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For Elvis' tenth feature, Paramount researched Hollywood's golden era for a potential remake vehicle and came up with Kid Galahad (1962) which had been a box office winner for Warner Brothers in 1937. It was based on a Saturday Evening Post story and starred Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Wayne Morris as an up-and-coming boxer. Not wanting to let a good idea die, Warner Brothers recycled the plot as The Wagons Roll at Night in 1941 and gave it a circus backdrop with Humphrey Bogart once again taking a leading role. In 1962 Paramount bought the rights and fine-tuned the premise for an Elvis film while Warner Brothers changed the title of their original 1937 version to The Battling Bellhop for television showings so it wouldn't be confused with the new Presley version. Although Kid Galahad has all the cliches you'd expect a good boxing flick to have, it also throws in a romance with Joan Blackman and several musical numbers ("King of the Whole Wide World," "I Got Lucky," etc.) for Elvis fans. For the record, Presley plays Walter Gulick, a fresh-faced army veteran who returns to his hometown to start his own auto repair business. But first he needs some financing so he agrees to box for money at a Catskill training camp. The camp owner (Gig Young) is a gambler in debt to some mobsters and before you know it, Elvis finds himself being set up for a brutal beating.
One of the highlights for Elvis in making Kid Galahad was getting to train with former world welterweight champion Mushy Callahan and his assistant Al Silvani, who was a trainer for Floyd Patterson and Rocky Graziano. A young undefeated welterweight boxer named Orlando De La Fuente was also cast in the film as Elvis' opponent, Sugarboy Romero. Kid Galahad is also notable as the film debut of Edward Asner and for its location filming in Idyllwild, California, a popular resort ninety miles east of Los Angeles, which is an effective stand-in for the Catskill town in the film.
On the downside, Elvis wasn't happy with his appearance during the filming of Kid Galahad (he weighed almost 200 pounds which was well over his normal weight at the time) and he didn't care for co-star Charles Bronson, cast in the role of his loyal trainer. The latter was unimpressed with Presley's off screen karate demonstrations and Elvis was equally dismissive, referring to Bronson as a "muscle-bound ape." But you'd never guess there was any tension between the two actors from watching the film.
According to Albert Goldman in his biography,
"During the shooting of Kid Galahad....the Colonel hypnotized Elvis's bodyguard, Sonny West, and instructed him to walk up to the film's director, Phil Karlson, and tell him that the movie stank, the acting was horrible, the direction disgusting and the whole production a terrible waste of time and money. As soon as the next break came, big, burly Sonny walked up to the director and launched into this outrageously insulting speech. The director's jaw dropped open in shock and remained hanging there while the Colonel drank in the scene, chuckling deep inside this mountainous belly without betraying his feelings on his face. Finally, Karlson screamed: "Who is this man? Get him off the set!" When the joke was explained to him, the director expressed astonishment that Sonny could have performed the prank at such length without ever once cracking a smile. "He was under hypnosis," explained the Colonel; "he couldn't have done it any other way." Turning to Sonny, the director demanded: "Is this true?" "Yes, sir, it is," avowed Sonny, who could never imagine how he performed all the strange and embarrassing feats he accomplished under the Colonel's direction."
So now we know why Elvis made all those bad films. He was HYPNOTIZED by the Colonel! Actually, in terms of Elvis's career at MGM, Kid Galahad is definitely one of his better efforts, due in part to an excellent supporting cast which includes Lola Albright and Gig Young and the expert direction of B-movie specialist, Phil Karlson.
Director: Phil Karlson
Producer: David Weisbart
Screenplay: William Fay, story by Francis Wallace
Cinematography: Burnett Guffey
Editor: Stuart Gilmore
Art Direction: Cary Odell
Music: Jeff Alexander
Cast: Elvis Presley (Walter Gulick), Gig Young (Willy Grogan), Lola Albright (Dolly Fletcher), Joan Blackman (Rose Grogan), Charles Bronson (Lew Nyack), David Lewis (Otto Danzig), Ned Glass (Max Lieberman), Robert Emhardt (Maynard).
C-97m. Close captioning. Letterboxed.
by Jeff Stafford