The newest Martin Scorsese film “The Irishman” depicts the violent life of Frank Sheeran, a labor union leader who claimed to have worked for years as a hitman for the Bufalino crime family and to have been responsible for the death of Jimmy Hoffa, the well known leader of the Teamsters union whose 1975 disappearance was never solved.
While focused primarily on the sordid bonds between Sheeran, Hoffa and the mafia, the film also explores the collapse of the relationship between Sheeran and his daughter Peggy.
The movie depicts Peggy Sheeran (played by Anna Paquin) as bright and perceptive, even from a young age. After watching her father brutally beat up a store clerk for grabbing her after she made a mess of his shop, she grew to fear her dad and his wiseguy buddies. Sometimes, she just seemed disgusted by them. However, the film depicts her as taking a liking to Hoffa, her father's union associate and mentor. She and the Teamsters leader shared ice cream sundaes and dances together, and he became a father figure of sorts to her, a less intimidating presence than her own. Hoffa became like a part of her family.
Then, when Hoffa vanished, she almost immediately suspected her father, according to the film, which is based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 book “I Heard You Paint Houses.” They never spoke again.
“I was very close to Peggy, but she doesn’t talk to me any more, not since Jimmy disappeared,” Sheeran told Brandt in the book, which relied heavily on interviews with Sheeran conducted late in his life.
He went on to say that he thought Peggy, who could read him “like a book,” had seen through his attempts to hide a secret –– that he was the triggerman in Hoffa's death.
While watching television coverage of the disappearance, Peggy knew something was up, according to Sheeran's recollection. He theorized that maybe he "looked hard instead of worried." He also expressed that it may have looked bad that he wasn't actively trying to aid in the search for the missing Hoffa.
“I don’t even want to know a person like you,” he recalled his daughter telling him that day, severing their relationship.
“I haven’t seen Peggy or talked to her since that day, August 3, 1975. [...] My daughter Peggy disappeared from my life that day.”
She got a good job, and moved to the outskirts of Philadelphia, according to the book.
Brandt noted that “till the day he died [Frank] thought she had seen right through his eyes to his soul” and that she had “caught him.”
However, Brandt revealed he later learned that Peggy didn't actually think her dad killed Hoffa, though it's not clear what she thought happened.
There are plenty of other people with doubts about Sheeran's confession, as well. In fact, former FBI agent John Tamm, who once arrested Sheeran in a separate case, told Slate that he doesn't even think that Sheeran was a mob-paid hitman.
Author Bill Tonelli, writing for Slate, spoke to people who knew Sheeran personally, as well as people involved in the Hoffa investigation, and they cast doubt on the theory that Sheeran executed his long-time friend. And Vince Wade, who reported on Hoffa's disappearance in 1975 while working as a journalist in Detroit, laid out inconsistencies in the confession Sheeran gave Brandt for the Daily Beast.
One thing is sure: Hoffa disappeared on July 30, 1975. He was last seen getting into a maroon Mercury at the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. Nobody has ever been convicted in connection with his death, meaning plenty of theories about what happened to him continue to float in the ether, including the one depicted in "The Irishman."
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