Definitions

Hoffa

Hoffa

[hof-uh]
Hoffa, James Riddle, 1913-75?, U.S. labor leader, b. Brazil, Indiana. As a young warehouseman he organized (1932) a union that was admitted two years later into the Teamsters Union. Hoffa rose swiftly in the Teamsters, in 1952 becoming international vice president and in 1957 succeeding Dave Beck as president. Evidence of corruption in the union revealed by a Senate investigating committee in 1957 led to the expulsion from the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations of the Teamsters, which had been the federation's largest affiliate. Moreover, Hoffa was forced to accept a board of monitors to supervise his activities as Teamsters president.

Despite efforts from outside the union to remove him, Hoffa was reelected president by acclamation in 1961. In 1962 a federal grand jury indicted him for accepting illegal payments from a Detroit trucking company; the case ended in a mistrial. Hoffa's power continued to grow, and by 1964 he was able to effect the trucking industry's first national contract. In the same year, however, he was convicted of jury tampering and of fraud in handling the union benefits fund, and was sentenced to a 13-year prison term. After all appeals had been exhausted, Hoffa began (1967) serving his sentence, but he retained the Teamster presidency until 1971, when he resigned. In the same year, President Nixon commuted Hoffa's sentence, with the parole provision that he not engage in union activity until 1980. After his release, Hoffa promoted prison reform. He disappeared in 1975 and is widely assumed to have been murdered.

See his autobiography, The Trials of Jimmy Hoffa (1970); W. Sheridan, The Fall and Rise of Jimmy Hoffa (1972); D. Moldea, The Hoffa Wars (1978); T. Russell, Out of the Jungle: Jimmy Hoffa and the Remaking of the American Working Class (2001).

His son James Philip Hoffa, 1941-, b. Detroit, is a labor lawyer. He was narrowly defeated when he ran for the Teamster's presidency in 1996 but won the post in a 1998 contest and retained it in 2001..

orig. James Riddle Hoffa

(born Feb. 14, 1913, Brazil, Ind., U.S.—disappeared July 30, 1975, Bloomfield Hills, near Detroit, Mich.) U.S. labour leader. He moved with his family to Detroit in 1924, left school at 14, and began work as a stockboy and warehouseman. He became a labour organizer in the 1930s, rising in the Teamsters Union during the next two decades until he reached the office of president, which he held from 1957 to 1971. Known throughout the trucking industry as a tough bargainer, he played a key role in forging the first national freight-hauling agreement and helped make the Teamsters the largest labour union in the U.S. Long associated with underworld figures, he was sent to prison in 1967 for jury tampering, fraud, and conspiracy; his sentence was commuted by Pres. Richard Nixon in 1971. In 1975 he disappeared from a restaurant near Detroit; he is believed to have been murdered to prevent his retaking control of the union. His son, James Riddle Hoffa, Jr. (b. 1941), was elected president of the Teamsters in 1999.

Learn more about Hoffa, Jimmy with a free trial on Britannica.com.

orig. James Riddle Hoffa

(born Feb. 14, 1913, Brazil, Ind., U.S.—disappeared July 30, 1975, Bloomfield Hills, near Detroit, Mich.) U.S. labour leader. He moved with his family to Detroit in 1924, left school at 14, and began work as a stockboy and warehouseman. He became a labour organizer in the 1930s, rising in the Teamsters Union during the next two decades until he reached the office of president, which he held from 1957 to 1971. Known throughout the trucking industry as a tough bargainer, he played a key role in forging the first national freight-hauling agreement and helped make the Teamsters the largest labour union in the U.S. Long associated with underworld figures, he was sent to prison in 1967 for jury tampering, fraud, and conspiracy; his sentence was commuted by Pres. Richard Nixon in 1971. In 1975 he disappeared from a restaurant near Detroit; he is believed to have been murdered to prevent his retaking control of the union. His son, James Riddle Hoffa, Jr. (b. 1941), was elected president of the Teamsters in 1999.

Learn more about Hoffa, Jimmy with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Hoffa is a 1992 biographical film based on the life and mysterious death of Teamsters Union leader Jimmy Hoffa. Although it chronicles Hoffa's early years in Michigan to his leadership in New York City and Washington, D.C. and his death in a Detroit suburb, almost all of the film was shot in and around Pittsburgh with the city's landmarks (such as Gateway Center in the "Idlewild Airport" scene) serving as backdrops for the various locales in the film.

Jack Nicholson plays James R. "Jimmy" Hoffa, with Danny DeVito playing Robert "Bobby" Ciaro as well as directing the movie. The Ciaro character was actually an amalgamation of several Hoffa associates over the years. The film also stars John C. Reilly, Robert Prosky, Kevin Anderson, Armand Assante, and J. T. Walsh. The screenplay is written by David Mamet. The original music score is composed by David Newman. The film is marketed with the tagline "The man who was willing to pay the price for power."

The movie has an R rating, due to violence and strong language. For example, fuck is used 153 times.

Plot summary

Most of the movie is experienced as a series of flashbacks, starting with Hoffa first meeting Ciaro, and ending just before Hoffa's disappearance.

At the beginning of the movie, Ciaro is seen standing in a parking lot of a diner. He gets into the back seat of a car, where Hoffa is seated. The pair are waiting for others to arrive in order to have a meeting. Ciaro asks Hoffa if he wants to go, and he gives Ciaro a scornful glance. The first flashback to 1935 then takes place.

A young Jimmy Hoffa gets out of his car, and approaches a truck. Inside Ciaro is taking a nap. Hoffa insists that Ciaro give him a ride, while he talks to Ciaro about the benefits of joining the Teamsters. Hoffa gets out at a truck stop, after giving Ciaro his card, upon the back of which he had written "Give this man whatever he needs." A few days later, Ciaro reports to work to find Hoffa attempting to organize the workers. When his boss finds that Hoffa rode with him, Ciaro is fired. Ciaro accosts Hoffa, but is convinced by Hoffa associate Billy Flynn at gunpoint not to kill Hoffa. The pair take Ciaro out to firebomb an uncooperative employer. Flynn is badly burned, and both Hoffa and Ciaro both claim to the police that Flynn was injured trying to save the life of someone in the laundry when the place went up. Flynn dies a few moments later, and Ciaro soon becomes Hoffa's associate.

The movie shifts back to Hoffa and Ciaro waiting in the car. They talk for a few moments about the old days when the two first met. The movie then shifts back to a Teamsters strike. When the strikers get in a fight with police, Hoffa is taken by a pair of mobsters to meet with the local Mafia boss. Ciaro, who speaks Italian, accompanies him. At the meeting, the first alliance between the Teamsters and the mob is formed. At this meeting, Hoffa meets the young mobster Carol D'Allesandro, who would be his mob ally for a number of years.

The rest of the movie deals with the rise of Jimmy Hoffa to the Presidency of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The movie traces out Hoffa's legal troubles from use of Teamster funds and loans to mob figures. The movie shows a Congressional hearing that Hoffa appeared before, and shows Hoffa being questioned by Robert F. Kennedy. Many of the lines used in the hearing scene were taken directly from transcripts of the hearings. During the hearing, tension between the two men is clearly evident in the movie. Over time relations decline even further, especially after Robert Kennedy's brother John F. Kennedy is elected President and Robert Kennedy is named the Attorney General. The poor relationship between the two culminates in an obscenity laden shouting match between the two men in Kennedy's office.

The movie continues with Hoffa's conviction, and his surrender to Federal officials outside the Roman columns of what is actually the Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh. It briefly covers his time in a Pennsylvania federal prison. Ciaro is released from prison before Hoffa, and begins working to get Hoffa released. At a meeting between Ciaro and D'Allesandro the mobster suggests that the Teamsters endorse Richard M. Nixon for President, with the idea that if Nixon wins, a friendly official will arrange for Hoffa's release. Next the movie shows Hoffa after his release from prison, and his anger at learning that he cannot participate in union activities for ten years. D'Alesandro suggests to Ciaro that they meet at a local diner, which brings the movie to the point with Ciaro and Hoffa waiting in the car.

The movie ends by giving one possible explanation of why Hoffa disappeared in the summer of 1975. The book Hoffa was reading at the end of the film is The Enemy Within: The McClellan Committee's Crusade Against Jimmy Hoffa and Corrupt Labor Unions by Robert F. Kennedy.

Inaccuracies

The filmmakers portrayal of Hoffa's demise bears little resemblance to the events of July 30, 1975. Rather than traveling to a diner alongside of the highway in the middle of nowhere, Hoffa had gone to the Machus Red Fox, an upscale restaurant next to a shopping center in the Detroit, Michigan suburb of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. No mention is made of "Tony Jack" and "Tony Pro", who were never proven to be connected with Hoffa's disappearance.

Critical response

Although not particularly well received among film critics, (Rotten Tomatoes Review) Hoffa earned two Oscar nominations for Cinematography and Makeup. Nicholson's performance sharply divided critics, with the actor receiving both a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor and a Razzie nomination for Worst Actor.

Cast

Actor Role
Jack Nicholson James R. "Jimmy" Hoffa
Danny DeVito Robert "Bobby" Ciaro
Armand Assante Carlo D'Alesandro
J. T. Walsh Frank Fitzsimmons
John C. Reilly Pete Connelly
Frank Whaley Young Trucker
Kevin Anderson Robert F. Kennedy
John P. Ryan Red Bennett
Robert Prosky Billy Flynn
Natalia Nogulich Jo Hoffa
Nicholas Pryor Hoffa's Attorney
Paul Guilfoyle Ted Harmon
Karen Young Young Woman at RTA
Cliff Gorman Solly Stein

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