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If you were a starving artist and a major studio offered you $350,000 for your screenplay, would you jump at the offer? Sylvester Stallone did not, even though he was so broke in 1975 that he tried to sell his dog because he couldn't afford to feed it. He held out until United Artists agreed to let him star in the movie he had written: The studio would much rather have bought the script for Robert Redford or James Caan. But sticking to his guns paid off, as Stallone got what he wanted, and a franchise was born.

Forty years after its release, we're looking back on the original ROCKY, which took the world by storm during the year America celebrated its 200th year of freedom. Cranked out in a few short weeks on a shoestring budget, director John Avildsen's film went on to win Best Picture, triumphing over such high-profile pictures as NETWORK and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN. Seen today, it's noticeably grittier and more realistic than its increasingly slick sequels, with still-potent performances from Stallone, Burgess Meredith, Talia Shire and Burt Young.
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