Kid Galahad (1937) – Bette Davis Blogathon

25 Mar

It is fun to watch Bette Davis’ early films…before her role in Jezebel. There is something special about the way she pops off the screen, in a way she does not in later films (though she always dominates the screen). I noted in last year’s post for “The Bette Davis Blogathon,” hosted by In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, that she was “like a dynamo or a ball of fire, bursting across the screen.” The sheer amount of energy and charisma is mesmerizing, even in films unworthy of her talents.

But Kid Galahad, directed by the ever versatile and able Michael Curtiz, is not unworthy of her talents, though she does not get top billing (that honor goes to Edward G. Robinson). It’s a boxing drama. Nick Donati (Edward G. Robinson) is a blowhard boxing promoter looking for a man to make champion, who can defeat the champion promoted by gangster Turkey Morgan (Humphrey Bogart). He finds his potential champion in Ward Guisenberry (Wayne Morris), who becomes known as Kid Galahad because of his simple, gentlemanly and slightly naive ways. Bette Davis plays Donati’s girlfriend, Louise “Fluff” Phillips, who falls for Ward. Ward, however, likes Donati’s sister, Marie (Jane Bryan), who Donati has tried to shelter from the tough racket of the fight game.

The film contains crime and boxing, gambling and gangsters, murder, romantic triangles, and nightclubs. The boxing sequences are also quite well done and exciting on their own and in the context of the plot. It has that 1930s Warner Bro. crime drama feel that is always entertaining. As is the cast.

Edward G. Robinson is another dynamic actor who made his career as a leading man by sheer power and skill rather than his looks (Bette Davis did not like kissing him and called him “liver lips”). He’s one of those actors I would watch in virtually anything and he brings vulnerability to his role as a promoter with a quick temper and willingness to skirt the law. And the same with Humphrey Bogart, who plays quite the dour killer. In fact, he’s so convincingly dour as a killer that if all I saw was this film, I would never have guessed that he could play a romantic leading man.

Bette Davis and Edward G. Robinson

Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart actually appeared in five movies together, always ending with one or the other killing each other….or sometimes both at the same time. In fact, many actors in Kid Galahad appeared in many different roles with each other throughout their careers at Warner Bros. Bette Davis appeared in at least four movies with Jane Bryan, once as her mother (The Old Maid), twice as her sister (Marked WomanThe Sisters), and once as romantic rival (in Kid Galahad). Jane Bryan also once played Edward G. Robinson’s daughter, as well as his sister. Not to mention the four movies Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart appeared in (though never after Humphrey Bogart hit the big time). The studios could be very flexible about these things.

Kid Galahad feels like an ensemble film rather than a showcase for any particular actor. However, Bette Davis does use the opportunity to make an impression. As Donati’s knowing girlfriend, who is grateful for his kindness towards her and keeps him out of trouble, she gets to play a person who definitely has an air of experience, but is still young and fresh enough not to feel jaded. Though her large and expressive eyes belie the happiness she professes to feel at the beginning of the story.

She is touched when Ward quite un-selfconsciously refers to her as a “lady.” He’s the first one to treat her that way and calls her Louise rather than her nickname, Fluff. But she still seems fresh enough for one to believe that Ward would see her as a lady. She is often the smartest one in the film, an invaluable partner to Nick and keeps him grounded.

Bette Davis, Jane Bryan, Edward G. Robinson

(plot spoiler) The end of the film involves a shootout and Bette Davis gets the last scene, as she sadly walks away down the street…on to better things, one presumes, like an Academy Award for Jezebel the following year. It would take a few more years for Humphrey Bogart to move on to better things. But Kid Galahad makes a nice send-off for Bette Davis. You just know you will be seeing her again.

This post was written as part of the “Second Annual Bette Davis Blogathon,” hosted by In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Click here for more posts covering Bette Davis’ vast career!



Posted by on March 25, 2017 in Movies


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12 responses to “Kid Galahad (1937) – Bette Davis Blogathon

  1. silverscreenclassicsblog

    March 25, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Absolutelyy love this film! It’s one of my go-to films when I can’t choose something to watch. And as you point out – this is a fun film to watch. A classic Warner Bros combination of gangsters, romance and great characterisations. Thanks for a great piece!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 25, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      Thank you! Yes, it a really fun film – so glad to know you really enjoys it, too! Warner Bros. really knew how to make those kinds of movies, didn’t they? And a great cast!


  2. Michaela

    March 25, 2017 at 10:15 pm

    You’ve convinced me to give this film another chance. I can have a hard time staying interested in 1930’s dramas like this one — I don’t know what it is, but I can always feel my mind drifting while watching them. That being said, you are right about Bette Davis popping off of the screen in her early career. Maybe it’s because she was fighting so hard to get the recognition she deserved? She had already won an Oscar, but I don’t think Warners really paid attention until her second one for Jezebel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 26, 2017 at 1:29 pm

      I think you’re right – all that pent up energy and ambition must have really manifested itself through her roles! She’s a firecracker.

      There can definitely be a similarity between some of these dramas – like Kid Galahad and Bullets and Ballots…which both end the same way, so I see what you mean. Partly, I think I like this one because I really love the actors involved. 🙂


  3. charsmoviereviews

    March 26, 2017 at 8:51 am

    I have not heard of this one, so thanks for introducing me to it! The cast and movie premise sound very, very intriguing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 26, 2017 at 1:30 pm

      Yes, I think the cast really makes this film an entertaining one! It’s just so fun to see these particular actors. 🙂 Hope you get a chance to see it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Silver Screenings

    March 26, 2017 at 10:59 am

    I laughed out loud at your understated observation: “The studios could be very flexible about these things.” So true!

    As it turns out, I own Kid Galahad, as part of a Warner Bros. set, but haven’t yet seen it. Now I’m wondering what’s taking me so long to watch it…!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 26, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      That is so funny how one can own movies and never seem to get around to them! I’m like that with books, too. It’s odd! 🙂

      It’s not a masterpiece, but I think quite fun…especially with the cast involved. Hope you get a chance to see it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Elaine @ Classic Movie Treasures

    March 28, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Great post! I have never seen this and will have to seek it out.

    I would love for you to add it to the Classic Movie Marathon link party that launched last night.


  6. Le

    April 1, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    I haven’t watched this film yet, but there is certainly danger of combustion if Bette, Ed G and Bogie are together!
    Thanks for the review and for the kind comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      April 1, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      Yes, they are quite the marvelous, explosive actors!! Hope you get a chance to see it sometime!



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