Fight promoter Nick Donati (Edward G Robinson) grooms a bellhop as a future champ, but has second thoughts when the ‘kid’ falls for his sister.
There isn’t any room for feelings in this game” is how promoter Nick Donati (Edward G. Robinson) approaches boxing as well as life in general. When he witnesses a young bellhop (Wayne Morris) deck a top rated heavyweight at a swank party, he sees a future champ, and a way to undermine rival promoter Turkey Morgan (Humphrey Bogart). In Donati’s corner is his girlfriend Fluff, Louise Phillips, disarmingly portrayed by the young and beautiful Bette Davis, who achieves more with her eyes and facial expressions than most actresses before or since.
The boxing scenes are merely an under card for the real story of how Kid Galahad, named by Fluff as an homage to his gallant chivalry, meets and falls in love with Donati’s sister Marie (Jane Bryan). Donati has no use for mugs who don’t follow his orders in or out of the ring, or for guys who have eyes for his sister. Fluff, who secretly falls in love with Galahad realizes she doesn’t have a chance – “It seems I’m always at ringside at the first fight… and the last”. She encourages the Kid to follow his heart to be with the woman he loves.
Feeling undermined, Donati seeks revenge by agreeing to a match with the now heavyweight champ, Chuck McGraw. Even with ten wins under his belt, Galahad is still green and no match for the champ. But McGraw is a reveler, who spends his down time partying and drinking instead of training. His promoter, Turkey Morgan also angles for the match sooner rather than later, realizing that his boy’s regimen won’t keep him champion for too long.
By the time the sports press gets the story, it’s all about how the convent girl (Marie) and the cabaret singer (Fluff) vie for Kid Galahad. But they each know where they stand, and must convince Nick during the climactic heavyweight title bout that he has to stand behind Galahad to uphold his own integrity with the Kid and himself.
Edward G. Robinson is in top form here in a role that allows him to portray a less sinister side; the scene in which he visits his mother and talks to her at length in Italian are genuinely charming. Bogey has a smaller but no less important role in his manipulative handling of the champion McGraw and his rivalry with Donati. And it’s a pleasure to watch Bette Davis use her Bette Davis eyes in scenes with Nick, Galahad and Marie, so expressive there’s no need for words.