Nov 9, 2015

Paul Newman and Rocky Graziano: Somebody Down Here Likes Me

Paul Newman and James Dean met in 1952, when they were studying at the famous Actors Studio in New York.  They began a passionate affair.

But there were problems from the start: Paul didn't like sneaking around under the nose of his wife, and he wanted exclusivity, whereas Jimmy had a roving eye (Paul had the same problem when he dated Yul Brynner a couple of years before).

In 1953, they both auditioned for the roles of the twin brothers in East of Eden -- check out the homoerotic screen test on the Eddi Haskell blog.

Jimmy got the part, but Paul lost out.  He was devastated, and the relationship cooled.

After James Dean's tragic death on September 30, 1955, Paul was offered several roles that had been earmarked for him, including  Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), a biopic of boxer Rocky Graziano (top photo) based on his bestselling autobiography.

It was a Hollywood rags-to-riches story, with a juvenile delinquency twist.  The young Rocky is abused by his father, joins a street gang, gets into fights, is drafted into the army but goes AWOL, is sent to prison, finds a new life as a boxer, and finally triumphs over an evil rival (real boxer Tony Zale).

Oh, and there's a requisite hetero-romance, but there's a strong gay subtext between Rocky and best buddy Romolo (gay actor Sal Mineo), plus the gay symbolism of a blackmail plotline.

The story doesn't end there. The real 37-year old Rocky appeared as an adviser, and he and Paul hit it off. They were often seen socializing together off the set.

I couldn't find any information on whether they became lovers, but since Rocky also hung out with the bisexual Marlon Brando, it's a possibility.

The t-shirts are from Grossinger's Resort in the Catskills.

Paul went on, of course, to become the most famous actor of the 1960s and a master of gay subtexts.  Rocky Graziano had a respectable tv career and opened a restaurant.