Kid Galahad (1962)
Far better than the bulk of Elvis Presley’s later films between 1965 and 1969, Kid Galahad, proves an entertaining outing for the King as long as we look past the actual fight scenes caught on camera considering they’re not exactly Raging Bull quality. What we can’t look past are the solid performances of those supporting Elvis in secondary roles making this a decent remake of the 1937 classic, Robinson-Davis-Bogart, film originally helmed by the legendary Michael (King Creole) Curtiz for Warner Brothers.
Elvis assumes the role first essayed by Wayne Morris in the earlier film while Gig Young takes on the Eddie G. character. Just out of the military, Elvis, is heading thru the back country of New York state to revisit his birthplace. Thumbing a ride he’s working his way across country which allows for an opening number sung over the credits. He’ll arrive in a small community that houses a boxing camp run by Gig Young and his “permanent fiancée” Lola Albright.
Enter Charles Bronson in what is truly one of his finest supporting parts before he struck gold as a leading man in the late 60’s. Bronson is the chief trainer in camp and in little screen time at all, Elvis, is taking on the job of a sparring partner to earn a few bucks. He’s supposed to be a punching bag for the hot prospect, Michael Dante, and appears to eat leather for the better part of two minutes before launching a one punch counterattack that KO’s Dante and gives everyone at ringside pause.
Bronson sees a raw kid with little defensive talent while Gig sees dollar signs.
Turns out Gig is in a little too deep with mobsters and nearly broke. His fast talking conman style has run it’s course and he has little choice left but to promote Elvis as a new talent to a local promoter. Our singing star has even been dubbed Galahad after decking a mobster who was getting a little to cute with Miss Lola. While Elvis awaits his first match he’s more concerned with cars and how to fix old jalopies. Truth is he’d rather be a grease monkey than a fighter but if the fight game is willing to pay well then he’s going to listen to Bronson’s coaching methods and the two will be seen in the early morning hours doing their roadwork.
And then along comes a love interest for the King and he’s got that deer in the headlights look about him. Joan Blackman is the attractive young girl who has arrived in camp and while she’s receptive to those glances from the King we have one major stumbling block. She’s Gig’s kid sister and he’s a bit overprotective of her and has no intention of letting her fall for a bum fighter.
A couple of romantic songs and a lakeside picnic that sure looks like Myer’s Lake of the Andy Griffith Show and these two are head over heels in love. Off to see the preacher. Such is the power of Elvis singing hits like I Got Lucky. A song originally wrote by Dolores Fuller. You may recall that name from the story of Edward D. Wood. She was a one time girlfriend portrayed by Sarah Jessica Parker in the Tim Burton bio.
With Noir specialist Phil Karlson (99 River Street) directing, gangsters are going to take center stage when pressure is applied to Gig and Bronson to have Elvis throw a fight. The King’s popularity as a KO specialist has gathered enough attention to make him a box office draw and he’s stepping up in class against a formidable opponent. Still the mob which includes Richard Devon and David Lewis want assurances which includes breaking the hands of Elvis’ number one trainer, Bronson, when he refuses to play along.
Somehow we’re gonna have to get over these hurdles if we’re to have a happy ending with The King singing and closing in for a kiss at the fadeout. Can Elvis shake the mob and win the big fight? Will Gig turn States evidence and give a government agent played by Ed Asner the proof he needs that the mob is involved in the inner workings of the sport? Can Gig accept Elvis as a member of the family? Can Gig finally dig up a marriage ring for the long suffering Lola? Will Charles Bronson pull out a gun and save the day as he goes on a vengeful rampage? I’m not saying but don’t count on that last one as we haven’t reached the 1970’s just yet.
Kid Galahad is one of the better remembered movies starring the King of Rock’n Roll if the feedback from causal acquaintances is any indication. When chatting with Elvis fans this one seems to come up, “you know the one where he was a boxer.” to which I reply, “You mean the one where Charles Bronson teaches him how to fight?” While Elvis might look good in trunks and boxing gloves all I can say is it’s a good thing 42 year old Charlie Bronson wasn’t his opponent across the way cause my money is clearly on the coal miner that went to war and who was frequently cast as a boxer over the course of his early years on film and television. Years later he would have one of his best roles at the age of 55 as a streetfighter in 1975’s superior Walter Hill film, Hard Times.
Too bad we didn’t get to see Charlie joining Elvis in song when The King belts out a tune while driving a jalopy with Gig and Charlie in the back seat. Guess they can’t do harmony.
Other names and faces you may recall while watching this Presley film that includes a screen credit for Col. Tom Parker as a technical advisor are Elvis’ backup singers, The Jordanaires, Bert Remsen, Robert Emhardt, Liam Redmond and according to the IMDB, Nick Dimitri. I suspect he was one of the many boxers training in the background of The King’s workouts. Trivia buffs would know Dimitri as the streetfighter Bronson fights in the climax of that 70’s flick Hard Times.
If you look at the movie career of Elvis, this one stands a little taller than the majority of his output and again, much of that can be due to the fact that he’s surrounded by a first rate cast which wasn’t always the case once the productions got cheaper and the songs in some cases much cornier.
Easy to locate on DVD, Kid Galahad, was also released to blu ray by Twilight Time which is what prompted my revisit and another opportunity to see the King win by KO.