Beau James (1957) Poster

(1957)

User Reviews

Add a Review
15 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
Hope's finest straight performance - but weak history
theowinthrop27 June 2004
A recent biography of Hope on Channel 13 mentioned that his perennial joke at the Oscars about not getting the Oscar) was actually based on the truth. After 1944, when his close friend and partner Bing Crosby won the Oscar for GOING MY WAY, Hope was bothered by his inability to get nominated. One of his writers explained the problem: Hope could not read a straight speech in a script without fearing he was losing his audience. He had to always have a good one liner to leave 'em laughing. Unfortunately, this type of script doctoring prevented him from giving the type of performance that would have merited an Oscar.

Yet in the middle years of the 1950s Hope came close to achieving a balance of comic and dramatic possibilities. In three films (two biographies and one comedy) he played central figures with actual problems. They were THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS, THAT CERTAIN FEELING, and BEAU JAMES. All three films are his best films. THAT CERTAIN FEELING deals with a man with major psychological problems competing with a superior,successful man (George Sanders) for the woman they love (Eva Marie Saint). THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS gives a history Eddie Foy Sr.'s marriage to an Italian lady, and their children, and how (when his wife died) his sister-in-law tried to have the children taken from him. And BEAU JAMES (based on a biased, but well written biography by Gene Fowler)is about the Mayor of New York City from 1926 - 1932, James J. Walker.

Walker was a very popular mayor in the 1920s, re-elected by a majority (over Fiorello LaGuardia) of half a million votes (a considerable achievement then). But his administration was corrupt, and he was abandoning his wife for his girlfriend, Broadway actress Betty Compton. Judge Samuel Seabury tore the Walker administration apart in a series of hearings from 1930 to 1932. They culminated with Governor Franklin Roosevelt holding hearings involving Walker in Albany that showed he accepted "gifts" from people doing business in the city. Walker could not really explain away this behavior and he resigned. The handling of the scandal by Roosevelt assisted him in getting the Democratic nomination for the Presidency in 1932.

Hope does very well as Walker. He does have a serious role where his flippant jokes match the character. He also shows the right degree of serious behavior, panicked when Betty is spirited away by Paul Douglas and Tammany Hall, or when he tells off the citizens of New York at Yankee Stadium for electing him. But the gaps in the script - the unwillingness to show the uglier side of the corruption - prevent one from taking it too seriously. Hope deserves recognition for his performance here, but he didn't merit (nor receive) an Oscar nomination for BEAU JAMES.

This is a celluloid version of Gene Fowler's valentine to his old chum Jimmy. It tries to make a case that Walker did not realize his taking the bribes/gifts was wrong. Walker knew it was wrong, but he never admitted it - he had been brought up in a city run by the Hall, and he was doing business there exactly as every boodling Mayor of New York had done since the 19th Century. Walker (a good Catholic, presumably) also knew that he was committing adultery when he took up with Ms Compton. Later, after he left City Hall, he divorced his wife (playedwell by a coldly calculating Alexis Smith here) and married Betty. Interestingly that marriage eventually failed, although Jimmy and Betty did adopt a girl. Compton died in 1941. Jimmy in 1947.

Historians generally rank Walker among the worst Mayors of New York, and in the major cities of the U.S., in the twentieth century. However, recent scholarship has suggested that Walker was maligned. Nobody suggests that the corruption was not there, but it was to the interest of FDR and Judge Seabury (who had unrealistic political hopes of his own) to go after the Hall and Jimmy. Interestingly enough, Walker's old adversary Fiorello LaGuardia was more forgiving and pragmatic than FDR was. Walker went to Europe for a number of years with Betty (where did he have the money for this move - the film ignores this matter). When he returned (a Federal tax investigation decided there was nothing to go after), LaGuardia appointed Walker to be labor mediator in the garment industry. He did that job well. Also, some recent scholars seem to support what Darren McGavin's character says in the film. McGavin tells Hope that although he works only four hours a day he does more work each day than the last four mayors did working full days. The reason is that he's bright. There is evidence that he was remarkably adept at thinking out quick, to the point solutions on his feet.

As a Democrat, Walker had the constant problem of working under Republican federal administrations in Washington (Presidents Coolidge and Hoover). In his first term, Cunard and other oceanic lines announced plans for building bigger and faster steamships. This meant their current piers would be too short for them. Walker contacted the Department of Commerce (under Hoover during Coolidge's administration) for permission to extend the piers into the Hudson River. The problem was that this would interfere with transportation in interstate commerce on the Hudson (longer piers mean less room for boats sailing on the river). Coolidge and Hoover said no. When told this, Walker immediately asked if there was any problem of blasting into the granite bedrock of the island of Manhattan to extend the piers into the island. His engineers said it could be done. There was no further problem about the extension of piers. If Walker could think that clearly on such a problem he probably could do his job half-well. But his moral lapses can't be easily dismissed, as this film tries to do.
16 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A Valentine to New York City with surprisingly strong dramatic performance by Hope
the_old_roman3 September 2001
I was a teenager when James J. Walker was the Mayor of New York. Bob Hope doesn't look anything like him but catches the essence of his exuberant spirits and lack of responsibility very well. The narration by Walter Winchell adds just the right touch.

Paul Douglas is perfect as the Tammany boss. Hope is especially terrific in the dramatic conflict and emotional scenes with both Alexis Smith and Vera Miles. It makes me wish Hope did more straight-up dramas. It is especially a shame in retrospect, because after Beau James, Hope really never had the opportunity to make a good movie again (unless you count Critic's Choice which I don't).

If you enjoy nostalgic sad-and-funny movies about New York, this is one for you.
9 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Not meticulous history, maybe, but great Hollywood
fung030 May 2007
Over all the many times I've seen this film, it never once occurred to me that it might actually be historically accurate. Nor did it occur to me that it would matter much either way. This is the perfect glossy 1950s Hollywood 'biopic'... a totally charming film, yet with more emotional depth and dramatic substance than most that were cranked out in this politically-delicate period.

For starters, there's a totally charming performance by Bob Hope. This was the perfect part for him: the chance to seriously play a character who was never quite serious. Hope makes the good times effervescent, and the sad times not quite so sad. He makes the central love affair between a man and a city seem completely believable. (Where in real life, obviously things could never be so simple.)

But the real star of this film is the City of New York itself. Not the 'real' city... the fabulous city of myth, as only Hollywood can spin that myth. Resonant with names that are familiar even to people who've never been within thousands of miles of New York, and evocative of a history that even New Yorkers probably recall only vaguely. Just as The Untouchables etched out a stark black-and-white portrait of 1920s Gangland Chicago, Beau James paints a fond, Technicolor memory of 1920s New York.

It's true that Bob Hope's performance, while perfect for the film, was perhaps not Oscar-worthy. (The question would be moot if the Academy had the brains to give out occasional Oscars for the great art of Comedy!) But no matter... Beau James is a well-polished gem of a movie for more reasons than just Hope. Yes, it's corny, and commercial, and formulaic... but in the best way. It romanticizes something that really deserves it.

I wish I was watching it right now...
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
Sanitized and sentimental, but not bad.
Joseph Harder17 April 1999
This is the closest thing to a good dramatic performance Bob Hope ever gave...and its pretty good. Of course, the film soft pedals and simplifies: Walkers great antagonists, Seabury and LaGuardia, barely appear in it. In fact, there is a great dramatic and tragic film waiting to be made of the Jimmy Walker story, with terrific roles for the actors who would portray the "little flower' LaGuardia, and the incorruptible, if cold -hearted, "man who rode the Tiger", Seabury, as well as Jimmy Walker ( not to mention his wife and mistress). Maybe Scorsese could do it someday.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
Fine Hope, fair history, fun film
John Esche21 February 2007
Based on the charmingly cleaned up biography of a minor but colorful figure in New York history, sometime songwriter/Mayor James J. ("Gentleman Jimmy") Walker, this unjustly neglected Paramount film was a healthy success in its day but has not (as of this writing) been made available on DVD despite an outstanding cast and ties to truly remarkable figures in entertainment and history. One of Bob Hope's warmest, most thoughtful performances, it should be rescued from the occasional "fool screen" broadcast and made available in a good VistaVision release reflecting the original.

The no less fictionalized musical biography of Walker's successor as Mayor of New York, Fiorello H. LaGuardia (the sadly unfilmed FIORELLO), won a Pulitzer Prize and tied with THE SOUND OF MUSIC for the Tony as Best Musical of 1959, but Fowler's biography of Walker with Hope in the lead (looking nothing like Walker, but beautifully capturing Fowler's idea of Walker's character) was as good as it got for Gentleman Jimmy - the less well cast 1969 musical (JIMMY, inflicted on Broadway by movie mogul Jack L. Warner) suggested by the same book but with far less skilled hands writing (BEAU JAMES' director, Melville Shavelson was one of the writers) died a painful death in just over two months (October 23, 1969-January 3, 1970, at the Winter Garden Theatre after a tryout at Philadelphia's Forrest Theatre; a long out-of-print Broadway Cast Album of the enjoyable but uneven score on RCA LSO 1162 is all that survives.) In the movie, the glamorous Alexis Smith (Tony Award, Best Actress in a Musical for 1971's FOLLIES) furthered her reputation as Hollywood ice princess as Walker's unappreciated but sympathetic wife, Allie, and had to work hard to allow audiences to believe that Bob Hope's finely layered but (on screen anyway) naive Walker would leave *her* for Vera Miles higher billed chorus girl, Betty Compton.

The film does make New York at the end of the "Roaring Twenties" almost a co-equal character in the piece, and appearances of several real life characters from the era (Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny and others) add to the impression beautifully - as does the deft narration from Fowler's book appropriately read by Walter Winchell.

It isn't great history or even great Hollywood, but it is a very warm, enjoyable film well worth a look - and a great example of how "bad" casting (Hope's lack of *physical* resemblance to Walker) can be brilliant if it gets the *psychology* right. When they tried to musicalize the idea a decade later, the production was probably dead the moment they cast the skinny impressionist/actor Frank Gorshin (who actually did bear a passing resemblance to Walker) in the Hope role. All the qualities Gene Fowler infused in his book (to MAKE the reader and later, viewer of the movie, feel "warm and forgiving all day long") disappeared. The movie understood this - and you will.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
The 'Night' Mayor of New York
bkoganbing26 February 2007
I believe it was Walter Winchell who coined that nickname for James J. Walker, Mayor of New York from 1926 to 1932 and the subject of this biographical film starring Bob Hope. It was Hope's last stab at a serious dramatic part. While he does well in it, Hope never tried as serious a role again in his career.

Jimmy Walker was the Majority leader of the State Senate and was the personal choice of Governor Alfred E. Smith to be Mayor of New York. Then as now, Republican mayors of New York City were a rarity, the Democratic nomination was sufficient guarantee to be elected.

Al Smith had dreams of being the Democratic presidential candidate. He almost was in 1924, but could not get past William Gibbs McAdoo that year in the famous 103 ballot convention that eventually turned to compromise dark horse candidate John W. Davis who went down in November to Calvin Coolidge. Smith wanted to secure his home base, but the mayoralty of New York and the patronage of the office was controlled by Smith's arch enemy, publisher William Randolph Hearst and his stooge Mayor John F. Hylan. Smith ran Walker in the 1925 primary and beat Hylan and then Walker handily won the General Election.

Smith knew Walker was a lightweight and he took the unusual step of having a gubernatorial office put in City Hall where he would be at least once a week, keeping tabs on Jimmy. Smith became the Democratic presidential candidate in 1928 and lost to Herbert Hoover. No longer governor, Smith was not around to keep Walker on a short leash. That's when he got into trouble.

Walker was a colorful figure during Prohibition. He and Smith were both unalterably opposed to the idea and Smith even served notice that the law enforcement arm of New York State would not be wasting its time on policing the drinking habits of New Yorkers. Walker got the nickname the Night Mayor of New York because as often as not he'd sleep all day and be partying all night at the famous Central Park Casino.

It was there that Walker met showgirl and began a long term affair with her. His marriage to his wife Allie was long over, but for appearance's sake, for the millions of Catholic voters in New York he kept the facade up.

Times have certainly changed. We now have a former Mayor of New York, named Rudolph Giuliani running for president with three marriages to his credit and a nasty divorce that got spread out in the tabloids.

Nobody ever mentioned Walker and president in the same breath. It was trouble enough to keep him paying attention to his job as mayor. The cronies he had from Tammany Hall ran wild, especially when Smith was no longer governor to keep them and him in line. During the boom times of the Twenties, people laughed at his colorful antics, but come the Depression and the stories of graft became routine newspaper stories, public opinion turned against Walker overnight.

Bob Hope made a fine Jimmy Walker and the two women in his life, Vera Miles as Betty and Alexis Smith as Allie give him good support. In one of his last films, Walter Catlett makes a brief appearance as Alfred E. Smith, and the rest of the cast is headed by Paul Douglas as a Tammany boss and Darren McGavin as Charles Hand, Walker's press secretary and conscience.

Beau James is a colorful account of a colorful era. It certainly as a film version of his life one that Jimmy Walker would have approved of.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
New York was in his blood
edwardi-koch9 February 2006
In Beau James, Bob Hope does a great job of depicting how the enormity of New York courses through its Mayor's blood and at least partially takes over every aspect of his life. Politics, in general, makes it difficult, if not impossible some times, to actually have a private life. When New York is your wife, you have no time for mistresses. Bob Hope did a great job of illustrating this in Beau James. He neither looked nor spoke like the tall, angular, thick-accented Jimmy Walker, but Hope captured his spirit and his joie-de-vivre. Paul Douglas is superb as Chris, the Tammany Hall boss. Alexis Smith is marvelous as Walker's pragmatic spouse and Vera Miles is gorgeous and winsome as ingénue Betty Compton with whom Walker had an affair. There is a great cameo by Jimmy Durante while Darrin McGavin and James Flavin both resonate in strong supporting performances. This is an enjoyable film that never forgets that New York is its actual star.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Hope Shines in Fine Tribute to Mayor Walker ***1/2
edwagreen21 January 2006
Bob Hope turned in a great performance as N.Y. Mayor James Walker in this 1957 film.

While the film did not delve into the exact intricacies of the corruption of the Walker Administration, we do have Judge Seabury heading the investigation prompted by Gov. Roosevelt, who wanted that nomination in 1932 and would use Walker's alleged corruption to get it.

Remember the song- the little tin box? That best describes what was going on when Walker, a really decent not-too bright guy, let corrupt officials run the show at City Hall.

Adored by the people at first,(Will You Remember Me in December is sung with zest), he can't accept the booing he encounters at a baseball game, once the corruption details start coming out.

Adding fuel to the fire is Walker's abandonment of his wife for actress Betty Compton, played by Vera Miles. Walker eventually resigned and went with Compton to Mexico.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
This role was made for Bob Hope.
T.C. Herring29 May 2002
Having watched this movie many times -- it's in my library, I firmly believe that the role could only have been played by Bob Hope. To my mind, this is his best performance. That coupled with an excellent cast, highlighted by the duet with Jimmy Durante (and Jack Benny's cameo) make this a thoroughly enjoyable movie to watch -- just for fun. >
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
From what I can remember the is the best movie that Bob Hope made.
maureen-conway25 October 2006
I saw this movie on TV about 30 years ago. In it Bob Hope plays the mayor of New York. The city that he truly loved. But, although he was married, he became involved with another woman. In the end he had to choose between his wife and New York and his mistress. It has been so long since I have seen it that I am not sure about the end. I do believe he chooses his girl friend and loses everything else but I am not sure if that is where it ends. I wrote to TCM and they replied that whoever owned it has not released it. I am afraid that the film itself will dry out and not be usable. Is there anyway that I can get a copy of it? I have written to several movie catalog companies and they have all replied that they do not have it but will let me know if they can get it.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
At least something on his life was made
Scott-5225 November 1999
The life of Jimmy Walker would make a great film. It could be a tragedy in the Greek tradition - a man of many gifts with a single fatal flaw. A pretty good, though short-lived, musical Jimmy, was on Broadway in 1969 for about 85 performances. It had a good score, excellent casting and quite a story..... it missed it's audience though - theater goers in the late sixties were played out on musicals of the past, and didn't want to hear about politicians not attending to duty.

The film does well to capture the spirit of the 1920s via the 1950s, and stays true to Gene Fowler's memorable biography. Hope is an inspired choice for the tin pan alley songwriter turned politician.

Alexis Smith does a good job. And its always a pleasure to see Jimmy Durante, that well-dressed man.

Though pretty one-dimensional, it is good this film was made if only to chronicle the story of a man who really could have done great things, if he'd only paid attention to business and not got caught up in extra-marital problems and suspect financial transactions made by friends on his behalf.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Essential viewing!
JohnHowardReid2 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Executive producer: Bob Hope. A Hope Enterprises Production, released through Paramount Pictures. Copyright 1956 by Hope Enterprises, Inc. New York opening at the Astor: 26 June 1957. U.S. release: July 1957. U.K. release: 11 August 1957. Australian release: 17 October 1957. Sydney opening at the Prince Edward: 25 October 1957 (ran only 11 days). 9,609 feet. 106 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: Handsome, debonair James John Walker (1881-1946) served as the 100th mayor of New York City from 1926-1932 when he was forced to resign over allegations of corruption.

NOTES: In British prints, the off-camera commentary was spoken by Alastair Cooke.

VIEWER'S GUIDE: The film raises important questions of morality, both public and private. Essential viewing for all.

COMMENT: A more or less straight role which fits Bob Hope like a glove. The real-life Walker had plenty of quips and show business in his blood (he actually wrote the song "Will You Love Me in December?"). Hope not only exploits these traits to the full (there are two musical highlights, one with Hope joining an exuberant Jimmy Durante in "The Sidewalks of New York") but presents Walker as a likable and fully rounded personality, constantly battling Tammany and the Catholic Church.

It seems Walker's only mistake was in trusting his own judgment as to the honesty and integrity of the key officials he appointed.

This is undoubtedly one of Hope's best performances ever, but it proved not overly popular with his fans. More disappointingly, the comedian's fellow actors failed to appreciate how brilliantly he'd handled a very complex and difficult role. Even the wisecracks are delivered in true Jimmy Walker style.

Hope is assisted by a fine gallery of support players led by the perfectly cast Paul Douglas as a politically wise ward-heeler, the vulnerable Vera Miles and the opportunistic Alexis Smith. Walter Catlett has a stand-out cameo as Al Smith.

Shavelson and Rose have penned a script that is sharp, witty, pointed yet poignant; Rose has produced on an expensive budget, with wonderful photography, sets and costumes; Shavelson has directed with force and flair.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
Well, he wasn't that bad....
MartinHafer25 April 2017
After seeing "Beau James" I was left wondering..."why would they want to make a movie out of THIS??". After all, Mayor Jimmy Walker was far from being honest or virtuous. And yet, oddly, the film is trying to say that he was KINDA these things.

The film is a Hollywoodization of the career of Jimmy Walker (Bob Hope) once he became mayor of New York City. Mostly, it shows him worried about his wardrobe, taking bribes and being a man adored by New Yorkers. But, the object lesson appears to be "He wasn't nearly as dishonest as he could have been!". Huh?

For me, by the time the movie ended I was left with a strange sense of confusion. Why was Walker worthy of a biopic? And, why should I care about his love life? And, was Bob Hope playing Walker...or Bob Hope?
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Dramatic Side Of Bob Hope
David Lobosco28 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Probably one of Bob Hope's least remembered films, BEAU JAMES (1957) was probably one of Hope's most dramatic efforts. In the forgotten movie, Bob Hope plays Mayor James J. Walker. New York City is known for choosing colorful characters for its mayors. One its most illustrious was the wisecracking, dancing and singing Mayor James J. Walker who helmed the Big Apple in the 1920s. This biopic chronicles his surprising rise to power and is adapted from a book by Gene Fowler. Walker owed his mayoral post to Tammany, a powerful political organization that used its tremendous clout to get him installed. Walker, who never takes his job seriously, then becomes a figurehead for Tammany, and while he is in power, corruption in the police force and other city offices runs rampant. Meanwhile Walker wrangles with his lover, dancer Betty Compton (played by Vera Miles), and his jealous wife (played by Alexis Smith), from whom he is separated.

Hope does very well as Walker. He does have a serious role where his flippant jokes match the character. He also shows the right degree of serious behavior, panicked when Betty is spirited away by Paul Douglas and Tammany Hall, or when he tells off the citizens of New York at Yankee Stadium for electing him. But the gaps in the script - the unwillingness to show the uglier side of the corruption - prevent one from taking it too seriously. Hope deserves recognition for his performance here, but he didn't merit (nor receive) an Oscar nomination for BEAU JAMES.

This is a celluloid version of Gene Fowler's valentine to his old chum Jimmy. It tries to make a case that Walker did not realize his taking the bribes/gifts was wrong. Walker knew it was wrong, but he never admitted it - he had been brought up in a city run by the Hall, and he was doing business there exactly as every boodling Mayor of New York had done since the 19th Century. Walker (a good Catholic, presumably) also knew that he was committing adultery when he took up with Ms Compton. Later, after he left City Hall, he divorced his wife and married Betty. Interestingly that marriage eventually failed, although Jimmy and Betty did adopt a girl. Compton died in 1941. Jimmy died in 1947.There was also terrific cameo appearances by stars that met and knew the real May James Walker including: Jimmy Durante, Jack Benny, and George Jessel. American prints of this film are narrated by Walter Winchell; in Britain, the film was narrated by Alistair Cooke. One of the most memorable lines is when Walker is asked at a baseball game of a personal conduct scandal was "my comment, and you can quote me is I hope the Yankees win." While Bob Hope's acting is not really Oscar worthy in this 1957 film, it is his best acting effort. Bob is the star of the film, but he shares the spotlight with the City of New York as well. Jimmie Walker was New York City in the 1920s, and it really comes across here. The movie was not a box office hit, and although Dean Martin recorded the title song, not many people remember this film. It has not been released on video or DVD. Bob Hope, Jimmy Walker, and the City of New York deserve it to be released...
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
Will You Love Me In September Like You Did In May?
DKosty12327 March 2010
This is a rare film because Bob Hope plays it straight. That did not happen in many of his films. Not only that, but Hope proves here he can actually take a straight role & act being a solid star in this movie.

While the studio that put this film out didn't give it a big push, the supporting cast is top notch as Vera Miles is an actress that was A list enough that even Hitchcock wanted her for some roles during this time period. Why she chose a Hope film over Hitch might be quite a real story. Understand though that when Hitch was ready for her, she got pregnant so she could not do his film.

Not true here as she is part of an A list support cast for Hope in this film. While the story has been highly fictionalized, most movies really do leave fact a little on the short side. The term "May-September Romance" might be related to JJ Walker as his affair with a very public life.

This film is quite good as if follows the rise & fall of one of New York Citys more colorful mayors.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews