Where's My Roy Cohn?

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

5/5 (1)

Donald Trump famously lamented, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” He was referring to his one-time lawyer, a ruthless litigator known for having his client’s back. Cohn was the young real estate developer’s mentor, teaching him such never-say-die, never-apologize lessons as “if you get hit, punch back twice as hard.”

Long before Michael Cohen or Rudy Giuliani, Roy Cohn was Trump’s “personal lawyer and fixer.” Trump met him in 1973 and the two quickly became “friends, allies, business associates.”

Cohn taught the young Donald Trump that “you never give in, you never admit you’re wrong, you go on the offensive and attack your adversaries in any way you can.”

Roy Cohn was a legendary and controversial attorney who pushed legal tactics to the limits for a dazzling array of clients that ranged from senators to mobsters. Among his clients were Roman Catholic Cardinal Francis Spellman, Aristotle Onassis, Carmine Galante, and John Gotti.

Known for his aggressive tactics, he was investigated by federal authorities for perjury and witness tampering, among other serious charges, during the last two decades of his career. He was disbarred just weeks before his death in 1986.

Cohn helped convict Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the 1951 atom spy trial. And he became notorious for his role with Joseph R. McCarthy’s 1954 Communist witch hunt, the Senate inquiry that led to Hollywood’s deplorable blacklisting.

Although a closeted gay, Cohn spearheaded J. Edgar Hoover and McCarthy’s crusade to hound homosexuals out of government. He died of AIDS, insisting to the very end that it was liver cancer.

Filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer has captured the story of Roy Cohn in a new documentary titled – you guessed it – “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” The film is currently showing at Tropic Cinema.

Tracing Cohn’s history from brash young lawyer to McCarthy’s evil crony to his mesmeric influence on Donald Trump, Tyrnauer describes his film as “the Rosetta Stone, the decoder ring of how we got to now.”

For it, he has dug up a great deal of material never publicly seen before. This meticulously researched documentary offers “a delectable look at a despicable person.”

CNN observes, “The film portrays Cohn as being emblematic of everything that’s wrong with politics, class disparity and the current toxic political environment.”

Vanity Fair describes the film as “a comprehensive look at evil incarnate.”

“Cohn was a Shakespearean character like Richard III,” observes The Wrap. “His hand was in so many dirty deals of the last century, and there are so many ironies involved in these stories, that they clearly need their own movies, or their own episodes in a series.”

There have been other looks at this “chillingly amoral, black-hearted man.” Key among them are Frank Pierson’s TV documentary “Citizen Cohn”; a documentary by the granddaughter of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, “Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn”; and Tony Kushner’s celebrated two-part play “Angels In America : A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.”

As Matt Tyrnauer tells us, “Cohn was celebrated for his scoundrel mob attorney style in his lifetime. And people wanted to be near him because he could do them favors and bring them financial gain and influence. That’s the context in which he met Trump, who was trying to make his name in that world. Cohn teaches Trump all of his transactional tricks, and Trump embodied that. He absorbed it from Cohn. That’s why I made the film.”

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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