Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa.

Rocky: 40 years later, he’s still a lovable underdog

Rocky: 40 years later, he's still a lovable underdog

On Nov. 21, 1976, audiences met Rocky Balboa, the southpaw boxer from south Philadelphia.

Four decades later, Sylvester Stallone’s lovable character resonates with fans drawn to his underdog tale of determination, grit and sleepy-eyed charm.

The reach of Rocky is international, and the film serves as a slice of Americana. It is shorthand for Philadelphia as much as the Liberty Bell or Benjamin Franklin.

“Anytime we are speaking to overseas visitors … the conversation always turns, at some point, to ‘Rocky,'” said Julie Coker Graham, president of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“They ask, ‘Have you met Rocky?” A lot of them think it’s an actual, real-life person.”

On the film’s 40th anniversary, a few reasons for its enduring legacy:

___

LOVABLE UNDERDOG

Written by Stallone in three days, fans fell hard for the ballad of Rocky Balboa. For the uninitiated (SPOILER ALERT): The small-time boxer from the heavily Italian neighbourhood of South Philly stumbles into a bout with the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed, fighting in the city to celebrate America’s bicentennial. To get him into fighting shape, Rocky (played by Stallone) is trained by the peppery Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith), whose many one-liners make him a frequent scene stealer. Rocky also finds love in the film with sheepish neighbourhood pet store clerk, Adrian (Talia Shire). Though he ultimately loses the fight, Rocky proves himself and wins Adrian’s heart, making him the winner of much more than a title.

The film itself was a long shot, made on a budget of only $1 million and shot in 28 days, with a largely unknown cast, including Stallone himself. And it was shot in working-class Philadelphia, a city that — despite its roots as the crucible of freedom — had long had a chip on its shoulder as second-tier as compared to more cultured East Coast metropolises like New York and Boston. (It is worth noting that the film had its premiere in New York.)

___

CHEERS FOR ROCKY

What the movie lacked in beauty, it made up for in heart, something that resonated with audiences worldwide. The film was the highest-grossing of the year, earning $117 million at the North American box office and another $107 million overseas. “Rocky” received 10 Oscar nominations in nine categories at the Academy Awards, winning three: best picture, best director (John G. Avildsen) and best film editing. Stallone, Burgess and Shire were all nominated in acting categories, and Stallone was nominated for his screenplay.

“Rocky” is preserved in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or esthetically significant.” It was also ranked one of the greatest sports films ever made and is the second-best film about boxing behind “Raging Bull,” according to the American Film Institute.

___

GONNA FLY NOW

The score for “Rocky,” which was also nominated for an Oscar, was penned by Bill Conti. The main song, “Gonna Fly Now,” was originally intended as filler for the training sequence marking Rocky’s journey from amateur to contender. The opening fanfare is among the most recognizable in American culture, and the soaring melody that plays on the melancholic theme woven throughout the movie is the backdrop to Rocky doing impressive one-armed pushups, punching meat in his girlfriend’s brother’s butcher shop and running through Philadelphia’s Italian Market, along the Schuylkill River and past the shipyards.

Conti went on to win an Oscar for his score to 1983’s “The Right Stuff” and made music recognizable to millions in theme songs to “Dynasty” and “Falcon Crest.”

___

THE ROCKY STEPS AND STATUE

The montage climaxes in one of the film’s most memorable scenes, as Rocky bounds up the 72 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, raising his arms in triumph. Four decades later, the run and pose atop the steps are re-created daily in Philadelphia, mostly by tourists. In 1982, a statue of Rocky commissioned by Stallone for “Rocky III” was placed in the spot where he stood in the original film. Its current home is just to the right of the steps and is a selfie stop for visitors.

___

ROCKY’S NEXT CHAPTER

The original movie was followed by six sequels. In 2015, Rocky was reborn in “Creed,” the story of Adonis Creed, the son of his nemesis-turned-best friend, Apollo. An aging and dying Rocky trains Adonis for a brawl not unlike the grizzled boxer’s first fight nearly two generations earlier. The New York Times reviewed it as a “dandy piece of entertainment, soothingly old-fashioned and bracingly up-to-date.”

The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Residential real estate market rebounding well: long-time realtor

House prices, sales, and listings in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are moving on an upward trajectory

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are prepared for high Fraser River levels

Peak numbers are expected to be below trigger levels for both cities

‘Protect our jobs,” say laid-off hotel workers to MLA Lisa Beare

Delegation delivered a petition to Maple Ridge MLA office on Friday

LOOKING BACK: A ride down memory lane or in this case Dewdney Trunk Road

Maple Ridge’s museum director offers a history lessson on how the major thoroughfare came to be

$75K will mean gifts for Maple Ridge man’s kids

Meneo Asperin had a rush of emotion when he thought he’d won $75 on BC/49

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Greater Vancouver home sales start to tick up, with prices holding steady

Residential sales last month reached 2,443, a 64.5 per cent jump from May

Langley Lodge’s deadly outbreak declared over

Fraser Health and long-term care home administrator confirm Friday declaration

PHOTOS: South Surrey tractor project evokes ‘$1-million smile,’ helps connect neighbours

Retired Surrey firefighter Ron Henze began project for friend’s dad to fill time during pandemic

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

Search continues for person seen floating in Coquihalla River in Hope

Rescuers halted the search Thursday night as darkness fell

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

Most Read