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|Index||13 reviews in total|
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.
*** This review may contain 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...
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.
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