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After pulling no punches in his brilliant study of the downside of professional boxing, THE SET-UP, director Robert Wise presents a much more upbeat picture of the fight game in this entertaining biography of one-time middleweight champion Rocky Graziano. Paul Newman plays the New York
slum-bred fighter, the son of a boxer whose career was stifled by the bottle. In and out of trouble for most of his young life, Rocky drifts from petty crime to reform school, from a dishonorable discharge from the Army to Leavenworth Prison. In the joint, however, Rocky is encouraged to develop
his boxing talents, and when he is released he is taken under the wing of small-time manager Irving Cohen (Everett Sloane). Under Cohen's guidance, Rocky begins winning fights, but it isn't until he meets and marries Norma (Pier Angeli) that Rocky becomes a big winner. In time, he battles Tony
Zale (brilliantly boxed by Courtland Shepard) for the championship, losing their first fight, but taking the title in the second. Newman, who spent time with Graziano and observed his speech patterns, mannerisms, movements, and boxing style, worked himself into peak condition for the role, lifting
weights and sparring with top professionals, and his portrayal of the scrappy, often tongue-tied, but wholly likable boxer is superb. Although the role was originally intended for James Dean, Newman makes it his own, delivering such memorable lines as "I'll drink from the bottle like the rest of
the boys" when asked if he needs a cup to complete his boxing garb.