Cast & Crew
Robert De Niro
In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first loss and igniting a brawl in which audience members are trampled underfoot. Following Jake's defeat, Salvy Batts, who works for boxing racketeer Tommy Como, informs Jake's brother and manager Joey that an association with Tommy could advance Jake's career. Although Joey agrees with Salvy, he observes that his stubborn brother, whom he affectionately calls "Jack," has "a head like concrete" and insists upon remaining independent. Nevertheless, Joey promises to present Salvy's offer to Jake, and proceeds to his brother's dreary, run-down apartment, where Jake is in the middle of a screaming match with his wife Irma. Once Joey mollifies his enraged brother, the mercurial Jake laments that his small, girlish hands limit his ability to rise to the top. Suddenly hostile, Jake provokes Joey into hitting him in the face. Later, when Salvy comes to watch Jake in a sparring match with Joey, Jake becomes so angered by Salvy's presence that he pummels Joey. At the neighborhood swimming pool one day, Jake spots blonde, fifteen-year-old Vickie Thailer, who piques his interest and passion. When Jake questions Joey about Vickie, Joey reminds him that he is a married man. Leaving Irma at home one night, Jake attends a church charity dance with Joey, where he sees Vickie seated across the room with Salvy. Watching Vickie drive off with Salvy, Jake sends Joey to the pool the next day to arrange an introduction to her. When Vickie admires Jake's shiny convertible, he invites her for a ride, and after changing from her swimsuit into a virginal white outfit, she joins him. After a visit to a miniature golf course, Jake takes her to the apartment he purchased for his father and ushers her into the bedroom, where a crucifix perches above the headboard. He nudges her onto the bed, but she quickly rises and walks to the bureau, where she looks at a photo of Jake and Joey sparring, a rosary dangling over its frame. In 1943, Jake scores a major victory against Sugar Ray Robinson, Robinson's first loss and the beginning of a life-long rivalry between the two boxers. Following the fight, Vickie, who is now living with Jake, kisses his blackened eye, but when he becomes sexually aroused, he pours a pitcher of ice water down his crotch in order to preserve his energy for the next match with Robinson, which is to take place three weeks later. Although Robinson is named winner of the bout by the unanimous decision of the judges, Jake's career takes off when he wins a series of victories and, now successful, he marries Vickie and buys a new home in the Bronx. Joey has also married and moved into a nearby house with his wife Lenore. In 1947, after having had three babies and living a relatively quiet life in the suburbs, Jake has gained weight and bristles when Joey enters him into a match with newcomer Tony Janiro, for which Jake will have to lose fifteen pounds. When Joey explains that he set up the match because established boxers are afraid to face Jake, Vickie supports Joey, noting that Janiro would be an apt opponent because he is so good-looking and popular. Vickie's comment triggers Jake's obsessive jealousy, and he balks at going to training camp and thus leaving Vickie alone. When Jake asks Joey to keep an eye on Vickie while he is gone, Joey suggests taking her out for a night on the town before he leaves. They all go to the Copacabana nightclub, and when Vickie excuses herself to go the ladies room, Salvy, who is there with Tommy, invites her to join them for a drink. Jake warily watches their encounter, and when Vickie returns to the table, accuses her of flirting with Salvy and Tommy. During his match with Janiro, Jake viciously pummels his opponent in the face, destroying his good looks and winning the bout. Following his victory, Jake returns to training camp, and one night while at a nightclub, Joey spots Vickie enter with Salvy and his friends. Pulling her away from Salvy's table, Joey orders Vickie to leave with him, then smashes a glass in Salvy's face. When Salvy follows Joey outside, Joey kicks him, then bangs him in the head with a taxicab door. Afterward, Tommy summons Joey and Salvy, his arm in a sling and his face bandaged, to his headquarters at the Debonair Social Club and orders them to forget their argument and shake hands. After Salvy departs, Tommy warns Joey that Jake is embarrassing him by not accepting his patronage. Although Joey argues that Jake wants to make it on his own, Tommy counters that Jake will never get a chance at the title without his help. Upon Jake's return from training camp, Joey reports that Tommy has offered him a shot at the title in exchange for throwing a match with Billy Fox. During the fight, Jake offers no resistance to Fox, allowing his opponent to strike him at will until being declared the victor. As Jake later tearfully relates to his cornermen, he did not know any other way to lose. Following the fight, Jake is suspended by the boxing board while the district attorney probes into the possibility of a fixed fight. Two years later, in 1949, Jake faces middleweight champion Marcel Cerdan in a title bout. Before the match, Tommy comes to Jake's hotel room to wish him good luck, but after Tommy kisses Vickie goodbye and leaves, Jake slaps her and demands to know why she is so friendly with Tommy. After Jake wins the bout on a technical knockout in the tenth round, the referee straps the championship belt around his waist. By 1950, Jake has developed a paunch from his extensive binges of eating and drinking, although he is set to defend his title in a month. Still insanely jealous of Vickie, Jake suspects that she and Salvy had an affair, and when Joey denies it, Jake irrationally accuses him of having an affair with her. In response, Joey advises Jake to indulge in more sex and less food. Jake then goes to Vickie's bedroom to ask if she had sex with his brother. Offended, she locks herself in the bathroom, after which he breaks down the door and slaps her. Proceeding to Joey's house, Jake pulls his brother away from dinner with his family and begins to beat him, accusing him of adultery with Vickie. When Vickie arrives, he punches her, prompting her to go home and pack her things. She later tells Jake that she is leaving him, but his more subdued, contrite demeanor causes her to relent and she agrees to stay, although the brothers remain estranged. In 1951 Jake faces Robinson to defend his championship title in the "fight of the year." As Joey watches the bout on television, Robinson viciously pounds Jake, sending streams of blood trickling down his legs and spewing from his mouth. Even though Robinson is declared the new champion, Jake remains cocky and defiant. Five years later, in 1956, Jake, now living in Florida and grown fat and bloated, announces his retirement from boxing and the opening of his eponymous nightclub. As emcee, Jake tells crude jokes and flirts with underage women customers. Tired of Jake's abuse, Vickie finally files for divorce and takes custody of the children. One evening, while sleeping in his office, Jake is arrested for pandering to underage customers. To pay his legal fees, Jake smashes his championship belt to pry out the jewels, only to be informed by the pawnbroker that the belt was worth much more intact. Unable to raise the money for his defense, Jake, bellicose and belligerent, is thrown into solitary confinement, where he slams his head against the wall and sobs that he is not an animal. By 1958, Jake, now out of jail and living in New York, has been reduced to introducing his new wife, Emma, a stripper known as "Miss 48's," in a dive bar. One night, he spots Joey walking down the street and runs after him. Although Jake smothers him with hugs and kisses, Joey, still angry, shrugs him off. In 1964, Jake rehearses his lines for his one-night show at the Barbizon Plaza Hotel. As he stands in front of his dressing room mirror, Jake recites the famous speech from On the Waterfront in which "Terry Malloy" accuses his brother, "Charley," of betraying him, saying "I could have had class. I could've been a contender, I could've been somebody¿instead of a bum, which is what I am." Before going on stage, Jake gazes into the mirror and sparring with his reflection, declares, "Go get `em champ. I'm the boss."
Robert De Niro
Lori Anne Flax
James V. Christy
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad
"sweet" Dick Whittington
Robert B. Loring
Vern De Paul
Count Billy Varga
Ted Husing--tv Announcer
Thomas Beansy Lobasso
Sal Serafino Tomassetti
Daniel P. Conte
Sabine Turco Jr.
Silvio Garcia Jr.
Joseph A. Morale
D. J. Blair
Richard A. Berk
Bob Evan Collins
Glenn Leigh Marshall
Gene Allan Poe
Leonard B. John
Terry L. Adams
Edward D. Arter
Cesere Andrea Bixio
Peter J. Breen
James D. Brubaker
Jean De Niro
Mílton De Oliveira
Gary S. Gerlich
Frederick W. Hendricks
David J. Kimball
Jake La Motta
William J. Lowry Sr.
Donald O. Mitchell
Modern Film Effects
Susan E. Morse
Betty M. Nowell
Orchestra Of Bologna Municop Thetra
Hal W. Polaire
Erik T. Ramberg
Jean Burt Reilly
Sylvia Fay Casting
Lou Toth Jr.
James Van Heusen
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
In examining the rise and fall of Jake LaMotta, boxing's middleweight champ from 1949-1951, Scorsese, De Niro and their collaborators subverted the long-standing conventions of the sports biopic that a great athlete has to be depicted as a good person. While acknowledging the disregard to physical punishment and unquellable ferocity that made LaMotta such a force in the ring, Raging Bull does not look away from how the boxer's surrender to such animal drives made his personal life a shambles.
After reworking Mardik Martin's original screenplay draft and Paul Schrader's rewrite, Scorsese and De Niro had to sell the film's backers on the notion of shooting in black and white. The director had wanted Raging Bull to stand apart from the sequels to Rocky (1976) and the rest of the spate of boxing films prevalent in the late '70s. "On top of that, though, it would also help us with the period look of the film," Scorsese recalled for Mary Pat Kelly in Martin Scorsese: A Journey (Thunder's Mouth Press). "We had an idea of making the film look like a tabloid, like the Daily News, like Weegee photographs. That was the concept, so they talked about that, and said, 'Okay, all right.'"
As a result, Raging Bull offers an impeccable recreation of the look and feel of the Bronx in the WWII years, where LaMotta (De Niro) has established himself as one of the up-and-coming club fighters. His brother/handler Joey (Joe Pesci) essentially has his hands full keeping the volatile Jake in line, while keeping the local mob that wants to be guiding Jake's career at bay. Jake, however, is very much used to having his way, and not just with his ring opponents, as when he turns his back on his tumultuous life with his first wife (Lori Anne Flax) and takes up with Vickie (Cathy Moriarty), a striking fifteen-year-old that he spies at a public pool.
As the '40s wear on, Jake's ring dominance continues, as shown through the grueling yet compelling recreations of great bouts that Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Chapman so brilliantly choreographed. While beating, among others, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake marries Vickie and starts a family. By 1947, however, he has laid all opposition to waste, and boxing's corrupt powers-that-be have no interest in offering him a title shot unless he starts playing the game their way. Directed to throw his match against Billy Fox, he complies so unconvincingly that a congressional inquiry results and his career is ultimately jeopardized.
Two years later, things have blown over, and Jake makes the most of his opportunity by stripping the belt from Marcel Cerdan. Though he's reached his professional pinnacle, Jake's home life continues to decline, as his jealous possessiveness of Vickie frays their marriage. His paranoid suspicions build unabated, and having wrongly suspected an affair between Vickie and Joey, he gives his brother a vicious pummeling that ends their relationship. With Joey no longer in his corner, Jake loses his title to Robinson in 1951, and is out of the sport within three years.
An increasingly overweight Jake opts to spend his retirement in Florida, operating a chintzy nightspot in Miami. Vickie soon takes the kids and leaves, and after a decidedly mature-looking teenage patron gets him in trouble with local law enforcement, the Bronx Bull finds himself in the slammer, raging against his own self-destructive behavior. Raging Bull closes as it opens, on a 40-year-old LaMotta rehearsing a nightclub novelty act where he intersperses dramatic readings with sadder-but-wiser commentary on his professional and personal failings.
Much has been made of the reportedly 50+ pounds that De Niro gained and shed in order to portray LaMotta in his middle years, but the caliber of his Oscar-winning craftwork should not be obscured by that aspect of his preparations. From the obstinate refusal to show his opponents his pain, to his paranoid venting with his fists to those closest to him, to the rending displays of humiliation and anguish in the wake of the thrown bout, De Niro ran a harrowing gamut of emotions in his performance. "I think of Jake as someone just battering along, doing all the wrong things, getting banged around," De Niro stated to Baker. "He made all the wrong choices about things, sometimes for the right reasons, sometimes, maybe, just because he didn't want to be told what to do."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also handed out supporting nominations to the pair of unknowns that had made such indelible impressions. Pesci, who had worked on the stage since he was a child, was about to throw up his hands with acting when Scorsese and De Niro contacted him on the strength of his work in an obscure "B" shocker, The Death Collector (1975). The coiled-spring intensity that he brought to the role of Joey sparked a litany of supporting efforts and character leads in the years since, including his Oscar-winning turn in Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990). Moriarty, a Bronx teenager recruited for her striking resemblance to the real Vickie LaMotta, held her own against the imposing presence of De Niro with a remarkably assured performance. Her on-screen appearances since Raging Bull have been sporadic, but uniformly worthwhile (Soapdish (1991), Cop Land (1997) and Analyze That, 2002).
The Academy gave its prize for editing to Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese's NYU schoolmate who spliced his student feature Who's That Knocking At My Door? and every feature the director has made in the wake of Raging Bull. "When I won the Academy Award, I felt it was Marty's," Schoonmaker stated in an interview. "He should have won as director. I felt that my award was his award because I know that I won it for the fight sequences, and the fight sequences are as brilliant as they are because of the way Marty thought them out." In addition to being up for Best Picture, Raging Bull also secured nominations for Chapman (Best Cinematography) and the sound crew (Donald O. Mitchell, Bill Nicholson, David J. Kimball and Les Lazarowitz).
Producer: Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Paul Schrader, Mardik Martin, based on the Autobiography of Jake LaMotta
Art Direction: Kirk Axtell, Sheldon Haber, Alan Manser
Cinematography: Michael Chapman
Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker
Music: Robbie Robertson
Cast: Robert De Niro (Jake LaMotta), Cathy Moriarty (Vickie LaMotta), Joe Pesci (Joey LaMotta), Frank Vincent (Salvy), Nicholas Colasanto (Tommy Como), Teresa Saldana (Lenore La Motta), Mario Gallo (Mario).
BW-129m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jay Steinberg
Although some modern sources list a working title of The Life of Jake La Motta, and a 1976 Los Angeles Times news item referred to the film as The Prizefighter, all other sources from 1975 onward used the title Raging Bull or, occasionally, The Raging Bull. The opening credits are presented in black-and-white, except for the film's title, which appears in bold red letters. The credits roll over shots of "Jake La Motta" (Robert De Niro) as he shadowboxes in the ring before La Motta's 1949 middleweight championship victory against Marcel Cerdan.
In the opening cast credits, Floyd Anderson, Johnny Barnes, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Kevin Mahon, Louis Raftis and Johnny Turner are all listed under the heading "Fighters," with their respective character names. In the end credits, each name is listed alongside its respective character name, grouped, along with other actors, under headings for specific fights.
Just before the end credits, a quotation from The New English Bible John IX, 24-26 is presented, with each line illuminated as it appears onscreen: "So, for the second time, [the Pharisees] summoned the man who had been blind and said: 'Speak the truth before God. We know this fellow is a sinner.' 'Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know,' the man replied. 'All I know is this: once I was blind and now I can see.'" The quotation is followed by a written remembrance to Haig P. Manoogian, "with love and resolution, Marty." Manoogian, who died on May 26, 1980, was director Martin Scorsese's film professor at New York University. The credit for The Big Fights, Inc. was an acknowledgment for providing "Jake La Motta screening material and the voice of Ted Husing announcing the actual La Motta-Robinson fight (February 14, 1951)." The end credits also acknowledge the use of excerpts from the soundtrack of the 1939 Hal Roach production of Of Mice and Men, directed by Lewis Milestone, with music by Aaron Copland and excerpts from the screenplay for On the Waterfront (1954, ) written by Budd Schulberg.
Following the opening credits, a title card reads "New York City 1964," during which a visibly overweight De Niro, as La Motta, is rehearsing for a performance at the Barbizon Plaza Hotel in New York City. After the words "Jake La Motta, 1964" are superimposed over a freeze frame of De Niro's face, the frame dissolves into a thinner, younger looking De Niro, with a superimposed title reading "Jake La Motta, 1941." The action then proceeds in chronological order, with frequent inter-titles announcing the year and place. Throughout the film, the various boxing matches are preceded by title cards announcing the respective fights, as well as the city and year in which they took place.
For the years between 1943 and 1947, the passage of time is presented through a montage of title cards, still photographs of various boxing matches and grainy color "home movies" of La Motta, his brother "Joey" (Joe Pesci), Jake's second wife "Vickie" (Cathy Moriarty) and their respective families. The home movies are the only color sequences in the otherwise black-and-white film. At the end of the film, the action returns to 1964, when La Motta is once again in his dressing room, rehearsing for his Barbizon Plaza act, which is advertised as dramatic readings from "Paddy Chayefsky, Rod Serling, Shakespeare, Budd Schulberg and Tennessee Williams." Sitting at his dressing table, he looks at himself in the mirror and begins to recite the "I could've been a contender" speech from Schulberg's screenplay for On the Waterfront. The scene ends with La Motta shadowboxing in front of the mirror before going onstage.
New York boxer Jake La Motta (1921-), a tough, former juvenile delinquent known as the "Bronx Bull," fought over 100 professional fights and was the Middleweight Champion of the World from June 16, 1949 to February 14, 1951. As shown in the film, La Motta took the title from Marcel Cerdan when the French champion was unable to start the 10th round of their match. La Motta lost the title to famed boxer and frequent opponent Sugar Ray Robinson in the 13th round of their 1951 bout. Although technically knocked out, La Motta never fell to the mat, a feat he often bragged about and which was recreated in the film.
After La Motta quit the ring in 1954, he had several unsuccessful business ventures, including a Florida nightclub, and eventually became a stand-up comedian and nightclub performer. As depicted in the film, he had a violent marriage to his second wife, Vickie Thailer La Motta (1930-2005), which was characterized by jealousy and physical abuse that eventually led to their divorce. In his 1970 autobiography, written by Joseph Carter and Peter Savage (who also served as the film's associate producer), La Motta publicly admitted what he often had denied over the years, that he threw his 1947 match against Billy Fox. As in the film, La Motta stated that the reason he threw the fight was to have a chance to go against reigning champion Cerdan.
According to several contemporary sources, the idea for a film based on La Motta's life began in 1973 while De Niro was filming The Godfather, Part II (1974, ) in Sicily. When the actor read La Motta's autobiography, he thought that it would make an engrossing movie and brought the book to Scorsese, with whom he had worked on Mean Streets (, 1973), and suggested that he direct it. According to a May 1, 1975 Daily Variety news item, Dino De Laurentiis initially planned to produce the film, but by 1976, Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler were the producers. In an interview for a November 15, 1996 Los Angeles Times article on the 20th anniversary of another successful Chartoff-Winkler production, Rocky (see below), Winkler stated that he and his partner agreed to produce Rocky II (1979) for United Artists only if UA also agreed to finance Raging Bull.
Various news items from 1976 through 1978 referred to several announced production dates, with shooting initially scheduled for late 1976, after Scorsese completed New York, New York (1977), then November 1978 and finally, spring 1979. A April 19, 1978 Daily Variety news item reported that the film's budget was to be in the "$6,000,000 range" and that screenwriter Paul Schrader was at that time in the process of rewriting the script prepared by Mardik Martin. Numerous contemporary and modern sources confirm that Schrader extensively re-wrote the script submitted to Scorsese by Martin, who shared screenwriting credit with Schrader. According to modern sources and interviews with the filmmakers, the production was nearly dropped by Scorsese, who had initially expressed disinterest in doing a boxing movie. However, when De Niro visited Scorsese while he was hospitalized in 1978, he convinced his friend to re-start the project, and the two spent three weeks together working on the script's dialogue and characterizations, according to modern interviews.
Prior to the start of filming, as reported in a November 23, 1980 New York Times feature article, De Niro trained for over twelve months [other sources reported six or eight months] with La Motta at the Gramercy Gym in New York City. In various interviews, La Motta complimented De Niro for his tenacity and mastery of boxing techniques. According to many sources, because he had trained so well, De Niro did not need a boxing double for any of the picture's fight scenes.
Principal photography began on the MGM lot in Culver City on April 16, 1979, where interiors were shot. According to trade publication news items, the production moved to New York City in Jun, where the exteriors and some additional interiors were shot. The production went on hiatus in early August to allow De Niro to gain weight for the later portions of the film in which he portrayed La Motta as older and much heavier. Contemporary and modern sources variously report De Niro's weight gain as 40, 50, 55 and 60 pounds, with most reporting it as 55. Virtually all reviews of Raging Bull commented on De Niro's weight gain, which through the years has remained a touchstone for an actor's dedication to realism.
Production resumed on December 3, 1979 in Los Angeles, where both interior and exterior scenes set in Florida were shot, as were the dressing room and some additional interiors. The company then moved back to New York City, where some interiors and the night scenes of the older La Motta were shot. Filming wrapped in New York in late December 1979, more than eight months after principal photography began.
Although news items reported that the picture was to be released in time for Memorial Day weekend 1980, according to a January 9, 1980 Hollywood Reporter news item, editing and post-production delays caused it to be pulled from UA's summer releasing schedule. A November 4, 1980 Hollywood Reporter article reported that the picture was to have been the closing night event for the November 1980 London Film Festival, and had already been included in the festival's printed program, but was withdrawn at the last minute. The picture eventually opened in three cities, New York, Los Angeles and Toronto, on November 14, 1980. Several trade paper news items in January 1981 reported that the J. Arthur Rank Organisation circuit refused to book playdates for Raging Bull in its London cinemas so that, when the picture was finally released in Britain, it played in only a few independent houses in London. The picture was, however, the opening night feature for the Berlin Film Festival on 13 February 1981.
Music and sound are prominent aspects of the film, as acknowledged by Scorsese and many contemporary and modern critics. The only sound during the credits is the film's primary thematic music, the "Intermezzo" from the 1890 opera Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, played by the Orchestra of Bologna Municop Thetra, conducted by Arturo Basile. The film's score did not include any original music, but consisted of various musical passages from the works of Mascagni, interwoven with popular songs and melodies that represented the passage of time, as well as the picture's various moods.
Many of the songs included in the screen credits are barely audible within the film, with some numbers heard in the background as if being played on radios or in clubs as the characters pass in and out of a scene. Many critics commented on the effectiveness of the score, which film historians have pointed to as a pioneering work in the effective mix of classical and contemporary music. As noted in a feature article in Hollywood Reporter in January 2005, the Raging Bull soundtrack was not released until 2005. According to Robbie Robertson, who was the music producer for the score, the soundtrack release was delayed because of rights and clearances issues complicated by the large number of songs and performers.
In addition to the music track, various tracks of sound enhanced the film's overall impact. In many scenes background noises almost overpower the dialogue spoken by the main characters. In other scenes, especially the fight scenes, there is no sound, followed by intermittent bursts of sound. During some more intimate scenes, the dialogue is low, with additional, ambient sounds reflecting outside noises or, in one scene, the hum of static on a television set.
Michael Westmore, a member of the famous Westmore of Hollywood family of cosmeticians, created the makeup for the film. Reviews and feature articles praised Westmore's work, which transformed De Niro's face to resemble La Motta's, including the characteristic broken fighter's nose, and aged him from the fit young man of the early 1940s to the haggard, overweight man of the mid-1960s. Westmore also created the prosthetic nose for actor Kevin Mahon, who portrayed Tony Janiro, a boxer whose face was mercilessly battered by La Motta in one of the film's most brutal scenes, the result of La Motta's unwarranted fit of jealousy over a casual remark made by Vickie about Janiro's good looks.
Critical praise was also high for editor Thelma Schoonmaker, as well as for cinematographer Michael Chapman, a frequent Scorsese collaborator. In an article in Millimeter, Chapman described the various techniques he used to give the film both its period feel and realism, particularly in the boxing scenes which are central to the story but encompass little more than ten minutes of screen time. Among other things, Chapman described building a device that could be used to hold numerous old-fashioned flashbulbs that would give the distinctive "pop" and flash of light needed for the scenes in the ring.
In interviews, Scorsese stated that the original idea to film in black-and-white was actually the result of a discussion Scorsese had with famed British director Michael Powell, who watched 8mm rehearsal shots of a fight scene and suggested that the color of the boxing gloves looked wrong. According to Scorsese, it was then that he decided to have the film shot in black-and-white.
Raging Bull marked the motion picture debut of Moriarty, who was only twenty at the time of the film's production and had never acted before. Some feature articles reported that she was selected after Pesci, who had worked in New York's garment district, where she was a model, brought her to Scorsese's attention. Her selection followed a pre-production publicity campaign to fill the role of Vickie that included, according to a August 21, 1978 Hollywood Reporter ad, an open casting call for "Young woman to play 15-30 years old. Must be blonde and have excellent figure. No regional accents except New York." Raging Bull was only the second film role for Pesci, who had been a theatrical child actor, but had quit acting after appearing in the 1976 film The Death Collector. Raging Bull also marked the screen debut of actor John Turturro, who had a bit role as one of the young men sitting with Jake and Joey at the dance when the priest comes to their table. Modern sources add Joseph Bergmann, Bruno DiGiorgi, Marty Farrell, Tony Lip, Dennis O'Neill, McKenzie Westmore and Jimmy Williams to the cast.
Reviews were mostly laudatory, with critics lavishing praise on De Niro's performance and the film's startlingly realistic and violent fight scenes. The Variety critics wrote that "Not since The Harder They Fall in 1956 have boxing scenes been filmed with such terrific intensity," a sentiment that was echoed in many contemporary reviews, which frequently wrote about the numerous slow motion shots that added to the brutality of the fight sequences. Contemporary critics had mixed opinions of the overall effectiveness of Scorsese's direction, although Los Angeles Times critic Charles Champlin, one of the film's principal supporters, called it "Scorsese's most perfectly shaped film."
The film was one of the top box-office films of 1981, having gradually opened in a greater numbers of cities in North America in early 1981. News items reported that, following the picture's eight Academy Award nominations, UA released it in many additional venues.
Raging Bull received two Academy Awards, one for De Niro as Best Actor and the other for Schoonmaker for Film Editing. The film also received the following six nominations: Best Picture, Directing, Supporting Actor (Pesci), Supporting Actress (Moriarty), Cinematography (Chapman) and Sound (Donald O. Mitchell, Bill Nicholson, David J. Kimball and Les Lazarowitz). In addition, De Niro won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Dramatic role, as well as being named Best Actor by many major critics. Scorsese was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Director and for the Best Director award by the Directors Guild of America, but failed to win either award, which, like the Oscar for Best Director, eluded him until 2007, when he won for The Departed.
In the wake of the popularity of Raging Bull, La Motta and ex-wife Vickie became celebrities, often appearing at New York social gatherings, occasionally together. According to contemporary articles about the film, they went to one screening of the film together and when La Motta asked his former wife if he was as bad as he appeared in the movie, she replied that he was worse. According to a January 6, 1981 Hollywood Reporter news item, Stephanie La Motta, one of Jake and Vickie's three children, disliked the film's violent portrayal of her father, whom she was quoted as calling "a very meek and mild-mannered man."
In December 1981, Vickie, who was then fifty-one, appeared in a nude centerfold spread in Playboy, and in 1986, another La Motta autobiography, Raging Bull II, was ghostwritten by Chris Anderson and Sharon McGhee. A New York magazine article on December 8, 1980 reported that La Motta's brother Joey was planning a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Scorsese, De Niro and United Artists, charging defamation of character, but no additional information about such a suit has been located. July 1981 news items in Los Angeles Times and Daily Variety reported that Joseph Carter, who co-authored La Motta's autobiography, was suing him for nonpayment of revenues based on La Motta's profits from the movie rights to the book, but the disposition of that dispute is undetermined.
Over the years since its release, the critical reputation of Raging Bull has increased. It was re-released in 1990 on the heels of several polls of national film critics, including Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, and the staffs of Premiere and American Film magazines, who named it the best film of the decade. On the film's 25th anniversary, it had a gala anniversary screening at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre that was attended by Scorsese, De Niro, La Motta and many of the film's principals. A two-disc 25th anniversary DVD was also released a few weeks later. In 2007, Raging Bull was ranked 4th on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies-10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving up from the 24th position it occupied on AFI's 1997 list.
In recent American Film Critics' Surveys "Raging Bull" was voted "Best Film of the Decade" (1980-1989).
Martin Scorsese was nominated for outstanding directorial achievement by the Directors Guild of America.
Voted Best Actor (De Niro) and Best Supporting Actor (Pesci) by the 1980 New York Film Critics Circle.
Voted Best Actor (De Niro), Best Supporting Actor (Pesci), and One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1980 National Board of Review.
Voted Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Pesci), and Best Cinematography by the 1980 National Society of Film Critics.
Voted Best Picture and Best Actor (De Niro) by the 1980 Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1980 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States April 1991
Released in United States Fall November 1980
Released in United States February 1996
Released in United States September 1996
Re-released in United States August 4, 2000
Re-released in United States January 5, 1990
Released in USA on video.
Selected in 1990 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Re-released in Paris June 20, 1990.
Re-released in Tel Aviv June 1990.
Re-released in United States January 5, 1990 (Los Angeles)
Released in United States February 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Martin Scorsese" February 17-25, 1996.)
Released in United States April 1991 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Scorsese/De Niro Retrospective) April 13 & 14, 1991.)
Re-released in United States August 4, 2000 (Film Forum; New York City)
Released in United States September 1996 (Shown in New York City (Anthology Film Archives) as part of program "Best of the Indies" September 5-15, 1996.)
Released in United States Fall November 1980