J. Edgar Hoover’s Hollywood Obsessions Revealed

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The Secret Files of “The FBI,” Part 1: J. Edgar Hoover in Hollywood is the dramatic story of how Hoover, already famously obsessive, was even more so in the control of the TV show “The FBI” and other aspects of Hollywood to fashion the FBI legend and his own legacy.

These Hollywood Today Newsmagazine articles are set against one of the most turbulent eras in American history — Watergate, the civil rights movement, assassinations and the Vietnam War. They are the culmination of years of work by acclaimed Hollywood investigative reporter and author David Robb working from 5,000 pages of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Fade in, 1966: The actors were all in place, and the cameras were rolling on Sound Stage 3-A on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California for the hit ABC television series “The FBI,” which was just starting its second season.

Cartha “Deke” DeLoach, the FBI’s No. 3 man, was visiting the set that day to watch the show being filmed. He was in good spirits, but what he was about to see would shock him.

“Action!” yelled director Christian Nyby.

The scene they were shooting that day was the TV series’ standard opener. At the beginning of each episode straight-arrow FBI Inspector Lewis Erskine, (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) would walk into his boss’ office to get his next assignment. But instead of getting his orders and marching out of the office as usual, this time Zimbalist flopped down in a chair, propped his feet up on his boss’ desk, lit a cigar and pulled a half-pint of whiskey from his coat pocket.

“To hell with it,” Zimbalist said, still in character as Erskine and taking a long swig of whisky. “I’m not doing any more work today.”

DeLoach, looking on from behind the cameras, was horrified. And without a moment’s hesitation, he bounded onto the stage, waving his arms. “What the hell’s going on here?” he yelled, stopping the filming. “This is not in accordance with our agreement!”

Indeed, this scene wasn’t in the script that had been approved by the FBI – as all the show’s scripts were. It was a gag that had been arranged by the show’s director, and all the cast and crew were in on it. And after a long moment of silence, with DeLoach standing there with a dumbfounded look on his face, the entire set burst into gales of laughter....
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