Bette Davis and Edward G. Robinson in Kid Galahad (1937)


(director: Michael Curtiz; screenwriter: Seton Miller/based on the novel by Francis Wallace; cinematographer: Tony Gaudio; editor: George Amy; music: Heinz Roemheld/Max Steiner; cast: Edward G. Robinson (Nick Donati), Bette Davis (Louise “Fluff” Phillips), Humphrey Bogart (Turkey Morgan), Wayne Morris (Kid Galahad/Ward Guisenberry), Jane Bryan (Marie Donati), Joseph Crehan (Editor Brady), Veda Ann Borg (Redhead at Party), Frank Faylen (Barney), Joyce Compton (Drunken Girl on Phone), Horace McMahon (Reporter), Mary Doran (Operator), Don DeFore (Reporter), William Haade (Chuck McGraw), Joe Cunningham (Joe Taylor), Harry Carey (); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Samuel Bischoff; Warner Brothers; 1937)

“The popular film became a boxing classic for the 1930s.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Kid Galahad was remade in a circus setting (as The Wagons Roll at Night, 1941) and again as an Elvis Presley vehicle in 1962 by Phil Karlson. Director Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”/”The Man in the Net”/”The Comancheros”)deftly keeps this hybrid gangster-boxing film going the distance despite its familiar tale of boxing corruption. It’s adapted by Seton Miller from the novel by Francis Wallace–which was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post. The popular film became a boxing classic for the 1930s (one of the first boxing films that realistically filmed the boxing scenes with brutality), and it wasn’t until the late 1940s that Body and Soul replaced it as a more acclaimed boxing pic.

Hard-nosed fight manager Nick Donati (Edward G. Robinson) learns that his boxer double-crossed him by taking a dive from rival mobster manager Turkey Morgan (Humphrey Bogart). During a party at Donati’s hotel room, a naive hayseed muscular bellhop named Ward Guisenberry (Wayne Morris) kayos Morgan’s main boxer, primed to be the next heavyweight champ, Chuck McGraw (William Haade), after he insults Donati’s mistress, Louise “Fluff” Phillips (Bette Davis). A ring fight is then scheduled by the two managers, as the business-minded Donati sees this as a way to make some coin and Turkey as a way for his fighter to get revenge. The bellhop agrees, as he hopes to earn enough dough to buy a farm. To everyone’s surprise, the bellhop wins the fight and has to leave town to avoid Turkey’s goons. Fluff, who develops a crush on the bellhop, arranges he hide out at Nick’s family’s farm.

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

The bellhop, now known as Kid Galahad, returns to the city and becomes a winning boxer under Donati’s tutelage. Unaware that Fluff is smitten with him, the Kid tells her of his love for Donati’s sweet innocent sister Marie (Jane Bryan). She advises that he tell Marie his feelings. Fluff also realizes that she no longer loves Donati and leaves him to sing in a nightclub. When Donati learns that the Kid loves Marie and believes that Fluff left him for the Kid, he seeks to get revenge on the Kid by fixing the fight between his client and Turkey’s champion client. Fluff intervenes by telling the Kid not to dump the fight. When the Kid wins, Turkey thinks Donati double-crossed him and thereby fatally plugs Donati.