If you’re trying to understand today’s amoral political landscape, Matt Tyrnauer’s documentary about dirty trickster Roy Cohn explains a great deal.
In 1973, when brash young real estate mogul Donald Trump met Roy Cohn, one of New York’s most ruthless and powerful power broker, Trump was completing the Grand Hyatt Hotel near Grand Central Terminal.
And when the Justice Department claimed that Trump family apartment buildings discriminated against black applicants, attorney Cohn advised him to countersue the Justice Dept. for $100 million.
“Donald calls me 15 to 20 times a day,” Cohn bragged. “He’s always asking, ‘What’s the status of this…and that?’”
When Cohn hosted Trump’s 37th birthday party, he declared: “Donald is my best friend.”
Best known as chief counsel to crusading anti-Communist Senator Joseph McCarthy during 1954’s Army-McCarthy hearings, Cohn became Trump’s mentor, training him in transactional power laundering and hardball deal-making, involving scaring potential adversaries/accusers with shamelessly inventive fabrication, hollow threats and imitating lawsuits.
Gossip columnist Liz Smith once observed, “Donald lost his moral compass when he made an alliance with Roy Cohn.” And the film’s title stems from what Trump said during his frustration with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
What’s perhaps most surprising about Tyrnauer’s documentary is how Manhattan socialites embraced openly repugnant Roy Cohn. Known as a deeply closeted homosexual, Cohn claimed to have been engaged to Barbara Walters and befriended by Andy Warhol as a Studio 54 ‘regular.’
Eventually, smooth-talking Cohn was disbarred for cheating his clients. Unable to practice law, he continued to advise the rich, famous and unscrupulous until his death from AIDS in 1986.
Assembling insightful archival footage and conducting detailed interviews, Tyrnauer felt it was time to “connect the dots, to show how one of the darkest figures in our modern history created the worst – and most dangerous – President.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” is an incisive, informative 8. “Had it not been for Donald Trump’s election, Roy Cohn would have been a footnote in American history.”