The Bette Davis Project: Kid Galahad (1937, aka The Battling Bellhop)

Kid Galahad (1937, aka The Battling Bellhop)


Boxing manager, Nick Donati (Edward G. Robinson, Key Largo), and his girlfriend, Fluff (Bette Davis), take shy bellhop (Wayne Morris, Brother Rat) under their wings and make him a boxing sensation. Trouble arises when both Fluff and Nick’s kid sister, Marie (Jane Bryan, Marked Woman), fall for the prizefighter.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Back in 1937, Kid Galahad (aka The Battling Bellhop) was considered one of the best sports movies ever made. Film Daily magazine said about the movie, “… easily one of the best fight pictures ever screened.” Time hasn’t been as kind to this film as it has been to movies like Body and Soul (1947) and Champion (1949).

Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) from a screenplay by Seton I. Miller (The Black Swan) and Francis Wallace (The Wagons Roll at Night), this boxing melodrama is far from perfect, but it is entertaining and well-made — the boxing matches are particularly well-staged and edited.

It’s hard not to enjoy a movie with a cast like this one. The script is good, but it is secondary to the performances. Robinson, Davis, and Humphrey Bogart in one film? Are you kidding me? Give me more of that! The fascinating personalities alone make this movie fun to watch.

Davis’s Fluff is not what you’d call a challenging role. Davis does a good job, no question about it, and she looks nice. However, Robinson has the best role in the film, and I think she knew it so she tries to ramp up her game a bit in order not to get swept away by her co-star’s dynamic performance.

Interestingly, Davis and Robinson didn’t get along (Davis and Bogie weren’t crazy about each other either). They do make a nice screen couple and it’s too bad that they didn’t make more movies together. Bogart plays a nasty gangster — he shoves Davis so hard in one scene that she loses her balance — and his scenes with Robinson are charged with high tension.

Newcomer Morris seems overshadowed by the legends. Contemporary critics predicted a bright future for the actor, but he never became star. The cast also includes Harry Carey (Mr Smith Goes To Washington), Frank Faylen (Detective Story), Soledad Jiménez (Bordertown), and William Haade (Union Pacific). Kid Galahad was Nicely shot by Tony Gaudio (The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Great Lie).

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Remade in 1941 as The Wagons Roll at Night (with Bogart in Robinson’s role) and in 1962 as an Elvis Presley musical. B&W, 90 minutes, Not Rated.

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