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Paradise Alley is a 1978 movie about 3 brothers (known as the Carboni Boys) who live in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, during the 1940s. It was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, and was given the greenlight to be produced by Universal Pictures after Stallone's success with 1976's Rocky. Stallone also stars as Cosmo, one of the brothers.
The movie first chugs along in the style of what some critics had called Damon Runyon-esque, and eventually focuses on professional wrestling, as Victor, one of the brothers (Cosmo and Lenny are the other two) becomes a local wrestler (named Kid Salami and played by Lee Canalito). The fighting is real in this case as far as the plot is concerned; the storyline eventually revolves around betting on the winner of the bouts, as Cosmo and Lenny look to Victor to win enough Wrestling matches so they can get out of Hell's Kitchen (Victor wants to marry his Asian girlfriend and live on a houseboat they plan to buy in New Jersey).
Each brother has his own style and character. Stallone's Cosmo is a hustler and con-artist, always looking for the next easy buck, Armand Assante's Lenny is the ex-WWII hero, an undertaker who came back to the neighborhood with a limp in his walk and a bitter (if essentially cool) attitude, but who also has savvy and respect and eventually becomes Victor's manager, and Victor himself, the gawky, strong, dumb yet sincere hulk of a man, who quickly leaves his job hauling ice up tenement stairways once he realizes he has talent as a wrestler.
Initially, it is Cosmo that dominates the proceedings, aggressively encouraging Victor to participate in wrestling matches, who is reluctant at first, and against the wishes of his girlfriend. Lenny is at first unsure of all this, and constantly tries to warn-off Victor, reminding him that he could get hurt, and often castigating Cosmo for involving Victor. As the film progresses, the roles begin to reverse . . . Cosmo becomes unsure, and guilty, about his behaviour towards Victor, while Lenny becomes ever more keen to push, and exploit Victor as far as he can. Eventually, Lenny seems to have a complete personality change, losing his cool, retiring demeanour and becoming an aggressive, manipulative high roller who uses Victor for his own ends, seeming to not care that his own brother is getting hurt. The resolution of these events at the end of the movie is both cathartic, and joyous.
This was the first major film that Armand Assante appeared in.Anne Archer also appeared in the film. Joe Spinell] played the emcee during the wrestling matches.
A number of professional wrestlers appeared, including Terry Funk as the foil to the hero of the film. Cameos include Ted DiBiase, Bob Roop, Dick Murdoch, Dory Funk Jr., Don Leo Jonathan, Don Kernodle, Gene Kiniski, Dennis Stamp, Ray Stevens, and Uliuli Fifita; all were pro wrestlers.
- This film was based on a book of the same name written by Sylvester Stallone, which appeared in book stores during 1978.
- Sylvester Stallone himself sang the opening song in the film, Too Close To Paradise.
- Musician Tom Waits made his cinematic debut in Paradise Alley as the piano player named Mumbles.
- The original title of the film was Hell's Kitchen.
- The opening credits utilized the original Universal Pictures opening used during their 1940's productions.
- Sylvester Stallones brother Frank has a cameo appearance as a singer.
- On the Legends of Wrestling II game, "Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase admitted he flashed across the screen briefly in the movie. He then said that some of the other actors were making wise-cracks about wrestling. Sylvester Stallone then stopped production one day and announced, "I don't want to hear another word about pro-wrestling and wrestlers. These guys (the wrestlers) were doing something for us in three days, that would have taken 6 months to do with Hollywood stuntmen. These guys are the best improv actors in the world." Dibiase said he stuck out his chest a little farther after the comment, citing it made him feel good.