to the unlikely hero that we’re all rooting for.
The opening scene starts off with Nick and an eight year old Rocky fighting while Nick’s friends surround the two,...