Beau James (1957)

As star of stage, screen, radio and television, Bob Hope was one of the most popular American entertainers of the 20th Century. In a long film career that included the classic Road To series with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour, Hope only ever attempted two dramatic roles. Both of these were in biopics. The first, The Seven Little Foys (1955), starred Hope as entertainer Eddie Foy. His next one would prove more of a stretch, portraying controversial  politician Jimmy Walker in Beau James.

 

Not that Hope doesn’t have ample opportunity for his trademark wisecracks. Written and directed by his long-time joke-writer Melville Shavelson, Beau James presents Jimmy Walker as a man who gives up show business to enter politics, yet refuses to curtail his carefree ways. As his political power-broker gleefully concedes, it makes him a great candidate but a lousy mayor. Though many of Walker’s failings are an open secret, he triggers his own downfall by going public with his extra-martial affair.

 

Despite the philandering, corrupt nature of the character he portrays, one cannot help but like Hope, and perhaps this is one of the film’s failings (along with corny narration by Walter Winchell and some of the worst rear  projection seen in a major Hollywood release). Though a political opponent’s attack ad provides an unvarnished perspective of Walker, the biopic itself romanticises the man, if not his tenure as New York City Mayor.

 

A delightful soundtrack and a couple of surprise cameos add to the film’s enjoyment.

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Though biopic has Jimmy Walker claiming to be the 100th Mayor of New York City, he was in fact the 97th.

Though Jimmy Walker appeared in Nertz and his second wife, actress Betty Compton, starred in The Legacy and Too Many Millions, there are no scene recreations in this biopic. 

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