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The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977)

 -  Biography | Drama  -  December 1977 (USA)
6.4
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Ratings: 6.4/10 from 349 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 4 critic

The story of the late J. Edgar Hoover, who was head of the FBI from 1924-1972. The film follows Hoover from his racket-busting days through his reign under eight U.S. presidents.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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James Wainwright ...
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Lionel McCoy
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Florence Hollister
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Dwight Webb
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Carrie DeWitt (as Roneé Blakley)
Howard Da Silva ...
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Dave Hindley
Michael Sacks ...
Raymond St. Jacques ...
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Hoover's Mother
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Storyline

The story of the late J. Edgar Hoover, who was head of the FBI from 1924-1972. The film follows Hoover from his racket-busting days through his reign under eight U.S. presidents.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The files that escaped the shredder have become an incredible motion picture. From the Kennedys to Martin Luther King. From cab drivers to Congressmen. From housewives to hostesses. He had something on 58 million people. It was all in his files. Now you can see how he used it.

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

December 1977 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

FBI:n salaisuudet  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Larry Cohen cast Lloyd Nolan because of Nolan's work in such films about the FBI as 'G' Men (1935), The House on 92nd Street (1945) and The Street with No Name (1948), noting that he couldn't imagine making an FBI film without him. See more »

Quotes

Lionel McCoy: [sarcastically] Give my regards to the Wizard of Oz!
See more »

Connections

References Manhattan Melodrama (1934) See more »

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User Reviews

 
An Impressive Biopic Of The FBI's Notorious Director
13 December 1998 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

In a well-crafted semi-documentary style, this film traces the career of John Edgar Hoover across the 48 years of his directorship of the FBI. The drama is interlarded with genuine news footage of key events, and as a whole the movie works well as a hybrid of fact and fiction. Broderick Crawford gives the performance of a lifetime as the pugnacious, jowly control freak with a vulnerable core. The essential contradictions of the man are cleverly exposed: the 'top cop' who never really was a policeman does not scruple to violate the constitution when it suits him, and the priggish crusader against moral laxity gets his quirky thrills listening to wiretaps of sexual liaisons. The casting is inspired. Quite apart from the marvellous Crawford, several Hollywood veterans turn in first-class performances - Dan Dailey is Hoover's sidekick Tolson, Jose Ferrer is the cynical McCoy, and Lloyd Nolan is impressive as the Attorney-General. Among the younger actors, William Jordan is convincing as John Kennedy, and Michael Parks' Robert Kennedy captures the vocal inflexions of the real man admirably: it is just a shame that the 'look' isn't quite right. Bobby was nothing if not clean-cut and athletic, and Parks plays him as a slightly dishevelled, shambling figure. Larry Cohen wrote, directed and produced the film, and his enthusiasm for the project occasionally leads him into error. Hoover is given too much credit (or blame) for the unravelling of Watergate. Where the film scores highly is in its depiction of the power struggle between the young intellectual Robert Kennedy and the declining but still formidable Hoover. The movie is also spot-on in showing how Hoover clung to office long after he had anything left to contribute. The politicians left him undisturbed because they feared him. Of the presidents and attorneys-general portrayed in the film, Nixon alone fails to emerge from the shadows. This can no doubt be explained by the fact that he was still alive in 1977: all the others were in their graves: dead men don't sue. There must have been a real temptation, when putting this film together, simply to trash Hoover as an unbalanced megalomaniac. Wisely, Cohen resists that pull, and shows his subject as a psychologically-deformed man who nevertheless believed that he was holding his country together and devoted his life to the cause. Hoover comes across as a cruel self-publicist, but also as a lonely man racked with hang-ups and inhibitions. He had no private life worth speaking of. He never married and was unwilling (or unable) to retire to a life of leisure. At one point in the film, his G-men describe him as a priest. And so he was - if you consider the guardianship of a nation's dirty linen to be a holy office.


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