Kid Galahad (1937): Curtiz’ Boxing Melodrama, Starring

Michael Curtiz directed Kid Galahad, a generic if well acted boxing drama, boasting Warner’s top talent, Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and in the title role handsome newcomer Wayne Morris.

Kid Galahad
Kid Galahad (1937) film poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Grade: C+ (** out of *****)

The movie was remade twice: in 1941, in a circus setting, as “The Wagons Roll at Night,” also with Bogart, and in 1962 as “Kid Galahad,” as an Elvis Presley musical.

This version was retitled “The Battling Bellhop” when shown on TV in order to avoid confusion with the Presley remake.

Set in Florida, the tale was scripted by Seton I. Miller, with uncredited contribution from Lawrence Riley, playwright of the Broadway hit “Personal Appearance.” 

Robinson plays boxing promoter Nick Donati, gets double-crossed by his boxer, who throws a fight for a $25,000 bribe from gangster Turkey Morgan (Humphrey Bogart).

Nick and his girlfriend “Fluff” (Bette Davis) throw a wild party with the money they have left, before looking for a new boxing prospect. Nick orders naive young farmer turned hotel bellhop Ward Guisenberry (Wayne Morris) to mix some drinks, but he does not know how, and Fluff helps him out.

When Morgan, underling Buzz Barret (Ben Welden), and Chuck McGraw (William Haade), his fighter and new heavyweight champion, arrive uninvited, Ward does not like it when the somewhat drunk McGraw pushes Fluff, so he punches him, knocking him to the ground. Nick is impressed, and persuades him to try boxing.

In Ward’s first fight, against McGraw’s experienced brother, he wins by knockout. To protect him from Morgan’s wrath, Nick sends him, Fluff and ringside assistant Silver Jackson (Harry Carey) to New York. However, Morgan is waiting outside their usual hotel. He tries to get Ward to sign with him, but Ward knocks him down, insisting he will only sign with Nick.

Fluff decides to hide the handsome man at Nick’s mother’s farm, where he meets Nick’s sister, Marie (Jane Bryan), after her convent education. But Nick does not want his family mixed with boxing and takes Ward back to the city.

The tale is utterly predictable and replete with cliches, even by standards of the 1930s.  We guess the fate of Bette Davis and Robinson as mismatched lovers, and the inevitably fatal rivalrly between Robinson and  Bogart as two crooked boxing promoters.  In the end, even a skillful craftsman like Curtiz cannot elevate the melodrama above its generic trappings.

Cast
Edward G. Robinson as Nick Donati
Bette Davis as Louise “Fluff” Phillips
Humphrey Bogart as Turkey Morgan
Wayne Morris as Ward Guisenberry “Kid Galahad”
Jane Bryan as Marie Donati
Harry Carey as Silver Jackson
William Haade as Chuck McGraw
Soledad Jiménez as Mrs. Donati

Credits:

Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Samuel Bischoff, Hal B. Wallis, Jack L. Warner
Screenplay by Seton I. Miller, based on Saturday Evening Post story by Francis Wallace
Music by Heinz Roemheld and Max Steiner
Cinematography Tony Gaudio
Edited by George Amy
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date May 26, 1937
Running time: 102 minutes

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