Kid Galahad (1962)


KID GALAHAD doubled up on Follow That Dream in 1962 as a pretty decent, semi-substantial Elvis Presley movie, landing a solid #37 in a packed year. A remake (updated, and with songs, naturally) of Warner’s 1937 hit, this light-drama centers around a naive young guy who falls into the questionable world of the fight game.

‘Walter Gulic’ (Presley) shows up in his home town, wishing to maybe stow a few bucks away so he can open a garage, since he’s handy with fixin’ cars. In a $5 sparring bout, he shows he can also take a lot of punches and, better, throw the right one at the right time. This makes for scruple-loose angling by cash-desperate promoter ‘Willy Grogan’ (Gig Young, slick and smarmy), who undertakes pushing the open-book kid into the ring.


Characters and complications arise from Willy’s kid sis (Joan Blackman) who of course falls for Walter, his frustrated, taken-for-granted girlfriend (Lola Albright) and his honest trainer (Charles Bronson). Hoods arrive to make sure Willy squares his debts.

The 1936 book by sportswriter Francis Wallace was written & directed in the earlier version as a tougher gangster-oriented story, while this vehicle, written by TV scenarist William Fay, is crafted more in line for the Elvian legions, and is mostly simplistic lighter fare, with six songs to goose things along. The lively tunes aren’t as badly integrated as in subsequent Elvis movies and effective B-movie director Phil Karlson adds enough edge to balance it all out. *


Presley, a little heavier than usual, is not bad, playing the Kid as a modest, well-mannered fella (like he was). Albright makes her scenes count in an underwritten part, and Bronson notched another solid supporting role in his slow but steady rise up the chain: he gets the dramatic standout scene—a convincingly nasty bit involving the mobsters and his hands (vividly remember this from a childhood viewing). Beautiful, open and natural, 23-year old Joan Blackman is a total charmer, with some seriously slay-me eyes. Her obvious delighted reactions to Elvis during one of the songs, and doing The Twist with him, mix an easygoing warmth in with sex appeal. That the cast mesh so well compliments their professionalism, as behind the scenes not all was so smooth. **


Another plus is the location shooting in the beautiful San Jacinto Mountains area around Idyllwild, California (standing in for the Catskills), brightly captured by Burnett Guffey’s camera: it looks so fresh you’ll want to take a breath and get the mountain air. Fun songs: “This Is Living”, “King Of The Whole Wide World”, “I Got Lucky”.


Aside from the strong feature-billed supporting players, the smaller parts are also given some worthy consideration: David Lewis, Robert Emhardt, Liam Redmond, Ned Glass, Judson Pratt, Michael Dante (met him, nice guy), Roy Roberts, Richard Devon (sleekly dangerous), Jeff Morris, Ed Asner (32 in his movie debut), Chris Alcaide, Mushy Callahan, Bert Remsen and Red West. As an early 60s period piece, it clocks 95 entertaining minutes. The formula plot is a sure candidate for a remake.


* The 1937 version clouted #42 in a strong year, was directed by Michael Curtiz, written by Seton I. Miller and boasted Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart and Wayne Morris as the Kid.


** Alcoholic, abusive and jealous, Gig Young incurred Presley’s distaste when Young’s wife Elizabeth Montgomery showed up and Young blew up on set. The notoriously misanthropic Bronson likewise didn’t endear himself to the easygoing star by refusing to speak to him off-camera. On a happier note, Blackman and Elvis, who’d just had a serious fling while making Blue Hawaii, got along with ease. Miss Blackman was a family friend, and I had the pleasure of meeting her once during the late 70s/early 80s. Very brief encounter; she couldn’t have been nicer or more down-to-earth.


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