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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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Elizabeth of Portugal: Elizabeth is usually depicted in royal garb with a dove or an olive branch. At her birth in 1271, her father, Pedro III, future king of Aragon, was reconciled with his father, James, the reigning monarch. This proved to be a portent of things to come. Under the healthful influences surrounding her early years, she quickly learned self-discipline and acquired a taste for spirituality. Thus fortunately prepared, she was able to meet the challenge when, at the age of 12, she was given in marriage to Denis, king of Portugal. She was able to establish for herself a pattern of life conducive to growth in God’s love, not merely through her exercises of piety, including daily Mass, but also through her exercise of charity, by which she was able to befriend and help pilgrims, strangers, the sick, the poor—in a word, all those whose need came to her notice. At the same time she remained devoted to her husband, whose infidelity to her was a scandal to the kingdom. 
<p>He, too, was the object of many of her peace endeavors. She long sought peace for him with God, and was finally rewarded when he gave up his life of sin. She repeatedly sought and effected peace between the king and their rebellious son, Alfonso, who thought that he was passed over to favor the king’s illegitimate children. She acted as peacemaker in the struggle between Ferdinand, king of Aragon, and his cousin James, who claimed the crown. And finally from Coimbra, where she had retired as a Franciscan tertiary to the monastery of the Poor Clares after the death of her husband, she set out and was able to bring about a lasting peace between her son Alfonso, now king of Portugal, and his son-in-law, the king of Castile.</p> American Catholic Blog In the name of the Father, use my mind to bring you honor, and of the Son, fill my heart to spread your word, and of the Holy Spirit, strengthen me to carry you out to all the world. Amen.

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