Raging Bull – Giacobbe “Jake” LaMotta
Raging Bull is the story of Italian-American middleweight boxer Giacobbe “Jake” LaMotta as his fortunes, both personally and professionally, rise and fall. The film opens in 1964, after LaMotta’s boxing career has ended, as he practices a comedy routine. The movie then cuts to the past, in 1941, where Jake is an up and coming boxer who has just lost his first bout. The movie centers around his brother, Guiseppe “Joey” LaMotta, who is also his manager and closest friend, and Vikki, his love interest and eventual wife. The influence of the Mafia heavily impact Jake’s career, even leading him to throw a fight despite his severe unwillingness to do so.
As a boxer, LaMotta would become one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of his time, and eventually became the world middleweight champion in 1949. He had a number of matches against the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson, beating him at least once. Although their final fight ended in a loss for LaMotta, he was proud to say that Robinson never knocked him down even once.
Unfortunately, his personal life was not as successful as his boxing career. His jealousy over the possibility of his wife, Vikki, cheating on him shows up time and time again. His growing paranoia eventually leads him to accuse his brother of cheating with his wife, and the physical brawl that ensues ends up with the brothers and friends cutting all ties with each other. LaMotta’s boxing career begins to slowly decline and in 1951, he loses his championship title to Sugar Ray Robinson. In 1954, he retires from boxing.
By 1956, LaMotta has moved to Miami and is the owner and manager of a nightclub. Vikki, who had been planning to leave Jake since his retirement, finally asks for a divorce after Jake stays out all night at his nightclub. Later, he is arrested and charged for introducing under-aged girls to men at his club, He tries to bribe is way out of the criminal case, unsuccessfully, and lands in jail in 1957.
By the end of the movie, he is relegated to performing comedy routines at low rate bars. In the final minutes, the film comes full circle and returns to the beginning, where he gives a speech about how he “coulda been a contender” in reference to the 1954 film On the Waterfront
Contributing author: Daryl George
Raging Bull – Real Life, Reel Differences
- Vikki and Jake were not introduced at a community swimming pool as depicted in the film, but at a workout session which had been opened to allow reporters to speak to Jake.
- Many of the events depicted to have happened between Jake and Joey actually took place between Jake and Pete Petrella, one of Jake’s closest friends. These events included the disagreements about women, his jealousy over Vikki, and even their estrangement and eventual reconciliation.
- In the film, LaMotta gets a shot at the middleweight title against Marcel Cerdan, who he dominates throughout the fight. While this fight did happen, in real life the fight was much closer until Cerdan damaged his right arm. Unable to properly use his right arm, Marcel had to be convinced to throw in the towel against LaMotta.
- LaMotta did actually noticeably throw his fight against Billy Fox, who struggled to put up a respectable fight despite LaMotta giving less than full effort. LaMotta said that the fix was so obvious that “if there was anyone in the (Madison Square) Garden who didn’t know what was happening, he must have been dead drunk”.
- In the movie, Jake goes over to Sugar Ray’s corner in their last bout and tells him that “You never knocked me down” despite being soundly beaten. In real life, this never happened.
- Jake LaMotta was known for quoting screenplays and Shakespeare in his comedy routines after retirement. Although Scorsese initially planned on using dialogue from Richard III that LaMotta had recited in real life, it was suggested that this didn’t seem American enough and didn’t fit in with the tone of the movie. As a result, the final dialogue was chosen from the movie “On the Waterfront,”, which was another favorite source for LaMotta quotes.
- After watching the movie for the first time and understanding how badly he was portrayed as behaving, LaMotta asked his ex-wife Vikki if he was really that bad. Her reply? “You were worse.”
Where Are They Now?
Jake LaMotta, nicknamed the “Bronx Bull” during his fighting years, eventually turned to acting was quite successful, appearing in over 15 films as well as a number of network TV episodes. Jake is also a big baseball fan, and organized the Jake LaMotta All-Star baseball team in the Bronx. In 1960 he was called to testify to a US Senate Subcommittee that was charged with examining criminal influence on boxing, where he admitted that he threw his fight with Billy Fox.
The 1980 film Raging Bull was based on his autobiography published a decade earlier, in 1970. LaMotta became popular on the speaking and autograph circuit after Raging Bull came out and has published a number of books. Ring Magazine named him as one of the top 10 middleweights of all time.
LaMotta was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Vikki and Jake had three children who were depicted in the film – a daughter, Christi, and two sons: Jake Jr. and Joseph. Both sons died in 1998; Jake Jr. from liver cancer and Joseph in an airplane crash just seven months later.
Over the years, LaMotta has kept himself busy with personal appearances and autograph shows, and even marketed a line of pasta sauces for a time. In 2012, at age 90, LaMotta performed in an autobiographical revue titled “Lady and the Champ” that ran off-Broadway for two weeks; that same year, he married for the seventh time.
Here is his official website; it has some biographical information, news about his upcoming appearances, some photos and video footage, and a store to purchase some autographed LaMotta merchandise.
There is another movie set to release in June 2016 about LaMotta, titled “The Bronx Bull”.
Vikki LaMotta went on have a successful modeling career. After Raging Bull was released in 1980, Vikki found renewed fame and was invited to pose nude for Playboy at the age of 51, becoming the oldest woman to do so. She also started her own cosmetics line, Vikki LaMotta Cosmetics, which is still in business as of today. She died in 2005 following complications from an open-heart surgery. As per her request, her autobiography “Knockout! The Sexy, Violent, Extraordinary Life of Vicki LaMotta” was released shortly after her death.
Sugar Ray Robinson retired from boxing in 1952, giving up his middleweight title to enter show business as a singer and dancer. However, his success in the ring did not carry over to the entertainment industry and he returned to boxing in 1955. He regained the middleweight title and had a number of popular fights, drawing tens of thousands of spectators to Yankee Stadium and other well-known venues. He faced an inevitable decline in boxing skills and retired for the second and final time in 1965. He again returned to show business, acting a few small parts TV shows such as Mission Impossible and Land of the Giants, as well as movies such as The Detective and The Todd Killings. He died in 1989 at the age of 67.