Editor's Note: If you have not seen the movie, please be aware there are some plot spoilers in the following discussion.
Clint Eastwood's new movie, "J. Edgar," is another left-wing attempt to spit on the grave of FBI founder and Director J. Edgar Hoover. It's a biased representation of Hoover's public and private life that obviously wasn't subject to the due diligence required for such a movie. It's too bad that Clint Eastwood apparently fell for the left-wing smears against Hoover. Radical extremists, including many leaders of the Democratic Party and the liberal press, have been spreading these smears for the past 40 years.
The movie opens with an old liberal shibboleth – the idea that, in 1919, Hoover, not Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer or Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, was the main force behind a program in the Justice Department against left-wing radicals, which included many immigrants. In actuality, Wilson had already developed a program against immigrants during the war with Germany in 1917-18. Also, in 1919 Palmer appointed Hoover the head of the investigative team purging the immigrant community of those radicals after a series of anti-capitalist bombings, one of which was aimed at Palmer's own home. The movie is correct in saying, however, that Hoover's experience in leading this team led to a vigorous, lifelong anti-communist attitude. What the movie fails to note is that Hoover and his FBI also worked diligently to stop Nazi infiltration of America during World War II. This opening sets the stage for the movie's left-wing revisionist history that Hoover pulled the strings of every Democratic Party president from Wilson to Johnson.
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After quelling the left-wing agitators in the 1920s, the movie describes how the FBI, under Hoover, went on to fight the gangsters and bank robbers causing mayhem during the Great Depression in the 1930s. It also shows Hoover reminiscing about his part in the bureau's investigation of the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's baby.
At the same time Hoover carries on these exploits, the movie says Hoover doted on his mother and became very close friends with a lawyer named Clyde Tolson, whom he hired. The movie contends Hoover's mother was a raving "homophobe" who forced Hoover to repress his homosexual tendencies. This frustrates Tolson, who clearly worships his friend and wants more than just the occasional handclasp from Hoover. In one scene, Hoover tells Tolson he's thinking of marrying Hollywood actress Dorothy Lamour. Tolson goes berserk and punches Hoover. The two men get into a fight, at the end of which Tolson plants a huge kiss on Hoover's lips, which have been bloodied during the fight. Hoover pushes Tolson off him, and Tolson angrily retreats to another room. As Tolson retreats, Hoover whispers, "I love you," which Tolson apparently doesn't hear.
Finally, "J. Edgar" gives a brief overview of Hoover's campaign against 1960s activists and radicals, including his wire tap of Martin Luther King's bedroom as King has extramarital sex with some woman. The movie accepts the apparently slanderous left-wing lie that Hoover goaded Attorney General Robert Kennedy into letting him wire tap King. The historical record shows, however, that it was Kennedy and his brother, John, who ordered the wiretaps. What this movie leaves out is the fact that the Kennedys and Hoover had been informed that King's closest white adviser, Stanley David Levison, was a secret top-level member of the Communist Party of the United States of America when he first met King in 1956. (See "The FBI and Martin Luther King," Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2002.)
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King repeatedly misled Kennedy officials about his close ties to Levison, who left the Communist Party in 1957. Apparently, Hoover and the Kennedys didn't believe King was a communist, or that Levison would make him one. But they were worried that Levison's radical character might influence King to make bad decisions leading to political unrest in the country. Of course, later, King did indeed sign onto the left-wing antiwar movement and radical anti-poverty schemes. The antiwar movement led to the murder of more than two million people in Cambodia and Vietnam and the oppression of millions more. And the radical, big government anti-poverty schemes stemming from the 1960s and beyond have ruined the lives of many Americans, including millions of children and impressionable teenagers, not to mention wasted billions of taxpayer dollars.
Using the left-wing matrix, "J. Edgar" alleges that part of its story is being told from Hoover's own anti-communist viewpoint. At the end, however, the character playing Hoover's friend, Tolson, refutes some of the scenes in Hoover's story involving the Great Depression gangsters and the Lindbergh baby case. The viewer is then left to question whether Hoover's lifelong hostility and war against communism and left-wing agitators was also full of lies. The movie equivocates a little bit here, however, because the anti-American violence of many communist, left-wing agitators cannot be denied.
Besides its acceptance of a bunch of slanderous, left-wing innuendo against Hoover, "J. Edgar" leaves out a lot of exciting FBI material. That material includes the FBI's cases against Nazi infiltrators, its gun battles with Great Depression gangsters and its prevention of terrorist bombings on New York City during Thanksgiving 1962 by agents of communist Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. (See "Castro and Che's foiled (and forgotten) 9/11," May 6, 2011, and "Vendetta: Fidel Castro and the Kennedy Brothers," by historian William Breuer.) Of course, this material undercuts the movie's left-wing worldview, so it's not surprising these things were left on the cutting room floor.
Several years ago, Ernest Borgnine made a one-man movie about the FBI founder, called simply "Hoover." That movie is based on the critically acclaimed book by Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, the deputy director of the FBI under Hoover, "Hoover's FBI." DeLoach sets the record straight on Hoover, denying the more outrageous claims against Hoover that Eastwood's movie promotes. For instance, DeLoach clearly refutes (as do other sources) the lies about Hoover's alleged homosexuality. Our positive review of the Ernest Borgnine movie can be found at Movieguide.org.
Was J. Edgar Hoover a perfect person? No. Even his close associate for 28 years at the FBI, Deke DeLoach, admits that in his book. But, people need to be extremely careful when they accept anything that the liberal, left-wing media tell them. MOVIEGUIDE® finds, more often than not, that nearly all of it is based on a house of cards.