One was an American crime busting superhero, synonymous with clean living and domestic suction. The other was a British movie mogul and heir to a flour milling empire, who became known to millions of his countrymen as a risqué euphemism. Separately, great men, in very different ways, with quite similar names. But now a soon-to-be-released movie “My week with J Arthur” tells the unlikely story of how J Arthur Rank and J Edgar Hoover met, and the extraordinary week they spent together spring cleaning the Odeon Cinema, Chingford in 1957.
Only a tiny fragment of the film has been released for publicity purposes. It shows J Edgar Hoover on vacation in the UK, striding up to the Essex cinema box office and saying to the bemused matinee clerk: “My name is Hoover. I am looking for a J Arthur Rank. Can you be of assistance?” That clerk turned out to be none other than out of work ex-child actor Charles Hawtrey, and after the police enquiry was brought to a halt thanks to intervention by the US Embassy, the three men sat down and with amazing speed had three great ideas:
The first was to create a series of low budget British comedies based on smutty innuendo; the second was to promote J Edgar Hoover’s brother’s new vacuum cleaning system and the third was to find a bodybuilder, a large gong and a family sized bottle of olive oil.
But the film has angered many on both sides of the Atlantic. Americans claim that J Edgar Hoover could not operate a vacuum cleaner and always wore a suit and tie. British critics, meanwhile, have pointed out that the only cinema in Chingford at the time was in fact a Gaumont.