(1956 b 113')
Based on Rocky Graziano’s autobiography, a restless young man gets in trouble with the law and is dishonorably discharged from the army, but he gets married and becomes a champion boxer.
In New York City a boy is being taught to box by his father Nick Barbella (Harold J. Stone). He does not like it, and his father hits him for being a cry-baby. The boy runs out.
Rocky (Paul Newman) is running in the streets, and he climbs up a ladder and stairs to a roof. Ma Barbella (Eileen Heckart) finds him there, and he says he is running from the police. She says Brother Benedict gave up on him. He is not to go back to the protectory, but she wants him and tries to embrace him. Rocky says he is no good, and she should give up on him too.
Rocky’s father wakes him up, and he puts on his shoes. Nick shouts at him and asks when he is going to make something of himself. He tells Rocky to get out of his sight, and Rocky goes out.
Rocky walks in the crowded street, and a man asks him who he is going to rob tonight. Romolo (Sal Mineo) asks when he got home. Rocky says he got out, and they walk together. Rocky finds Fidel (Steve McQueen) in a pool hall and then Shorty the Greek. While they are removing tires from a car, the owner sees them. Rocky beats him up, and they get away with three tires.
Rocky steps in front of a truck, and his friends get in back and rob things from it. They drop something off a roof. The four sell things to a man and get one suit each in exchange.
In the subway Romolo reads a newspaper and asks Rocky what they are doing today. Rocky says school. A cop sees Rocky getting gum from a machine, and they run into the train.
On a roof Rocky and others are in a gang fight. A cop blows a whistle, and they run away. Romolo is about to be caught, and Rocky jumps between buildings to join him. They are arrested and questioned. Rocky says his father gave him the money.
The detective asks Nick if he gave him the money, and he says he only gave him the back of his hand.
In court an attorney says crying Romolo is a child. The judge remands him to probation and his parents. The judge calls Rocky a disgrace and says he broke out of the Catholic protectory three times. The judge sentences him to Mackinaw for an indeterminate sentence to see if they can break his spirit. Rocky says he will see whose spirit gets broke.
In a cell Rocky disrupts trays of food. George Niles comes to see Rocky and lights his cigarette. Rocky burns his hand with the cigarette, and Niles slaps him. The officer grabs Rocky, and Niles says to send him to the reformatory.
Rocky is working with others digging a trench by a fence. The officer Geezer splashes water on Rocky when he wants a drink. Geezer aims his gun and asks for an excuse. Rocky turns and then starts hitting Geezer. Rocky gets the gun, but a prisoner hits him in the head with a shovel.
Rocky is sitting in the back of a moving truck, and Frankie Peppo (Robert Loggia) tells him he should get in a ring and fight and come see him at the gym.
Rocky is welcomed to the penitentiary at Riker’s Island. He laughs at the warden welcoming them and spits on the floor; he is given thirty days in the hole.
Rocky’s ma comes to visit him. She says she has been in the hospital for six months getting electric shock treatments because she is losing her mind. She cries and asks what she is going to do with him. Rocky tells her not to worry. She says his father says that he must help himself. She says she is the last person on earth who cares about him. She asks him to turn the leaf, but he says he can’t make it. She says she may be through with him and leaves.
The warden tells Rocky he has only three more minutes. Rocky says he is not going to be locked up again.
Outside two men tell Rocky he is being drafted into the army.
Rocky is sleeping in a tent and refuses to get up. A corporal tells Rocky he must get up, and Rocky knocks him down in the mud. In the tent Rocky asks others to go to town with him, but they tell him they would be court martialled. They refuse, and a young man dares him to hit him.
Captain Woodhope tells Rocky he has no regard for rules. Rocky says he wants to fight Hitler. The Captain tells him there is no room for a wise guy. Rocky asks him to fight and slugs him, knocking him out. Rocky goes out the window.
Rocky is back in New York and finds Romolo in a basement. Rocky says he needs a grand to buy off the captain. He remembers that Frankie Peppo told him he could get him some dough.
At Stillman’s Gym men are boxing, and others watch. Rocky comes in and asks for Frankie Peppo. A man sends him to Lou Stillman, who tells him that Frankie is in Sing Sing. Irving Cohen (Everett Sloane) tells Lou he needs a sparring partner for his fighter. Rocky volunteers and says his last name is Graziano. Rocky is told to get ready, but he does not know what a cup is.
Wearing headgear, Rocky beats up the boxer and knocks him out. Cohen asks where he learned to hit like that. Rocky asks for his ten bucks. Cohen says he can make more money, and Rocky says he will fight for him.
In the dressing-room Rocky is nervous before his first fight, and he is afraid he will be arrested. An officer tells him to go with him, and he takes Rocky to the ring. While boxing Rocky sees the audience is full of men in uniform. Rocky says he has to get out of there, and he knocks out his opponent.
Cohen tells Rocky that he has to train. Cohen gives him $40, and Rocky leaves without showering.
Rocky weighs in at 155, and Cohen tells him he has not been eating right. Cohen says he has a tough fighter in his first six-rounder. Cohen asks him what he has been doing with the money. The draft men come in and tell Cohen he has been harboring a fugitive. Rocky asks Cohen to give his money to Mrs. Barbella.
In the court martial Rocky admits his mistake and says he is sorry. He says he has been in prison too long. He asks for another chance. The court finds him guilty of being absent without leave. He is dishonorably discharged and sentenced to Leavenworth for one year.
At Leavenworth a guard threatens to shoot a prisoner for not clearing his cell door. Rocky says he is in for being a jerk.
Rocky plays horseshoes. A prisoner tries to bully Rocky’s friend. Rocky asks the man to respect him. The man gives Rocky the order. Rocky says he does not want to, and the man hits him. They fight, and a sergeant watches to see who will win. Rocky beats him up, and officers stop the fight.
After Rocky gets out of solitary, the sergeant tells him he runs the boxing school and asks Rocky if he wants to join. Rocky says he does not want to fight, but the sergeant says he has done well. The sergeant says Rocky has hate that makes him strong. He suggests Rocky let him do him some good. He asks him what he will do when he gets out. The sergeant says he will make him work hard, but he will get into top condition. He says Rocky can become a professional fighter. Maybe he will even lose the hate someday. Rocky thinks about it and hits the punching bag.
Rocky is winning a boxing match, and Cohen says he never saw him in such good shape. Rocky wins three 4-round fights. Then he wins a 6-round fight.
Rocky tells his ma he is going for a walk. He gives her money. His father staggers in, and Rocky says he won in two. Ma says she made Nick give up boxing in order to marry her, and it ruined his life. Rocky goes out, and his sister introduces him to Norma (Pier Angeli). She asks him to double date with shy Norma, but he says he has no time for girls.
Rocky is reading a newspaper in Benny’s soda fountain, and Norma comes in and sits down. She asks directions and says goodnight to Rocky. He runs after her and offers to walk her to the subway. She says goodnight, but he waits with her on the platform. He gives her some gum. They shake hands, and he says he will ride with her to Brooklyn.
Rocky walks with her to her door, and he learns that she is Jewish. She asks if that makes a difference, and he says no. She thanks him and asks him to call her.
Rocky and Norma eat popcorn in a movie, but he gets restless and makes her leave during the love scene. She complains that he makes her leave. He asks her to come see him fight or at least come and see him train. She agrees.
In the gym Cohen says Rocky did not train but does so now on the day of his fight. Norma comes in, and Rocky starts dancing with his sparring partner. Lou asks if she is Rocky’s girl, and he asks to talk with her. Rocky asks Lou where she is.
Rocky finds Norma on the street in the rain and asks where she has been. She says she was at a movie. She says she does not like fighting and never will. He says it has made him something. He asks her to understand. Lou said he will always be in trouble. Rocky says he was in trouble, but he gives her his word that he will not get into trouble anymore. He realizes it is late and that he is in trouble again.
The Commissioner Edward Eagan (Theodore Newton) asks Rocky why he should not revoke his license for missing the fight. Rocky says he was looking for his girl. The Commissioner tells him not to let it happen again. Cohen takes him into a men’s room and tells Rocky not to ruin himself with Norma. Rocky shows that he is healthy. Cohen says he must give up Norma or marry her. Maybe he needs responsibilities.
Rocky and Norma are sitting on a bench outside the courthouse, and she says she has money to pay the judge. He says a courthouse makes him uncomfortable. She will only be convinced if he tells her he does not love her. He tells her to come on, and they run up the stairs and kiss.
Rocky buys ice cream from Benny (Joseph Buloff) and asks if he can help it that Norma is pregnant. Cohen and Rocky look at the baby. Rocky and Norma walk with a buggy on the street. Rocky wins fights and comes home to his wife and baby with bandages on his face. Then he comes home with a swollen eye.
Rocky is boxing Tony Zale, and Norma, his sister, and his ma are listening to the radio. Zale wins and is still middleweight champion. Norma says she is afraid that he will be hurt or crippled. Ma warns her not to forget that fighting is Rocky’s whole life. Norma realizes she married a middleweight. Ma says Rocky has been knocked out for the first time. She leaves. Rocky comes home to Norma and asks if she heard the fight. She says he was terrible because he did not finish him. Rocky says he will kill him in March. He sees that she does not react, and he kisses her.
Cohen watches Rocky train for Zale, but he is worried that Rocky has to fight Shank first. Rocky says he is going to the zoo with Norma and their girl. Peppo comes in and tells Rocky he has something for him to do and warns that people may find out about his past.
In a bar Rocky tells Peppo he does not want his wife to know. Rocky offers him two Cs. Peppo says the man wants to bet on Shank. Peppo offers him a hundred Gs. Rocky says he has gone straight. Rocky goes out and tells kids to get out of the street. He gets in a car with Norma and drives off.
Rocky wakes up at night. In the gym Peppo introduces two gamblers to Rocky. Peppo warns him not to win the fight. Rocky tells his trainer to get Irving because he has to call off the fight. Newspapers report that the fight is off.
Rocky drives a car with Norma. They are stopped, and a detective tells him to come see the D. A. Rocky tells Norma he will be right back.
The District Attorney Hogan (Robert Lieb) asks Rocky to tell him who gave him the offer. He did the right thing. Rocky says he does not know who they are. Hogan tells him he could lose his license. He has to tell them to comply with the rules. Rocky says he has no names to name. Some men are brought in, and Rocky says he does not know them. Peppo and the two men are brought in, and Rocky says he never saw them before.
Newspapers report that Hogan said Rocky is afraid to talk because of gang violence. The Commissioner at a hearing reads the charges against Rocky that he did not report the illegal offer made to him. The Commission revokes his license, and the fight with Tony Zale in New York is cancelled. Reporters question Rocky, but he says nothing and leaves. Norma asks if he has to become a thief again. A newspaper reports his dishonorable discharge from the army.
At home Norma turns on the light and reads a sports column about him. He says the sportswriters like him. He says others believe he is no good. They both cry. The phone rings, and Peppo says he had nothing to do with the story breaking in the papers. Peppo asks to do business, and Rocky tells him not to call anymore. Rocky sees reporters outside as Cohen comes in. Cohen asks Norma to get Rocky, and Cohen says he will fight Zale in Chicago. Rocky says they don’t like him in Chicago, and he slams the bedroom door. Norma tells Cohen to take him to Chicago and train him. Norma says Rocky got tired of trying.
Rocky is sparring in a ring outside and knocks out his partner. Cohen complains and asks to see his hands. Rocky is leaving and says it is too quiet there. Cohen says they can go to a gym in Chicago. Rocky says Chicago is only trouble for him, and he refuses to talk to sportswriters.
Rocky is tense and comes back to the apartment with Norma. Cohen is on the floor with their girl. Rocky tells Norma to say what the woman in the elevator said. Norma says Rocky has to learn not to get angry when he does something wrong. She asks Cohen about the years after he stops fighting. Rocky goes out and takes a plane to New York.
Rocky goes into Benny’s soda fountain and makes a call to Peppo. He leaves a message to call and says he is willing to listen. Rocky asks Benny for more seltzer. Benny says it is quiet there, and people have to pay the check. If he does something wrong, he has to pay for it. He advises him not to get a soda unless he is ready to pay the check. Rocky leaves, and Romolo sees him. Romolo says he is worried about him and hides from the police. Romolo asks Rocky to invest $100 in his business. Romolo wants to steal enough to buy a flower stand to use as a front for a bookie joint. He only needs a heater. Rocky calls him a stupid jerk. Romolo says they have no chance. Rocky walks the streets and sees police arrest two youths.
Rocky goes home, and Nick says his mother is at the seashore. Rocky tells Nick to ask him something. Nick tells him to get out of there. Rocky says he is still fighting the decision of ma to make him stop fighting. Rocky says he is fighting Zale for the world championship. Nick tries to hit him, and Rocky catches his arm. Rocky tells his father to him. Rocky says he has been lucky. He wants to do something for him. Nick asks him to be a champ like he never was. Rocky tells him not to worry about it and leaves.
Norma opens the door and hugs Rocky. Cohen asks Rocky where he was all night. Rocky says he went out for an ice cream soda from Benny’s. Norma puts her arms around him and kisses him. Rocky asks Cohen why he is up so early. Rocky tells Norma he brought her some ice cream, and she says she has been dying for it.
Rocky is announced as the challenger, and the crowd boos. Tony Zale is applauded. Zale is favored to win. In the first round they both land punches. Norma listens to radio and learns that Rocky was hurt. Rocky tells Cohen that Zale hits hard, and Cohen tells him to hit him back. In the second round Rocky’s eye is bleeding. Ma and Nick are listening to the radio at home. In the third round Rocky is in a corner and is knocked down. Rocky gets up and fights. Romolo is rooting for Rocky, and the radio is heard in the empty streets of New York. In the fourth round Rocky’s eye is still bleeding. In the fifth round Rocky starts hitting Zale more. In the break Cohen asks Rocky who he is. Rocky says he will bust his head this round. In the sixth round Rocky gets Zale in a head-lock, and the referee breaks it up. Rocky hits Zale, who is stunned and driven against the ropes. Zale falls on the rope, and the referee holds up Rocky’s hand as the winner. Norma tells her daughter that her daddy is the champ.
People celebrate in the streets of New York as Rocky and his family ride in an open car. Rocky tells Norma to enjoy it now because he will be losing some day. Rocky says he has been lucky. Somebody up there likes him, and Norma says someone down here likes him too.
This biopic is the true story of the troubled son of a frustrated boxer who constantly gets in trouble until he learns to channel his anger and hatred in the boxing ring. He finds a good woman to love and becomes a responsible person. The drama portrays a rough profession in which only the best fighters achieve great success.