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

Just Posted

Langley Thunder stop Shamrocks

The local lacrosse season is close to wrapping up.

Throwback Thursday: July 19, 2018

Can you help us caption a photo from Langley’s past?

Our View: Location matters when it comes to candidates

Those running for civic office should live in the community they want to represent.

Looking Back: July 19, 2018

The community’s history, as seen through the files of the Langley Advance.

Have you seen this missing Langley man?

Peter Webb hasn’t been seen by his family in more than 10 days.

BC Games: Dance, spoken-word highlights at Opening Ceremony in Cowichan

Hundreds of athletes and thousands of volunteers, coaches, parents and officials

B.C. city wants pot punted from farmland

Concerned about conversion from growing food to making marijuana

World’s translators push back on forcing Trump interpreter to testify

Democrats had asked translator to testify about Trump’s lengthy conversation with Putin in Helsinki

No decision on B.C. school stabbing suspect’s mental fitness for trial

The BC Review Board could not determine whether Gabriel Klein, 21, is fit to stand trial

Canadian government threatens to retaliate if Trump imposes auto tariffs

U.S president had suggested that auto imports pose a national security risk to the U.S.

Abbotsford’s Besse sisters: Vaulting to greatness at Summer Games

Local siblings heading to Cowichan to compete in equestrian

Wildfire evacuation order forces bride to search for new wedding venue

Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards is under an order due to the Mount Eneas wildfire south of Peachland

Recent online kitten abuse video raises serious social media questions

UBC and UFV profs weigh in on the subject of online sharing, shaming, and our digital landscape

UPDATED: ICBC fights back against claims that it’s ‘ripping off’ B.C. RV drivers

Canadian Taxpayers Federation is urging the provincial government to open up ICBC to competition

Most Read