Beau James


1h 45m 1957

Brief Synopsis

The story of Jimmy Walker who became mayor of New York in the '20s. Used by professional politicians and money-grabbers, Walker himself was "stupid but clean", although his open affair with Betty Compton cost him dear.

Film Details

Release Date
Jul 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Jun 1957; Los Angeles opening: 2 Jul 1957
Production Company
Hope Enterprises, Inc.; Paramount Pictures Corp.; Scribe Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States; New York City--Yankee Stadium, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Beau James by Gene Fowler (New York, 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
9,411ft

Synopsis

In the spring of 1925, New York State Senator James J. "Jimmy" Walker is summoned to the office of Gov. Al Smith, who makes a personal request that the popular Jimmy run for mayor of New York City. Smith and his associates in the Democratic Party are certain that Jimmy can easily win the election, thereby consolidating the Party's power in the state of New York. However, Jimmy, an Irish Catholic, is reluctant because he is estranged from his wife Allie, who tired of his womanizing and irresponsibility. Smith soon removes this obstacle to Jimmy's campaign when he reveals that Allie is waiting nearby, ready to lend her support and attempt a reconciliation. With his political mentor, Chris Nolan, and Allie at his side, Jimmy begins his campaign, taking his message to the streets of New York. Visiting the city's various ethnic neighborhoods, Jimmy delights the assembled crowds with his own composition, "Will You Love Me in December," which he sings in Yiddish, Polish and Italian. After winning the election by a landslide, Jimmy sets himself to the task of appointing his staff. The politically savvy Chris hands Jimmy a list of job candidates who are owed "favors," but Jimmy insists on hiring staff members on their own merits. At home, Allie rebuffs Jimmy's advances, informing him that his election to mayor has not restored his full marital privileges. That night, Jimmy visits a nightclub and later passes out drunk on a park bench, where he is discovered by young nightclub singer Betty Compton, a Canadian emigré with a fondness for stray cats. Unaware that Jimmy is the mayor, Betty attempts to help him home. Shortly after, upon learning of Jimmy's identity, Betty angrily denounces his behavior as unbecoming to public office, and Jimmy finds himself smitten by her spunk. Using his power as mayor, Jimmy forces Broadway producer Bernie Williams to hire Betty for his new show. At first angry at Jimmy for his machinations on her behalf, Betty is eventually won over by his charm and sincerity. Back at City Hall, Jimmy proclaims that he will wipe out corruption in the city government. Chris, angry that Jimmy has not consulted Tammany Hall about his plans, condemns him as hopelessly naïve. As his first term comes to a close, Jimmy finally realizes that he will have to play the political game if he is to stay in office and fulfill his promises to the electorate. In the fall of 1929, Jimmy and Chris prepare for Jimmy's reelection campaign against Congressman Fiorello LaGuardia, who has released newsreels dismissing Jimmy as the "musical comedy mayor" and accusing him of spending one-third of his term on vacation while giving himself a hefty salary hike. Although LaGuardia's accusations are not without foundation, Jimmy's charisma overshadows his weaknesses as mayor and he is reelected in another landslide victory. Now broke as a result of the stock market crash, Jimmy retains his happy-go-lucky attitude, but Betty, tired of being hidden from public view, is bitterly disappointed by his reelection and the prospect of four more years of secrecy. Jimmy, who cannot persuade Allie to divorce him, then takes Betty to his victory party over the protests of his handlers. Soon after, the committee of Judge Samuel Seabury begins investigating allegations of graft and corruption in Jimmy's government. Chris and Charley Hand, Jimmy's loyal secretary, beg Jimmy to give up Betty so that he won't lose the Church's support, but Jimmy refuses, leading Charley to resign. With much dignity, the long-suffering Allie warns Betty not to cast her lot with Jimmy, who will never be happy out of the public eye. That evening, at a boisterous roast in Jimmy's honor, Betty realizes that Jimmy will never give her the stable home life of which she dreams and tearfully breaks off their relationship. After Betty attempts suicide, Chris hustles her onto a boat headed for Havana, and she later marries a young suitor. Jimmy, heartbroken over the loss of Betty, is summoned by the Seabury Committee and Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt to testify about stocks and bonds he accepted from various political associates, and, in August 1932, he travels to Albany with Allie and Chris. Speaking in his own defense, Jimmy admits that he accepted monetary gifts, but claims that he never intended any wrongdoing and was guilty only of stupidity. After reciting the tale of "Susanna and the Elders," Jimmy goes on to proclaim that if he is guilty, then so are all of the politicians present. On the train back to New York City, Allie and Chris praise Jimmy for his honesty, but Charley, who now works for Roosevelt, denounces Jimmy for causing a split in the Party vote, which may damage Roosevelt's chances in the Presidential election. Jimmy, sure that he still has the support of his constituents, attends a Yankees baseball game, but is loudly booed by the spectators. From the field, Jimmy makes a resignation speech in which he apologizes for any wrongdoing he may have committed, but also reminds the spectators that they bear some of the responsibility by electing him in the first place. After saying goodbye to a tearful Allie, who still loves him and refuses to divorce, Jimmy boards a boat bound for Europe. As he gazes at the skyline of his beloved New York, Betty, who has gotten a quick divorce, arrives and declares her intention to spend her life with him, no matter where the boat should take them.

Cast

Bob Hope

James J. "Jimmy" Walker

Vera Miles

Betty Compton

Paul Douglas

Chris Nolan

Alexis Smith

Allie Walker

Darren Mcgavin

Charley Hand

Joe Mantell

Bernie Williams

Horace Mcmahon

Prosecutor

Richard Shannon

Dick Jackson

Willis Bouchey

Arthur Julian

Sid Melton

Sid Nash

George Jessel

Himself

Walter Catlett

Gov. Al Smith

Walter Winchell

Narration

Jack Benny

Himself

Jimmy Durante

Himself

Rhubarb, A Cat

Tom

Richard B. Fitzgerald

Police secretary

Babette Bain

Puerto Rican child

Sammy Cahn

Arranger

Charles Meredith

Judge Harrison

Charles Irwin

Capt. O'Shea

William Forrest

Attorney

James Flavin

Capt. Dennis

Sandra Gould

Secretary

Joe Mcturk

Speakeasy owner

Jack Pepper

Walker's friend

Richard Keene

Walker's friend

George Pat Collins

Policeman

Charles Keane

Policeman

Dick Ryan

Policeman

Mickey Finn

Policeman

James Hyland

Policeman

Harlan Warde

Reporter

Larry Blake

Reporter

Philip Van Zandt

Reporter

Gordon Wynn

Reporter

Hy Anzel

Reporter

Bing Russell

Reporter

Johnny Grant

Reporter

Russ Bender

Reporter

Joseph Turkel

Reporter

George Lynn

Reporter

Paul Gary

Reporter

Don Brodie

Reporter

Eric Alden

Reporter

Bill Meader

Reporter

Leonard Bremen

Building inspector

Tim Ryan

Police captain

James E. Mcnally

Governor's secretary

Joel Smith

Governor's secretary

Sidney Marion

New Yorker

Danny Davenport

New Yorker

Len Hendry

New Yorker

Llorna Jordan

New Yorker

James Joseph O'neill

Patrolman

Vilis Lapenieks

Latvian ambassador

Dick Nelson

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Mike Mahoney

Intern

Joseph Donte

Photographer

Ralph Brooks

Photographer

John Benson

Photographer

Robert Strong

Photographer

Lyle Moraine

Spectator

James Davies

Spectator

Edgar Murray

Doctor

Hazel Boyne

Flower woman

Pat Moran

Court clerk

Film Details

Release Date
Jul 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Jun 1957; Los Angeles opening: 2 Jul 1957
Production Company
Hope Enterprises, Inc.; Paramount Pictures Corp.; Scribe Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States; New York City--Yankee Stadium, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book Beau James by Gene Fowler (New York, 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
9,411ft

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

This film is subtitled "The Life and Times of Jimmy Walker." The film was copyrighted once, on July 1, 1957, by two claiments: Hope Enterprises, Inc. and Scribe Productions. Beau James opens with a prologue, narrated by Walter Winchell, in which New York City is compared to a seductive woman, a metaphor that is used throughout the film in Winchell's intermittent voice-overs and in the lyrics of its theme song, "Will You Love Me in December." The voice-over epilogue by Winchell consists of the final paragraph from Gene Fowler's biography of Walker. James J. "Jimmy" Walker (1881-1946) was the one-hundreth mayor of New York City. The son of a man active in New York City political circles, Walker entered politics after a brief stint on Tin Pan Alley during which he wrote the 1908 hit song "Will You Love Me in December." Walker was elected mayor in 1925 and reelected in 1929. Judge Samuel Seabury began his investigation of Walker's administration in 1930, calling Walker to testify in the summer of 1932. Walker was not formally charged with wrongdoing and was still popular with his constituents, but resigned his office in August 1932 to avoid further scandal. Soon after, he left the United States to live in Europe.
       Although the film ends with "Allie" and Jimmy deciding not to divorce, the Walkers did divorce in 1933, after which Walker married singer Betty Compton, his mistress of six years. Compton did not marry another man during Walker's troubles with the Seabury Commission, as the film suggests, but was married briefly prior to meeting Walker. In 1935, Walker returned with Compton to the United States, where he was greeted by crowds of cheering New Yorkers. Compton divorced Walker in 1941 and remarried shortly after, but she and Walker remained close until her early death at age 40 from cancer. Walker died two years later, in 1946. According to Fowler's biography, Walker returned to the Catholic Church, from which he had long been estranged, following his divorce from Compton.
       A Hollywood Reporter news item dated August 1947 reported that Fowler, then in the process of writing Walker's biography, was turning down offers of up to $500,000 for the screen rights to his forthcoming book because he wanted to produce the film himself. There is no indication, however, that Fowler was involved in the production of this film, which was made ten years after the publication of his book. According to a Los Angeles Times article published in August 1956, in order to ensure accuracy and avoid lawsuits, the producers paid clearance fees of up to $7,500 to a number of individuals, including Janet Allen "Allie" Walker, Betty Compton's mother and Charley Hand's widow. Mrs. Walker reportedly approved of the story, asking only that a reference to her as "brittle" be removed and that Walker be treated more sympathetically in one particular scene. A modern source indicates that director Melville Shavelson and producer Jack Rose paid clearance fees totaling $50,000, while a biography of Bob Hope notes that Florence Compton stipulated that her daughter's real name be used in the film and requested that the actress chosen to play the role bear a physical resemblance to her.
       According to publicity material contained in the AMPAS Library clippings file on the film, Shavelson and Rose went location scouting in New York City, but discovered that the only places frequented by Walker still standing were Yankee Stadium and City Hall. Although background footage was shot of New York City streets and of the crowds at Yankee Stadium and the St. Patrick's Day Parade, the majority of the film was shot on a soundstage. The technical adviser on the film, Harold Melnicker, had been an aide to Judge Seabury and participated in the legal proceedings against Walker. Vera Miles was given permission to appear in Beau James by Alfred Hitchcock, to whom she was under personal contract. Hitchcock required that Miles be dressed in white, black or gray, and, save for one scene in which she sings in a pale pink period costume, Miles wears nothing but these shades in the film.
       Correspondence dated July 1956 and contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicates that the PCA was highly critical of the script's depiction of the relationship between Walker and Compton. The PCA asked the producers to "preserve some regard for the institution of marriage" by eradicating "any aura of romanticization" of the affair and went on to suggest that since the marriage of Walker and Compton "ended in dire tragedy," the producers might solve the problem by "introduc[ing] a note of strong foreboding" in the liaison. The script's happy ending, the PCA declared, "is a false note both historically and from the Code point of view." The Catholic Legion of Decency gave Beau James a "B" rating because the film did not depict Walker's return to his faith in his later years. According to a Daily Variety news item published in November 1957, Paramount paid a $1,500 settlement to Marion Sunshine, a vaudeville performer who recognized one of her songs in the sketch "His Honor, the Mayor of New York," which is performed in the film by Jimmy Durante. Paramount held the option on a Sunshine composition entitled "Little Jimmy, the Mayor of New York."
       According to an January 18, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film was advertised with a "special TV subject," narrated by Bob Hope and featuring authentic newsreel footage of "major events occurring in Manhattan" during the 1920s. Although reviewers felt that Beau James was entertaining and captured the tone of Walker's era, the film was not viewed as particularly factual. Films in Review denounced the picture as a "whitewash of a lax and tainted public official," while Time magazine stated that its affectionate portrayal of a "whoopee-making clown" was "just as irresponsible as its taxpayer-take-the-hindmost hero." Following Shavelson's and Rose's The Seven Little Foys (1955), Beau James marked Hope's second appearance in a role with strong dramatic elements. Although Hope received generally favorable reviews for his performance, his biographers have noted that he was disappointed that his work in this film did not garner more critical attention; he never again attempted a dramatic role.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States July 1957

Released in United States Summer July 1957

c Technicolor

VistaVision

Released in United States July 1957

Released in United States Summer July 1957