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Film Review: Kid Galahad
In 1962, Phil Karlson released Kid Galahad, a remake of the 1937 film of the same name, which itself was based on a 1936 Saturday Evening Post story. Starring Elvis Presley, Gig Young, Lola Albright, Joan Blackman, Charles Bronson, Edward Asner, Roy Roberts, Judson Pratt, Robert Emhardt, Liam Redmond, Ned Glass, Red West, Del West, and Joe Esposito, the film had an unknown box office gross. The film opened at #9 at the box office during its release and was ranked by Variety at #37 on its list of top grossing films of 1962.
Willy Grogan, small-time boxing promoter based in Cream Valley, New York, owns Grogan’s Gaelic Gardens Inn and is also contemptible, in debt and pays little attention to Dolly Fletcher. But when Walter Gulick, who was recently discharged from the army, comes into town with the goal of going into business as a mechanic, Willy’s little sister, Rose, hits it off with Walter, of which Willy disapproves. However, when Walter is in need of work, Willy is persuaded to let him take a shot in the ring under the tutelage of his top trainer, Lew.
Though not one of the better Presley films, Kid Galahad is still pretty interesting. For one, there’s the whole plot which doesn’t have Presley as its protagonist. Rather, the audience is given Willy as a protagonist while Presley’s character is made to be one of the supporting cast. Unfortunately, Willy and his story has the makings of a good film, with his personal conflicts and debt to some pretty shady characters, but his unlikeable demeanor and the way he carries himself pretty much kills the film when it goes back to focus on him. At the same time, Walter doesn’t have much in the way of conflict and is basically moving through the film, from arriving to town to starting a garage to meeting Willy’s sister to getting in the ring with Willy’s fighter, and the only thing that defines him as a character is his good-natured personality and desire to settle down with Rose. The film really failed to deliver when there could have been some really good foils and comparisons to be had. Even the climax, where Walter has to decide whether to take a dive or fight the good fight is neutered, considering the outcome, where Willy approves of Walter and Rose’s relationship, is the only character development the man has in the film. Honestly, the film would have been much better had there been more focus on Walter and his rise as a respectable boxer with Willy in the background.
That being said though, it’s been noted that this film is one of Presley’s better performances. That’s a fair assessment and it’s possible that Presley does give a good performance here because he’s not in the forefront and is more of a supporting character than a main character, making him more at ease and comfortable in his acting. The level of comfort that Presley displays is evident early on, when he arrives in Cream Valley and immediately fixes a man’s vehicle. Though he only really says a couple lines during that scene, it’s really all the audience needs to know to see how at ease he feels with himself. Even Presley’s demeanor and body language during his arrival in town speaks to how he’s feeling in front of the cameras. However, while Presley is able to pull off a notable performance here, Young as Willy is pretty stiff throughout the film. It feels like he can’t seem to get into the vibe of his character which winds up causing the film to just start hobbling along whenever he’s in the center of the action. As for the other supporting cast, Bronson gives a good performance as a trainer who’s taken his fair share of beatings but is ultimately a stand-up guy who takes care of those he’s training.
As for the songs present in the film, they’re pretty good and their presentation here is quite a bit better than the presentation they were given in the previous film. Here, it actually feels like Presley is singing them and not doing a bad job at lip syncing.
As a whole, this is another one of Presley’s films where he’s giving the best performance. However, he can’t carry an entire film alone and it shows.
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