But then the story of this marriage loses its early edge, and the film bogs down into Hoover-Approved propaganda about the Bureau, failing to note that the director's desire to turn what was supposed to be a law-enforcement agency into a private cult wired to jump every time his sphincter muscles trembled often undercut good law enforcement, turning regional offices into vicious rivals for Hoover's approval instead of colleagues working together to get their appointed job done. And, of course, the none-too-surprising dose of anti-Communist hysteria which implies that any looking askance at the Bureau's tactics was tantamount to treason. Needless to say, there's nothing about Hoover's career-long blackmail of sitting presidents, or the way that they sometimes used him to gather dirt on their enemies, or the fact that Hoover's ego was too delicate to allow him to admit that there was this big thing called Organized Crime that he hadn't even tried to get a handle on (and ego and incompetence seem far more likely motives for Hoover's non-pursuit of La Cosa Nostra than stories about snaps of J. Edgar in a frock -- no one as obsessed with dignity, and possessed of so little, as Hoover, would ever make themselves that vulnerable to ridicule or exposure).
The cast does what they can. James Stewart and Vera Miles are always appealing, Nick Adams suggests some of the chilly squishiness of the sort of bush-league criminal he was playing, and Murray Hamilton is very appealing as the Hero's Best Friend, whose main function in the plot is to get killed, which he does. Some of Joseph Biroc's photography is subtle and handsome (I'm thinking particularly of a scene on the balcony of a seafood restaurant), and it's always refreshingly unfussy. Max Steiner's music in the first few minutes, which involve the airline bombing, has a chill and an edge his stuff rarely did, before it settles into big-movie bombast. Mervyn LeRoy's direction is utterly undistinguished. But then, this wasn't so much a movie as it was Hoover's Valentine. To Himself.