HOOVERED: What did J. Edgar Hoover think of The Untouchables TV series? He wasn’t too thrilled with it, according to Forbes.com:
Hoover was furious that credit for federal crime fighting was going to a rival agency, the U.S. Treasury Department. The real-life Ness was a Prohibition agent who later became Cleveland’s top cop. He died in 1957, and his memoirs formed the basis for the TV series. But most of the plots were largely fictional, drawn loosely from past headlines and often including the names of then-deceased but real-life hoodlums like Al Capone, Dutch Schultz and Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll.
“We must find some way to prevent FBI cases from being used,” Hoover wrote on one document. On another: “If the bureau [is] not depicted on this case and credit given Treasury Department, program will be historically inaccurate.” It seemingly never dawned on Hoover that the show, pitting Stack’s good-guy government agent persona against big-time Mob boss Frank Nitti, bolstered the image of law enforcement.
So Hoover sent aides to pressure Desi Arnaz, whose Desilu Productions made the series, in what apparently were only partly successful efforts to change the plots. The bureau started an unsuccessful investigation into published stories that ex-FBI agents were writing scripts for the show.
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All the while, at a significant cost to taxpayers, Hoover had special agents compose scores of plot summaries–written, amusingly enough, in the same breathless style of the show’s narrator, Walter Winchell. Example: “The sex angle is played to the hilt, and Heller obviously had become the mistress of both the attorney and Felcher and continually ‘makes a play’ for Ness with extremely suggestive dialogue.”
Nice to know then, as now, that taxpayers really get their “investment” money truly well spent.