Forget about the old question, ”Where’s Jimmy Hoffa?” After you watch Danny DeVito’s movie bio of the Teamsters leader, you’ll be wondering who he was. For some answers, we asked Hoffa’s daughter, Barbara Ann Crancer, to offer her thoughts on the film and the man after a private screening in Chicago. In an irony the much-investigated Hoffa might appreciate, Crancer, 54, is a state circuit court judge in St. Louis.
Though Jack Nicholson is taller than Hoffa was (”It seems to me they put him with taller people so he looked shorter,” she says), Crancer found his resemblance to her father eerie. ”It was obvious he had studied my dad’s mannerisms, his way of working, his fearlessness, his sense of his own rightness and his mission.” Throughout the screening, scenes of her parents together brought tears to her eyes; during the final scene, when her father is shot, she covered her head with her coat.
Crancer had seen an early script for the film and spoke to both director DeVito and Natalija Nogulich (who portrays her mother) by phone. However, she and her family refused to sign on as official consultants, worried about endorsing the final product. Perhaps as a result, the film doesn’t say a lot about Jimmy Hoffa’s personal life, and Crancer says she wishes the script had focused more on how devoted he was to his family and how much he involved them in his work. ”On Sundays, we’d drive or go to dinner or something, we would always have to go by and check on picket lines, and stop to talk to people,” she remembers. ”He was also the type of father who, when all the trouble started, we could ask him anything. If something was going to be in the paper the next day, he would sit down and explain it to us.”
Since membership in organized labor in the U.S. has dropped significantly since Hoffa’s heyday, Crancer finds the film inspirational. ”I hope that people who belong to unions will be reminded of what sacrifices went into the benefits that they’re enjoying now,” she says. ”You need to be reminded of why you’ve got them.” — With additional reporting by Patricia Burstein