Elvis is King of the Ring
In many ways "Kid Galahad" was the perfect movie for Elvis Presley, although that doesn't mean it's his best, but the whole set up is just perfect. There is a storyline surrounding Elvis's character, Walter Gulick, which is solid enough so that it calls on him to act yet there is also just the right amount of musical elements to satisfy those who just want to watch and listen to Elvis sing. But on top of that there is a secondary story which works in tandem with the one surrounding Walter and focuses on the characters played by Gig Young and Lola Albright providing plenty of variation and never allowing "Kid Galahad" to become just about Elvis. By all accounts this 1962 remake is not a patch on the 1937 version, switching things about to make Elvis's part much bigger, but Elvis's "Kid Galahad" is one of his most rounded movies which has something for everyone.
Having finished his military service Walter Gulick (Elvis Presley - Follow That Dream) returns to his birth place, Cream Valley, looking for work as a mechanic but before he knows it the penniless ex GI is working as a sparring partner at Willy Grogan's (Gig Young - That Touch of Mink) boxing camp. Up to his ears in debt, Willy spots a way out when Walter turns out to be a contender with a sledge hammer punch. But with gangsters trying to get him to fix Walter's fights and romantic issues between him and long term girlfriend Dolly (Lola Albright - Champion) things are definitely not easy for Willy especially when the gangsters rough up Lew (Charles Bronson - The Magnificent Seven), his trainer and cut man in the ring.
So as already mentioned "Kid Galahad" has basically two stories going on which interweave together but in reality the one surrounding Walter is the main one. Now it is a rather cliche storyline which sees Elvis playing the very decent young Walter who ends up in the boxing ring when he shows up in Cream Valley looking for work as a mechanic. And so we have Walter suddenly becoming this huge boxing success despite being extremely raw and at the same time making friends with all and sundry being an all round nice guy. I would lie if I said that Elvis looked convincing as a boxer and I would also be lying if I said if it wasn't full of cliche elements such as a couple of brawls and a girl to woo. But it is a storyline which allows Elvis to act rather than just looking good and sing and as such it makes a nice change from the fluff which would dominate Elvis's movie career.
But that is just the first side to "Kid Galahad" and the second focuses on the characters of Willy and Dolly played by Gig Young and Lola Albright and to be honest it is a solider storyline. There is a side to it which sees a group of gangsters trying to force Willy into fixing Walter's big fight and this ties into the fact that he was sort of a witness to a mob hit. But on top of that you also have romantic strife as not only does he disagree with his sister Rose dating Walter but he also has his own troubles with Dolly having grown tired of waiting for him to commit to her. In a way both elements are stereotypical but they are nicely worked and more importantly provides "Kid Galahad" with some variation so it never becomes just about Elvis.
But being an Elvis movie "Kid Galahad" has those stereotypical elements and so Elvis does play the handsome hero who ends up in a couple of brawls outside of the ring as he defends people's honour. Plus of course you have the musical side of things with some pleasant musical moments especially when Walter is wooing Rose. Although sadly there are some songs which feels just wrong and watching what are supposedly boxers singing as they sit around the bottom of a staircase is wrong on so many levels and very cheesy even if the song is in fact quite pleasant.
What is nice is that it looks like Elvis was enjoying making "Kid Galahad" and you can sense an enthusiasm for what he was doing. Of course he is comfortable during the musical moments but he also manages to make Walter more than just 2 dimensional, handling the drama and the small touches of comedy which he is called on to do with ease. It's because Elvis looks comfortable and enjoying making "Kid Galahad" which helps to make it enjoyable. And to be honest he interacts with everyone else quite well from Joan Blackman who plays love interest Rose through to Charles Bronson who plays boxing trainer Lew, although ironically it is said that Bronson distanced himself from Elvis whilst filming and didn't actually speak off camera!
But whilst it is obvious that "Kid Galahad" has been geared up to be a star vehicle for Elvis it is Gig Young and Lola Albright who almost steal the show with their storyline. Gig Young is perfectly cast as the boxing promoter with the gift of the gab, and flits his way through some smart dialogue with a car salesman like quality. But at the same time he also serves up the other side of his character the nice side as after making mistakes not only tries to do the right thing by Walter but also win back Lola's heart and in doing so makes him not only more than 2 dimensional but someone we can like. And talking of which Lola Albright does just as good job as the stereotypical girlfriend who after years of loyalty is beginning to wonder if Willy will ever commit to her. It maybe a stereotypical character but Lola plays Doris in a non stereotypical way and is quite a strong character and that immediately makes her interesting and surprisingly seductive yet also exuding a warmth.
What this all boils down to is that whilst I have seen Elvis give superior performances "Kid Galahad" ends up being one of his better and more rounded movies. It works because it has something for everyone and so for Elvis fans he sings and is heroic yet for those who want more he also acts. And the subsequent storyline surrounding gangsters, boxing fixing and troubled love delivers something for everyone.
Tags: Boxing Movies