Kid Galahad is my fourth favorite Elvis Movie and one I watch often as it is one of my favorite 11 Elvis Movies I watch all the time. I would watch it even more, but it is the only one of my favorites that is not available to stream online, so I have to actually put the dvd in to watch it. (Only three of Elvis’ movies Kid Galahad, Follow That Dream and Change of Habit are not available to stream online.) Kid Galahad does not get much publicity, is barely discussed and is rarely shown even though it is good movie with a real plot and a good cast that mixes drama, comedy and music well. I think Kid Galahad is one of Elvis’ best movies. It should be considered up there with King Creole, Wild in the Country and Jailhouse Rock. Like Wild in the Country, it is a movie I would watch even if Elvis was not in it – but then again I love 1960s dramas. Kid Galahad does not rely on Elvis in every scene. Kid Galahad is the last of Elvis’ movies before the travelogues. It is also the last Elvis movie for six years that was based on a book until Live a Little, Love a Little 18 movies later. Kid Galahad is the first of Elvis’ movies without a title song.
The screenplay for Kid Galahad was written by William Fay. It was based on the novel of the same name by Frances Wallace in 1936. (I have the book but have yet to read it.) A year later, in 1937, the movie Kid Galahad was released starring Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Wayne Morris who played a bellhop who unintentionally became a boxer who fell in love with his promoter’s sister. When this movie aired on television, it was renamed Battling Bellhop so as not to confuse it with Elvis’ 1962 Kid Galahad. In 1941, Humphrey Bogart remade Kid Galahad with a circus setting and called it The Wagons Roll at Night. It also starred Eddie Albert and Sylvia Sidney. Elvis originally wanted Michael Cortiz to direct as he directed the original Kid Galahad in 1937 (as well as King Creole), but instead Phil Karson was the director. Theirs became a good relationship. Karson was SO excited when Elvis adlibbed the line “about that $5?” The scene was supposed to end after Elvis said, “Do I still get my $5?,” but they kept rolling and then Elvis added the “about that $5,” which cracked me up. Kid Galahad was the fourth and final Elvis movie produced by Davie Weisbart. He had previously produced Love Me Tender, Flaming Star and Follow That Dream.
In Kid Galahad, Elvis plays Walter who is just out of the army (shocker!) and returns to his birthplace Cream Valley, New York looking for work. His parents had died years earlier and he was raised in Kentucky. He ends up boxing for Willy. To prepare for his role, Elvis sparred, punched bags, went on a diet and lost 12 pounds. Gig Young played Walter’s boss and boxing promoter Willy who is in debt to the mob from gambling. In real life, Gig was drunk a lot of the time and did not treat his young, pretty wife Elizabeth Montgomery (of Bewitched fame) well. Years later, Gig shot and killed his fifth wife Kim Schmidt and then shot and killed himself. As in Blue Hawaii, Joan Blackman again plays Elvis’ love interest in Kid Galahad. She plays Willy’s sister Rose with whom Walter falls in love. Even though I like Joan’s character better in Blue Hawaii, I think she had more romantic chemistry with Elvis in Kid Galahad. I have always wanted to know why Joan cracks up laughing while Elvis is singing “I Got Lucky” to her at the picnic, but nothing I have read mentions it. After re-watching that scene closely over and over, I think I may have figured it out. Right before Joan cracks up, you see Elvis sort of cross his eyes – it is at the very end of the song. Lola Albright played Dolly, Willy’s girlfriend. In the original movie, Bette Davis played that roll and falls in love with the young fighter. Too bad they didn’t keep that in Elvis’s Kid Galahad because he and Lola had great chemistry in those first scenes. Charles Bronson played Lew, Walter’s trainer. Ed Asner made his movie debut in Kid Galahad as the Assistant District Attorney and then appeared as a policeman in Elvis’ last movie Change of Habit.
Michael Dante played Walter’s boxer friend Joey. While rehearsing, Elvis accidentally punched Michael in the face and couldn’t apologize enough. Elvis invited Michael to one of his weekend trips to Palm Springs with him and the guys. Elvis rented the top floor at Howard Manor. I met Michael at Elvis Week 2018 when he signed his memoir for me. He was very friendly. Robert Emhardt, who played Maynard the cook, also played the banker in Elvis’ last movie Change of Habit. Ned Glass, who played Max Lieberman owner of the place where Dolly used to sing, also played the hotel desk clerk in Elvis’ King Creole. Orlando de la Fuente, who played Sugarboy Romero, was an undefeated 18-year-old welterweight boxer. Jimmy Lennon, who announced two fights in Kid Galahad, was an actual fight announcer at the Olympic Auditorium in LA. World Champion Junior Welterweight Boxer Mushy Callahan coached Elvis in the boxing scenes. Twenty-four years earlier, Callahan had also trained Wayne Morris in the original 1937 Kid Galahad movie. Callahan said Elvis was a quick learner and with enough time he could make him “a contender.” Other real life boxers were also hired to help train Elvis and also had parts in the movie. They all said Elvis was quick with his hands, but slow on his feet standing with a wide stance due to Karate background. Elvis’ part was rewritten to fit his particular skill set.
Filming for Kid Galahad took place between October 23 and December 20, 1961 in Idyllwild, California and at United Artists Studios. The movie takes place during the summer in the Catskills in New York, but filming in November and December in the higher elevation (about 6300 feet above sea level) California mountains felt more like winter especially when it snowed. Idyllwild is a resort town in the San Jacinto Mountains about 100 miles east of Los Angeles between the Redlands and Palm Springs. Locations used in Idyllwild included Eleanor Park (where Elvis sang “A Whistling Tune” and where a restaurant now sits), the Idyllwild Garage (used as Prohosko’s Garage), Route 74 in Garner Valley south of Lake Hemet (background for the opening credits and when Elvis sings “Riding the Rainbow” in the Model T with Lew and Willy), the Fern Valley Market (where Gig Young buys his groceries), the Sportland (used as Garfield’s – Cream Valley Games, where the policeman bets on the fight), the Idyllwild Post Office in Eleanor Park (used as the Chapel where Walter and Rose meet with the priest), and Hidden Lodge where the training camp, outdoor boxing ring, and barn were constructed. A couple interior scenes were filmed inside Hidden Lodge, but the kitchen set was recreated in the large dining room hall at Buckhorn Camp.
Elvis rented a house on Fern Valley Road for the four week shoot in Idyllwild, California. Three high school girls tried to get into Elvis’ bedroom, one succeeded. Most of the cast and crew stayed at the Idyllwild Inn, which had rooms, a restaurant and cabins. It can be seen in the background when Elvis is singing “A Whistling Tune” and doubled as Lieberman’s where Dolly used to work. Other cast and crew stayed at the Bluebird Hill Lodge, Fern Valley Motel and Singingwood Motel, which also had cabins. Movies were shown nightly at the Idyllwild Inn for everyone to enjoy. Unfortunately due to the inclement weather, it was difficult to get the movies up to Idyllwild so they would show the same ones over and over. They saw Gilda, The Horse Soldiers and Some Like It Hot over and over again. After filming, many of the cast and crew, including Elvis, would go to restaurants and bars in Pine Cove and Mountain Center (about four miles down towards Lake Hemet). They would frequent the Squirrel’s Nest (which has since burned down), The Golden Horn Inn and Taylor’s Lodge. Elvis would also eat hamburgers at a coffee shop in town called the Koffee Kup.
Everyone involved with Kid Galahad all say the same great things about Elvis, that he was shy and charming and polite and professional and friendly. I have actually heard this about Elvis on every movie he made, but it is nice to hear it from the crew and extras as well as the stars. Elvis played football with the guys and sing and entertain everyone and just sit around talk. In addition to hanging out with the adults, Elvis also talked and played with the kids throwing the football around. Fifty elementary school children from Idyllwild were hired as extras and can be seen in the bleachers during the outdoor boxing scenes. They were each paid $24. for their one day’s work. Elvis was always trying to better himself and his performance constantly asking the real life boxers on set to help him improve. Some of the fights scenes in the movie were actually real as they would get a few punches in outside of the choreography.
Elvis Monthly editor Albert Hand and his wife Phyllis met Elvis in Idyllwild during filming. They gave Elvis three leather bound books. One contained the names and addresses of the magazines’ readers thanking him, one contained all the nice things the fans had written about Elvis and the third book contained all of Elvis’ activities during his career to date. Elvis told him that he suggested to the Studio that they should have switched the filming schedule and filmed Follow That Dream in the winter and Kid Galahad in the summer. Seems they should have listened to Elvis as on November 20th, they had to go back to the studio where the entire interior of the Idyllwild Inn, including the front porch (where they sang “This is Living”) was recreated on a stage at United Artists Studio. The 4th of July picnic when Elvis sings “I Got Lucky” was supposed to be filmed at Fulmor Lake in Idyllwild, but because they had to relocate due to the snow it was filmed at Franklin Canyon Park north of Beverly Hills. This is the same area used at the beginning of The Andy Griffith Show.
During filming, Elvis was dating Connie Stevens, but according to Alan Fortas she broke up with him when Joe picked her up instead of Elvis himself and they were not alone for their date, rather surrounded by all the guys. (Seems that was the same reason Anne Helm of Follow That Dream broke up with him.) By the time of Kid Galahad, Elvis had rented 1059 Bellagio Road in Bel Air, but was only there a few months as Elvis didn’t really like it and moved back to the Perugia Way house after the owner enlarged it. He stayed there until 1965. Kid Galahad was Scatter’s first trip to Hollywood as Elvis had just gotten him. Once Kid Galahad was finished on December 20th, Elvis immediately flew to Las Vegas. For the first time, Elvis did not spend Christmas home at Graceland. Some speculate it was because he did not want to be home with his dad and Vernon’s new wife Dee as they were living at Graceland until they could move into their house on December 28th.
Elvis sang six songs in Kid Galahad. They were were “King of the Whole Wide World,” “This is Living,” “Riding the Rainbow,” “Home is Where the Heart Is,” “I Got Lucky” and “A Whistling Tune.” “Love is for Lovers” was cut from the movie. “A Whistling Tune” was recorded for Elvis’ previous movie Follow That Dream, but was not used. The soundtrack, which was recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood in October 1961, was released as an EP on September 17, 1962. I have that original 45 rpm record. This is the first Elvis movie that does not have a title song. There is no “Kid Galahad” song. Instead, Elvis sings “King of the Whole Wide World” during the opening credits. It was not released by RCA as a single, but remained on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart for seven weeks peaking at #30. Although this dramatic movie may have worked better without the fan-demanded Elvis songs, “Home is Where the Heart Is” actually does work because it is not solely focused on Elvis’ singing. He is puttering around with his car and flipping through a book and then it shows Dolly longingly looking at Rose and Walter, which helps sets the romantic mood. Now Elvis singing “Riding the Rainbow” to two of his guy friends while driving to a boxing match is a little more farfetched, although many people do sing while they are driving.
Kid Galahad was released August 29, 1962 and grossed even less than Flaming Star on its release. It reached #9 on Variety‘s list of top-grossing films for that week and was ranked #37 for the year grossing $1.7 million. Kid Galahad was the last of Elvis’ movies for the next six years with a dramatic edge and a solid plot. It did not reach the success of the silly, musical comedies like GI Blues, Blues Hawaii or his next movie Girls! Girls! Girls!. So after Kid Galahad for the next 15 films (the ‘travelogues’), Elvis would pretty much play that same goofy wisecracking playboy he originated in GI Blues – but some of those movies I really like.
**I consulted Elvis: The Elvis Files Vol 3, Elvis The Movies, The Films of Elvis Presley, Reel Elvis, Elvis Presley in the Movies, Elvis Films Faq, Elvis Elvis Elvis The King and His Movies, Elvis Presley The Hollywood Years, Elvis in Hollywood, Elvis Presley from Memphis to Hollywood, The Elvis Film Encyclopedia, The Elvis Movies, Elvis Presley in Hollywood Celluloid Sell-Out, Essential Elvis Interviews, Elvis Frame by Frame, From Hollywood to Michael Dante Way for more information**
To read my take on all of Elvis’ movies, please click HERE.