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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

J. Edgar

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial masterpiece is a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover (1895 - 1972) with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role.  Hoover directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years and, according to the film, was a virtual demigod, a hybrid of a government servant who served his own ego above all.
 
The film shows aspects of American history few are probably familiar with such as the Palmer Raids carried out under the direction of Attorney General Alexander Palmer, “The Fighting Quaker” to qualm activities of anarchists, real (bombings did occur) or perceived, between 1919 and 1921. It was one of the first times the Justice Department acted against theoretical threats and ideas, something that Hoover would continue using illegal wiretaps and other means to protect the country as he thought was needed.
 
Hoover saw socialism and communism everywhere.
 
Much of the film is dedicated to the kidnapping of the 18-month old son of Charles (Josh Lucas) and Ann Morrow Lindberg and the scorn with which the New Jersey State Police treated Hoover’s belief in forensic science to solve crimes. If there is one thing that Hoover did that remains a huge civil and cultural influence today, it is in the area of forensics. There would be no CSI or legal programs without his groundbreaking work in forensics and centralizing the data.  Ideally, this kind of information could catch criminals as well as, hypothetically, clear the innocent. He also envisioned a national identity card, though even today, this idea is not acceptable to U.S. Citizens because of privacy issues. To Hoover, his vision of national security tempted the Constitution and all civil rights.
 
The film shows Hoovers close relationship with his secretary of more than fifty years, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts). He trusted her above everyone as some say because they were both “married” to the Bureau. She destroyed many files upon his death and insisted none were official, though Hoover was known to have kept personal files on many people. He best friend and colleague was Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), with whom some think Hoover had a homosexual relationship. Tolson was Hoover’s deputy and they took vacations together; neither married. No one knows for sure what Hoover’s sexual orientation was, he was most certainly repressed, but the film seems to represent that his mother (Judy Dench) had a dominant influence on him in all ways and deterred him from a sexual relationship with a man. He lived with his mother until her death.
 
The story is told in a non-linear style, moving back and forth between the years, editing the young and aging the characters in an almost seamless fashion.  The film is surely going to be recognized for make-up and costume design.
 
DiCaprio is brilliant, as usual, and inhabits his character completely. Armie Hammer as Tolson often tries to reign in Hoovers zeal, and is a loyal yet vulnerable friend though Hoover’s fastidious pride almost never allows empathy. The script by Dustin Lance Black is complex and crisp.
 
Eastwood’s vision is interesting because he is commenting on American individualism taken to the extreme of almost unbridled power that neither elected or appointed government officials could regulate.
  Eastwood never strays far from the Western myth and the consequences of accepting it without question.


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Fidelis of Sigmaringen: If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint's life. 
<p>Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed "the poor man's lawyer," Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor. </p><p>As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. During a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers. </p><p>He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions. </p><p>He was accused of opposing the peasants' national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God's hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed. </p><p>He was canonized in 1746. Fifteen years later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog Obedience means total surrender and wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. All the difficulties that come in our work are the result of disobedience.

 
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