"Rocky" was a pop cultural phenomenon that pulled off the rare achievement of winning the Academy Award for Best Picture while reigning as the top grossing movie of the year. Though many cinephiles grouse that it shouldn't have won the Oscar over instant classics like "All the President's Men," "Network," and "Taxi Driver," voters and regular moviegoers alike were eager to shake off the misery of the recently concluded Vietnam War. They wanted to feel good about themselves and humanity, so they rallied around the movie that sent them walking out of the theater on air.

Given that "The Godfather Part II" had just become the first sequel to win Best Picture, there was no shame in making a follow-up where Sylvester Stallone's gutsy pugilist goes back on his word and agrees to a rematch with Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). The difference, though, is that nearly everything we loved about Rocky in the first movie has been washed away by his overnight success. He's no longer a cash-strapped club boxer who makes ends meet by throwing a scare into dock workers for a local loan shark (a task to which he's hilariously ill-suited because he's too much of a nice guy to break so much as a finger), and he's now married to a less-shy Adrian (Talia Shire). Perhaps most importantly, he's not an underdog anymore.

With all this going against it, could "Rocky II" repeat the critical and commercial success of the first movie? Before we get into that, though, let's talk about the film's alternate Adrian-centric ending.

A Paint-By-Numbers Sequel

To raise the stakes, Sylvester Stallone added a soap opera-ish twist wherein Adrian goes comatose after giving birth to her son prematurely. Because she had been vehemently against Rocky taking the rematch, our hero quits training and pledges to be at her bedside until she rouses. Upon waking up, she has a sudden change of heart and tells Rocky there's one thing he can do for her: win. The scene works superbly, but it also launches "Rocky II" into the realm of cliched sports movies.

According to a 2011 interview with background performer Charle Firus at Total Rocky, Stallone nearly leaned even heavier into shopworn business by having Adrian once again join a battered Balboa in the ring at the end of the film. This time, Rocky wins, so when she rushes into the squared circle, she's hoisted up by the crowd to her victorious husband, who hands her the belt to thrust triumphantly in the air. Per Firus:

"I can't remember those rapid few seconds of the rushing that well –- it was great fun though. It seems like Adrian entered a few seconds after the first wave of us did. Hers was a separate shot I think, and Talia [Shire] was helped up and into to the ring by a few stuntmen. It all happened very quickly."

Stallone Sacrificed His Oscar Cachet

Sylvester Stallone wisely scrapped the scene, which has, to date, never been included on a DVD or Blu-ray. Total Rocky has a still image of the moment, however, and it looks every bit as corny as it sounds. It wouldn't have ruined the movie, but having Adrian watch at home isolates Rocky just a little. Aside from Mickey (Burgess Meredith), he's alone in that arena.

"Rocky II" was a hit with moviegoers in 1979 (it ranked third at that year's box office behind "Superman" and "The Amityville Horror"), but critics were less enthusiastic this time out. In her 1979 review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote:

"'Rocky II' has a waxy feeling, and it never comes to life the way its predecessor did. As the characters go through their stock routines — Talia Shire shyly whispering 'I love you,' Mr. Stallone making self-deprecating jokes, Burgess Meredith telling the kid he's either a bum or a hero — you get the feeling that you've been here before. Well, you have."

There would be no Academy Award rematch for the Italian Stallion that year. Whereas the original was nominated for nine Oscars, "Rocky II" was completely shunned. Three years later, Stallone would turn the boxer's saga into a comic book with "Rocky III," which, despite being the greatest movie ever made, was also shut out by the Academy. Stallone's critical reputation might've been tarnished, but he was now one of the biggest stars on the planet. That's a not-altogether-awful trade-off.

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The post Rocky II Shot An Alternate Ending For Adrian That Never Made The Screen appeared first on /Film.