Memo to Clint Eastwood: This admirer of your mature work is going to pass on the new Hoover movie. Even public monsters have inner lives, but some are beyond my capacity to care about.
Just as Hitler’s personal demons are beside the point, so are those of a man who built a self-glorifying empire by blackmail in Washington, D.C., ruining reputations, holding Presidents hostage in a personal police state and relentlessly hounding the century’s greatest exemplar of human decency, Martin Luther King.
J. Edgar Hoover invented and promoted the image of tommy-gun toting G-men in the 1930s, with the help of compliant Hollywood producers, and went on to keep files after the war on anyone who might be “soft on Communism,” right up to and including the White House.
From the 1950s on, his hatred was directed at Dr. King. He had agents bug his hotel rooms and send him anonymous threatening letters, urging him to commit suicide.
"King," read one of them, "there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is...You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation."
In Hoover's files, there were angry scrawls on Dr. King's press clippings. On a story about King receiving the St. Francis peace medal from the Catholic Church, he wrote "this is disgusting." On King being expected to win the Nobel Prize, he wrote "King could well qualify for the 'top alley cat' prize!"
No president, not even JFK, could get rid of Hoover who knew where all the bodies were buried or inconveniently bared.
J. Edgar may have loved his mother, his secretary and his live-in partner Clyde Tolson, but he was a menace to the American freedoms that Clint Eastwood has been obsessed with all these years, and I wish he had left him in the past, like Dirty Harry.