Kid Galahad / Battling Bellhop, The (1937)

“Did you ever see a bellhop who didn’t want to be a fighter?”

Synopsis:
A boxing manager (Edward G. Robinson) in continuous rivalry with a menacing gangster (Humphrey Bogart) signs on with a handsome and promising bellhop nicknamed “Kid Galahad” (Wayne Morris), but is distressed when his girlfriend (Bette Davis) falls for Galahad and Galahad falls for his sheltered kid sister (Jane Bryan).

Genres:

Review:
Michael Curtiz directed this competently told if unexceptional tale of a naive but good-hearted farmer-turned-bellhop who is so handsome he makes women purr, and instantly causes both Bette Davis and Jane Bryan to fall in love with him. (It’s hard to blame them.) It’s a good thing the film opens with a charming scene in which Davis expresses her long-time devotion to Robinson, so we’ll rest easy as Morris falls for pretty but bratty Bryan instead. However, it’s Davis’s and Morris’s well-being we care most about, which makes it a bit challenging to watch the narrative take pains to separate them (Davis’s nightclub singer is clearly too much of a “loose woman” to deserve an upstanding guy like Morris). Humphrey Bogart merely lurks menacingly on the sidelines, waiting for a chance for his rivalry with Robinson to catch fire, but doesn’t have much of interest to do. This film is more engaging than the 1962 remake with Elvis Presley, but not must-see viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Bette Davis as “Fluff”
  • Wayne Morris as “Kid Galahad”

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a one-time look for both Davis and Morris.

Links:

3 Responses to “Kid Galahad / Battling Bellhop, The (1937)”

  1. First viewing. A once-must – for the performances by Davis, Robinson and Morris, and for the typically dependable direction by Curtiz.

    Full disclosure: I’m not big on boxing films, so I went into this with lower expectations. (Generally speaking, I’m more willing to put up with a boxing film if its emphasis is on something else – i.e., the fraternal relationship in ‘Raging Bull’… but that doesn’t mean a line is always drawn for me that way.)

    What makes this genre film stand out is Seton I. Miller’s script – it’s built in such a way (and with crackling dialogue) that the more-standard nature of the plot becomes compelling. (For me, the only slight drawback is that I don’t completely buy the way the love angle between Morris and Bryan begins and progresses – but I see how it fits into the overall plot and the fact that it comes off as a bit awkward didn’t bother me that much, all things considered.)

    I must say it’s refreshing to see Davis (at least in the first half of the film) being so relaxed, easy-going and fun. She and Robinson have a very nice screen rapport as their relationship is established – and it’s rather unusual for a film of this sort to include the kind of conversation they have in which Davis (who does very good work with subtext throughout) explains about being in love with another man… who isn’t in love with her.

    The complications in the latter part of the film are somewhat unexpected and nicely handled – and Curtiz orchestrates the conclusion with a particular flair.

    Yes, it’s certainly a better film than the Elvis remake – and a surprisingly satisfying one.

    Sidebar: I also took note of the ‘Gowns by Orry-Kelly’ credit and noticed his work here. Ever since seeing the recent doc about Orry-Kelly (‘Women He’s Undressed’), I’ve kept it in mind to be more mindful of what he accomplished along the way of his over-300 film credits.

  2. Interesting you mention Orry-Kelly’s gowns — because in hindsight, Davis was a knockout in all her outfits.

  3. I thought she could have used a better outfit as a chanteuse – but mostly I agree with you. 😉

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