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J. Edgar Hoover, powerful head of the F.B.I. for nearly 50 years, looks back on his professional and personal life.

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 5 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Cheryl Lawson ...
Palmer's Wife
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Palmer's Daughter
Brady Matthews ...
Inspector
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Head Secretary
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Edgar's Father
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Hoover as a Child
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Labor Dept. Lawyer
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Storyline

Biopic of J. Edgar Hoover told by Hoover as he recalls his career for a biography. Early in his career, Hoover fixated on Communists, anarchists and any other revolutionary taking action against the U.S. government. He slowly builds the agency's reputation, becoming the sole arbiter of who gets hired and fired. One of his hires is Clyde Tolson who is quickly promoted to Assistant Director and would be Hoover's confidant and companion for the rest of Hoover's life. Hoover's memories have him playing a greater role in the many high profile cases the FBI was involved in - the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the arrest of bank robbers like John Dillinger - and also show him to be quite adept at manipulating the various politicians he's worked with over his career, thanks in large part to his secret files. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The Most Powerful Man in the World

Genres:

Biography | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

11 November 2011 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hoover  »

Box Office

Budget:

$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$11,217,324 (USA) (11 November 2011)

Gross:

$37,304,950 (USA) (17 February 2012)
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Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Armie Hammer, who plays Clyde Tolson, is the great-grandson of Occidental Petroleum tycoon Armand Hammer. In his biography of Hammer (the tycoon, not the actor) called "Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer," author Edward Jay Epstein reported that the tycoon had a multi-decade history of being scrutinized and suspected of Soviet ties by J. Edgar Hoover. Armie stated in an interview that he took the role to avenge that scrutiny. See more »

Goofs

After Emma Goldman's 1919 trial, reporters start shooting photos using flash bulbs. They were not in general-use for photography until 1925. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
J. Edgar Hoover: Let me tell you something. The SCLC has direct Communist ties. Even great men can be corrupted, can't they? Communism is not a political party. It is a disease. It corrupts the soul, turning men, even the gentlest of men, into vicious evil tyrants.
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Connections

Features 'G' Men (1935) See more »

Soundtracks

My Blue Heaven
Written by Walter Donaldson and George Whiting
Performed by Gene Austin
Courtesy of RCA
By arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Worth a look, but the wrong medium for this story
13 November 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Any movie Clint Eastwood makes is certainly worth a look, and Leonardo DiCaprio is entertaining in anything he does. But this version of J. Edgar Hoover's story seems superficial, and lacking meat on its bones.

That has more to do with its form – a theatrical film only two hours and 17 minutes long - relative to the length of the biography at its core. Hoover was such a complex man, and his career was so long, with so many chapters, that his story is probably better suited to a 4-to 6 hour HBO mini-series, where more of the details of his life, that this film with its short running time can only hint at, can be more completely told.

Dustin Lance Black, who wrote this film's screenplay (as well as that of Milk), is walking a very fine line here regarding Hoover's complex personality; it seems that he had a much more intricate story he wanted to tell, were it not for the confines of the feature film format. Here, broad brush strokes take the place of long chapters on Hoover's involvement with the Red Scares of the '20's and '50's, political blackmail, gambling, organized crime, and of course, homosexuality.

But if it had been made as a mini-series, it probably wouldn't have attracted Eastwood and DiCaprio, and consequently wouldn't have the high profile that this film does. That version of his story will have to wait for another time.

Eastwood chose to shoot this story in a washed-out color palette. The story jumps back in forth in time, and the closer the events of the film are to the end of Hoover's life, the more color Eastwood imbues into the scenes; the earliest moments in the time line are shown in a color scheme barely above monochrome. It's a subtle effect, but it helps the viewer keep track of where the scenes exist in Hoover's life.

That long time line necessitates that DiCaprio must be seen in various makeup schemes to convey the age of his character at any point in the story. His makeup is uniformly good; but the two other principal actors in the film, Armie Hammer as Hoover's longtime companion Clyde Tolson, and Naomi Watts as Hoover's secretary Helen Gandy, don't fare so well as their characters age. Obviously, the lion's share of the film's makeup budget was allotted to the star. Hammer, it must be said, gives a fine performance under all those old-age prosthetics. Christopher Shyer, who plays Richard Nixon in a brief scene, has the least-effective verisimilitude of anyone who has played the man in a motion picture.

But makeup alone does not a performance make. Di Caprio's ability to remain in character and "age" with him is remarkable, and transcends the work of his makeup artist. As he did with his portrayal of Howard Hughes in The Aviator, his skillful use of voice and body to stay true to his characterization of Hoover through the years is evident throughout.

One gets the feeling that much of this film was shot in front of a green screen, no surprise given the various eras of Washington that it depicts; but to a longtime moviegoer, there's a certain sadness that imparts to seeing that technique, once the province of the large-scale action film, used in serious dramas. There was probably no other way to do it in this day and age, but it just calls attention to itself in a way that gets in the way of one's immersion into the subject matter. Admittedly, that's my problem, not the film's.

So, is it worth a look? Sure. Best Picture nominee? In a field of ten, probably. Will Leo finally win an Oscar this time out? Well, look at it this way: Paul Newman gave his best performance in The Verdict, but the Academy finally honored him for The Color of Money. Leo probably should have won for playing Howard Hughes, but maybe he'll win for playing J. Edgar.


58 of 85 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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