Arthur Curtiss James Documentary - Trailer
Co-produced, filmed and edited by Joseph Daniel; co-produced, written and directed by Roger Vaughan; co-produced and researched by Harry Anderson, 2017 – Featuring a remarkable man few people have ever heard about, Restoring Arthur is a one-hour docudrama that seeks to illuminate the brilliant business successes, the extraordinary philanthropy, and the grand life of Arthur Curtiss James, one of the last — and certainly least known — of the railroad robber barons.
James shunned publicity yet was headlined in the national press as one of the “Men who Run America.” He was counted in the ten wealthiest men in the country in the 1920s and ‘30s, and when he died in 1941 he owned one-seventh of all the railroad track in America. James was also a prominent yachtsmen who sailed, and personally captained, two of the great, legendary yachts of his time in multiple trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific passages. He was a past Commodore of the New York Yacht Club and founding Commodore of Ida Lewis Yacht Club. His main residence was a 125-acre estate on Beacon Hill in Newport, RI where he lived with his wife Harriet while also maintaining mansions in New York and Florida. Born into old money and adept at adding to it, James’ philanthropy was both enormous and heartfelt. As one of its most notable alumni he served as trustee of Amherst College for 34 years. By all accounts he was a likable, reasonable gentleman of good humor and sensitive nature, but with a thinly veiled dark side of serial womanizing.
Utilizing extraordinary historic photographs and rare 16mm film never before seen, Restoring Arthur follows a chronological line. The film is highlighted by several re-enactments of significant events in James’ life, and is narrated by a character named Peter (who has been creatively expanded yet who was in fact a college roommate in real life and a close friend of Arthur’s). Peter’s seductive voice-over and repeated on-camera breaking of the fourth wall takes us from Arthur receiving partial ownership in the famous schooner Coronet as a college graduation gift from his father, through his ascension to CEO of Phelps Dodge, to his ultimate completion of a transcontinental rail line in 1931 and near dominance of western railroads — all punctuated by an adventurous life lived large.