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As J. Edgar Hoover, Leonardo DiCaprio gives a towering performance as the man who blackmailed the Kennedy's Photo by: Google

Secrets of the Kennedy’s depicted in Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘J. Edgar’ - VIDEO

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As J. Edgar Hoover, Leonardo DiCaprio gives a towering performance as the man who blackmailed the Kennedy's Photo by: Google

In J.Edgar, Clint Eastwood's ponderous but quietly compelling new biopic of the founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) J. Edgar Hoover, Leonardo DiCaprio gives a towering performance as the man who blackmailed the Kennedy's.

One of the most powerful men of the 20 century, Hoover worked under the administrations of Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon - and he kept secret files on most of them (and their wives).

This last point is made clear in an early and electrifying scene between Hoover and the new attorney General Bobby Kennedy, whom he privately describes as a nitwit. When the red telephone light flashes in Hoover's office informing him Kennedy is on the line he contemptuously calls it the baby alarm.

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Eastwood's new film shows that Hoover never understood that the civil rights movement in the 1960's was a positive force of change in America. For Bobby Kennedy it was the most important and transformative issue of his tenure. But Hoover hated Martin Luther King and was convinced his organization was filled with communists bent on overthrowing the United States.

Unlike the elder statesman, Bobby Kennedy correctly understands that the communist threat came from abroad, whilst Hoover could only sees the enemy within. Hoover's obsessional pursuit of King - which included wiretapping and disguised threats - was driven by a personal and unrelenting hatred and the film makes this clear.

In his fervor to protect America from the communist threat, which he saw all around him, Hoover turned on his fellow Americans time and again, rather than looking outward to face the real threats.

Early on Hoover secures funding and the continued relevance of his bureau by informing Bobby Kennedy he has highly sensitive audio tapes of President Kennedy having sex with a woman he described as ‘an East German communist’ a year earlier. Knowing what's in everyone’s dirty laundry makes Hoover untouchable and Kennedy is forced to acknowledge this. Washington - the Kennedy's included - had grown terrified of calling Hoover’s bluff.

Later in the film, when JFK is assassinated Hoover picks up the phone and calls Bobby. 'The president has been shot,' he informs him tersely. Then he hangs up. The limitlessness contempt he had for the two Kennedy brothers is best expressed in his callousness in that short scene.

At all times Eastwood's film underlines the gulf between the myth Hoover crafted of himself and the reality. It turns out to be immensely poignant, that gulf. A deeply repressed and most likely gay man, Hoover's constant companion for decades was Clyde Tolson, but - the film makes clear - Hoover never allowed himself to give full expression to the relationship or to his own feelings.

In fact throughout his career Hoover discriminated against gays, African Americans and women. A tragic character, always feared more than loved, and one who punished others for shortcomings he often secretly shared, Eastwood has crafted an enormously fair but cautionary portrait.  

Hoover was the head of the Bureau of Investigation from 1924 until he died in 1972.

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