Broderick Crawford looked to recapture Oscar gold with ''Hoover''
Leo wasn't the only one snubbed for playing J. Edgar!
Broderick Crawford, star of Highway Patrol, won an Oscar in 1949 for his role as Willy Stark in All the King's Men. Although Stark was a fictional character, the ruthless politician was based on real life Louisiana governor Huey Long. That level of prestige evaded Crawford for the remainder of his career, but in 1977, another performance as a public figure came close.
Written, directed, and produced by schlock jock genius Larry Cohen, creator of The Invaders, who would go on to be famous for making horror movies. But before Maniac Cop and The Stuff, Cohen made The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover, a sensationalist retelling of the FBI director's most scandalous moments.
"I played Hoover as an honest man— up to the point where power corrupts," Crawford told The Selma Times-Journal. "It's impossible to impersonate him. But the resemblance between us, once I was in my makeup and in my costume, was remarkable.
"I saw a lot of footage on Hoover— all of a minute and a half. Actually, there's very little film on Hoover available. So, I really had no chance to study his mannerisms I played it by guess and by God. It was a lot different when I played Huey Long. Long had a lot of footage available, and I really could study him. But not Hoover. There was nothing."
The other advantage to playing Huey Long? If Crawford got it wrong, at least he wouldn't have the FBI to answer to.
Even with the threat of mysterious G-men in suits coming after him, Crawford said the FBI gave the production "perfect cooperation."
"We even shot at Hoover's desk," said Crawford. "The FBI said that if Justice said okay, it was okay with them. The way I feel is, if they don't bother you, that's the best kind of approval. If they leave you alone, that's all you can ask for."
Unfortunately for Crawford, audiences largely joined the FBI in leaving the movie alone.