Raging Bull | 1980
Four years after Rocky scooped the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, Martin Scorsese brought out the best boxing movie ever, a biopic of self-destructive bruiser Jake LaMotta. Ironically, it was the success of Rocky which gave the long-gestating project the go-ahead.
Most of the film was shot in New York, with just a little Los Angeles. The bravura fight sequences were shot over several weeks in the controlled environment of the MGM studio, but longshots and crowd scenes (including Scorsese’s trademark Steadicam shot), are the Olympic Auditorium, 1801 South Grand Avenue at Olympic Boulevard, downtown Los Angeles.
Built for the 1932 Olympics, it was the site of the climactic fights in – yes – Rocky, Rocky II and Rocky III as well as Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby and wrestling matches in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood and Man on the Moon, with Jim Carrey as subversive comic Andy Kaufman.
Also in LA are the ‘Florida’ home of the older LaMotta (Robert De Niro), which is 3460 Cabrillo Boulevard at Palms Boulevard, in Venice Beach, kitted out with a couple of palm trees and also his nightclub, which is now Zona VIP, a male strip club at 1331 South Pacific Avenue at West 14th Street, a few blocks south of the famous Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.
In New York, LaMotta’s neighbourhood is Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, where apartment interiors were shot, although the exterior of his apartment is 447 West 56th Street at 10th Avenue in Manhattan's old Hell’s Kitchen district.
LaMotta spars with his brother Joey (Joe Pesci) at the famous ‘Gleason’s’ Gym’, which used to be at 149th Street at Third Avenue in the Bronx, until 1974,when it moved to 83 Front Street, Brooklyn.
It's still used by Hollywood training: more recently Colin Farrell (for The Recruit) and Hilary Swank (for Million Dollar Baby) buffed up here. The movie, though, filmed in the Gramercy Gym, which stood at 116 East 14th Street, until being demolished in 1993.
The 'Chester Palace' dance, where LaMotta first sees wife-to-be, Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), is Webster Hall, 125 East 11th Street in Greenwich Village. A music venue since the turn of the century, the hall was the site of the drag competition which opens To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar, and also appeared in Across The Universe and Radio Days.
It’s at the old Copacabana Nightclub that LaMotta’s obsessive jealousy begins to emerge. The Copa (now closed), which stood at 10 East 60th Street at Fifth Avenue, was revisited by Scorsese for another famous Steadicam shot in Goodfellas.
LaMotta meets Vickie at the open-air pool of the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center (formerly Carmine Street Recreation Center), 1 Clarkson Street at Seventh Avenue South in Greenwich Village.
Finding a kind of redemption, the older LaMotta re-invents himself as a nightclub entertainer, rehearsing Marlon Brando’s “I coulda been a contender” speech from On The Waterfront in the old Barbizon Plaza Theatre, in the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, now transformed into the Trump Parc, 106 Central Park South.