KID GALAHAD (1937) 

Edward G. Robinson
Bette Davis
Humphrey Bogart
Wayne Morris
Jane Bryan
Harry Carey
William Haade
Soledad Jimenez
Joe Cunningham

Michael Curtiz



About Robinson

About Davis

Time: 102 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Film Noir/Crime

I'm surprised I was so taken with this film. After all, it was 1am and all I wanted was to be asleep. I thought what better topic to put me out than a flick about boxing. What I found was an engaging piece that has everything anyone can ask for in a movie – unrequited love, true romance, bloody betrayal, inveterate boozing, mob rivalries and men beating each other to a bloody pulp. Of course, this film was shot long before the realism of ROCKY and RAGING BULL, which means a few bruises and the occasional bloody nose. We can't have our matinee idols looking too grotesque. What gives this somewhat run-of-the-mill story an extra kick in the pants is the amazing talent of its three leads – Robinson, Davis and Bogart.

Both Davis and Bogart are still in the early phases of their careers here, playing characters from the wrong side of the tracks and years away from the more upscale leading roles that would make them super stars. Bogey plays a great bad guy. There's something about his dark eyes and smarmy smile that spells trouble with a capital T. He exudes danger in every role, but none more so than when he's working the criminal angle. I'm beginning to think I like Davis more when she's got a little dirt under her nails. As the jaded girlfriend who falls for her fella's new fighter, she gives the film real poignancy as she yearns for a love she will never have and turns her back on the one man who ever truly loved her. She plays a woman who's clearly sexy, but also one with brains and dignity. More at home hanging with the guys than chatting with the ladies. She speaks volumes with her eyes and from the beginning you know this story is not going to have a happy ending.

It begins with a double-cross at a boxing match set up by rival promoters, Nick Donatti (Robinson) and Turkey Morgan (Bogart). (Only Bogey could carry that name off without a snicker). It seems Turkey was able to convince Nick's fighter to take a dive, costing Nick the title and a whole bunch of cash. Of course, he can't prove it, so instead of sulking he throws the party to end all parties. Fluff (Davis), his longtime girlfriend, tries to get him to leave it alone. He can't win against Turkey and his boys. They are mobsters, who will kill him without batting an eye if he calls them out or tries to trick them in any way. It doesn't really matter if Nick wants revenge or not because he doesn't have a fighter to go against them.

"It seems I'm always ringside at the first fight...and the last."

That is until the new bellhop arrives. Ward (Morris) is a strapping farm boy, trying to make it through his first day without getting fired. He only took the job at the hotel to earn money to buy his own farm. Fluff tries to give him a helping hand. She's immediately taken in by his warm heart and respectful manners. It's been a long time since she was treated so nicely by a man. When Morgan and his boys arrive on the scene to join the party and gloat about their win, things get a little tense. An offhand remark about Fluff by Chuck McGraw, the heavyweight champ, gets him sent to the floor with a right hook courtesy of Ward, who's unaware of the trouble he's just created for himself. No one hits Morgan's fighter without paying for it, so a match is quickly set up to settle the score. Nick couldn't be more excited. Ward just might be his ticket to fame and fortune. Because of his protection of Fluff, they nickname him Kid Galahad. Things get out of hand when Ward solidly wins this low-end match up and he's rushed out of town to protect him from Morgan. Nick believes he can go all the way, so he does whatever he's told, anything that will earn him his nest egg. They hide him out at Nick's mother's house, hoping to keep him out of trouble with Morgan.

The problem is Nick doesn't like mixing business with pleasure and wants to make sure his kid sister Maria (Bryan) stays away from lugs like Ward. They, of course, fall madly in love, which causes problems for all involved later on. The final third of the film has Ward winning his way to a fight with McGraw and a chance at the title. Ward's romance with Maria becomes fodder for the press, which almost gets him dropped by Nick. Fluff, who's fallen hard for Ward, but realizes she has no chance with him, leaves Nick because she can't honestly stay with him when she's in love with someone else. Everything comes to a head at the title fight with Nick playing his final double-cross on Morgan and taking out some of his anger with Ward by making him hold back in the ring. Ward and Maria come out as the only winners in this murky tale of the boxing world. Fluff loses her man and her only chance at true happiness. Nick and Morgan push their rivalry to the brink with both of them coming out on the losing end. Ah, the days when men were men. There are no punches pulled when it comes to the storytelling here.

I've never seen a picture with Robinson before and he really surprised me here. Sure, he's playing a thug, but he still manages to garner your respect and admiration, which is not an easy task. The weakest part of the film is the character of Ward and the love story between him and Maria. I know he's supposed to be a hick from a small town, but Morris is just to stiff and "aw shucks" for my taste. I can certainly see why Maria would be taken with him. He's tall, good-looking and the only man she's ever talked to, thanks to her over-protective brother. It was just a little too quick for me to believe, but since it's merely a sub-plot I can overlook it's superficiality. Davis is wonderful, especially in the later sequences when it's clear she's in love with Ward. It's not hard to understand why she would go for a man like that. Her character can't have received much respect in her life. The fact that she ends up alone breaks your heart.

They do a pretty good job filming the boxing sequences, considering the times and technology on hand. They're exciting without being too bloody, which is a plus in my book. KID GALAHAD is a solid effort, with some soft spots, but worth the time if you're looking for a film that delivers on all fronts. Hell, I stayed up until 3 in the morning to see how it ended. A definite must-see for Davis or Bogart fans.

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