The Battling Bellhop is a boxing drama from Warner Brothers Studios featuring three of their biggest names – Robinson, Bogart and Davis. And each of them play characters that you’ve seen them play before. Robinson plays a fight manager named Nick Donati, who cannot control his temper (Robinson would virtually recycle his character in Manpower (1941) with George Raft). Bogart plays his opposite number, Turkey Moran, another fight promoter, but of course, Bogart being Bogart is the corrupt lowlife gangster. This was before his breakthrough good guy role in The Maltese Falcon (1941), which started a string of good guy roles. But before then he was always the two-bit hood. And finally there’s Bette Davis, playing a character named Fluff, who is the moll with the heart of gold.
As the film opens, Nick’s number one contender is taking on Turkey Moran’s world champ, Chuck McGraw. Nick’s fighter doesn’t listen to instructions and is knocked out. Furthermore, Nick sacks him because he refused to follow these instructions.
Afterward, Nick organises a party in his hotel room to celebrate his loss. To help with the drinks, Nick calls for a hotel bellhop to come up. After some instruction from Fluff, the bellhop, Ward Guisenberry (Wayne Morris) mingles with the crowd hand out drinks. After champ McGraw gets wise with Fluff, in a chivalrous act, Ward steps up and knocks down the champ with one punch. Admittedly the champ was boozed up, but still McGraw had never been knocked down before.
Nick takes Ward on as a boxer, and rechristens him Kid Galahad. Galahad is naïve and raw, but under Nick’s tutelage quickly rises through the ranks, to the point where he is finally offered a title shot against McGraw.
Of course, this synopsis is a simple overview of the usual convoluted Warner Brothers potboiler. There are love triangles, jealousies and betrayals. The fly in the ointment, is when Galahd falls for Nick’s kid sister, Marie (Jane Bryan). And I’ve already told you about Nick’s temper! But in the end, everybody gets what’s coming to them (more or less).
The film was originally released as Kid Galahad, but these days is nearly always shown as The Battling Bellhop. It has been remade a couple of times, most famously as Kid Galahad starring Elvis – with Charles Bronson in his corner.
This a great bittersweet drama, with a stellar cast doing what they do best. If you love golden oldies, then this is one to check out – regardless if you’re a boxing fan or not.
Set in Outback Australia, in Birdsville, one of the most remote towns on the planet, two rival boxing tents set up shop in competition with each other. In the sweltering heat, tensions simmer, tempers flare, and a tent burns.