4 April 1999 | bwaynef
Robinson, Davis, and Bogart make it worthwhile
Who can complain about a movie that pits Edward G. Robinson against Humphrey Bogart, and even throws in a young and surprisingly beautiful Bette Davis for added appeal?
I guess I can.
The cliches and stereotypes in "Kid Galahad" were probably cliches and stereotypes even in 1937, but because they still weren't THAT old, they didn't inspire the kind of snickers they do today. The big cliche here is the one about the sweet, mild-mannered innocent whose gentle dreams are achieved through violence. The innocent in this one is played by Wayne Morris. His gentle dream is to own a farm that he hopes to buy with his earnings as a bellhop. Fate intervenes, as it has a way of doing in the movies, and when bellhopping a party for boxing manager Edward G. Robinson, the big lug defends Bette's honor, displaying a mean right hook in doing so. Robinson is no fool and sees potential in the young man. The young man, dubbed Galahad in honor of his chivalry, is no fool either and sees a quicker and more profitable way to achieve his dream by stepping into the boxing ring. Galahad remains an innocent despite the company he keeps, and falls in love with Robinson's kid sister, also an innocent, one who works in a convent (!) These cliches would be revived in 1939's "Golden Boy" in which a young William Holden puts on the gloves to finance his violin lessons. One year later, James Cagney would bash in faces to send his kid brother to music school.
Ah, contrast: the key to good drama. Well, maybe. Then again, maybe not.
Galahad is too good to be true and is, therefore, unbelievable. Fortunately, his goody-goody persona, though getting plenty of screen time, is completely swamped by the dynamic presence of Robinson, Davis, and, in a small role, Humphrey Bogart, the terrific trio whose street smart performances keep this story in the gutter and away from that dreary farm Galahad dreams of owning. As long as they're on screen, director Michael Curtiz keeps "Kid Galahad" from becoming too smarmy, which in turn keeps it from becoming more dated than it might otherwise.