Close this search box.

326: This Week: Loving, Waterloo, J. Edgar

In this episode, we’ll learn about historical events that happened this week in history as they were depicted in these movies: Loving, Waterloo, and J. Edgar.

Events from This Week in History


Birthdays from This Week in History


A Historical Movie Released This Week in History

Did you enjoy this episode? Help support the next one!

Buy me a coffeeBuy me a coffee

Disclaimer: Dan LeFebvre and/or Based on a True Story may earn commissions from qualifying purchases through our links on this page.


Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.

June 12, 1967. Virginia.

The camera is following two young boys as they’re playing in green grass with a wooden building just behind them. Just in front of both boys is a tire. They’re playing with the tire by pushing it along the ground as they run behind it.

As the boys continue playing, the camera cuts to a man under the hood of his car. He’s a white man with light hair, it almost looks like maybe blond or even some white hair. He’s played by Joel Edgarton in the movie.

In the background we can see the two boys running toward the man. He notices them and looking out from under the hood for a moment as they run around the car. They’re just playing, so he goes back to working on the car’s engine.

Now the camera cuts to a further away shot as we can see two cars parked in the grass field. An old, wooden building that looks like maybe it used to be a house that’s now abandoned is on the left side. That’s what the two boys were running past when we first saw them. They’re on the right side of the frame now, though, as they’re running around the car being worked on. The other car, which also has its hood up, has a young child standing in front of it. It looks like a little girl, and she’s just standing there holding what looks like a stuffed animal of some sort.

Overall, this scene looks like there are two cars being worked on by the man who seems to be the father of the three children who are playing in the yard. As the two boys run near the man, he stops working on the car to play with the kids a little bit.

Inside the house, the phone rings. A Black woman looks like she’s doing laundry, which she puts down to answer the phone. She’s played by Ruth Negga in the movie.

Picking the phone’s receiver up from the wall where it’s hanging, she answers.


We can’t hear the other end of the phone conversation, but she addresses the man as Mr. Cohen. She listens a little more to whatever is being said on the other side. Then, something catches her attention.

“What’s that?” she asks, looking down more intently as if that’ll help her hear what’s being said better.

Whatever she’s being told is causing her face to turn a flurry of emotions…but she’s not crying or smiling, it’s hard to pinpoint what emotions she’s having. There’s something there. Or maybe it’s just that she herself can’t fathom what’s being said, so she’s trying to process it herself.

She’s still listening for a bit before flashing a quick smile and assuring the person on other end that she’s still on the line.

After listening for a few more seconds, she takes a deep breath and says, “That’s wonderful news” and “Yes, I understand.”

Thanking Mr. Cohen one more time, she hangs up the phone by putting it back on the receiver.

Then, she turns around and looks out the screen door at the front of the house. Outside is the scene of the children playing and man working on the car. She watches her family from inside the house, with a hand up to her mouth as if she’s not quite sure how to tell them what she just heard.

She slowly opens the screen door and walks out to the porch. Hearing the noise, the man pulls his head out from under the car’s hood and stands in front of it, looking at her.

She looks back at him as a slight smile crosses her face.

The true story behind this week’s event depicted in the movie Loving

That is how the 2016 movie called Loving depicts the result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that laws banning interracial marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. That was decided on June 12th, 1967.

And right away, I’ll admit that I don’t know for sure if the phone call we see in the movie happened on the same day as the Supreme Court’s decision. But, the movie focuses on the man and woman, and the case was about them. The man played by Joel Edgarton in the movie is Richard Loving, a white man, while his wife played by Ruth Negga in the movie is Mildred Loving, a Black woman.

And the movie’s mention of Mr. Cohen is talking about ACLU lawyer Bernard S. Cohen, who really was the Loving’s lawyer.

So, it makes sense the lawyer would let his client know about the Supreme Court’s decision in their case as soon as it happened.

With a coincidentally fitting last name, the Lovings just wanted to live their lives like any other married couple. Richard and Mildred fell in love with each other in high school, and were together ever since.

While this isn’t in the part of the movie that I described, it was less than a decade earlier, their relationship became more complicated when Mildred got pregnant in June of 1958. It was illegal for them to marry in Virginia, so they went to nearby Washington, D.C. to marry.

That didn’t make law enforcement back in Virginia happy, so when they returned home, the police raided their home in the middle of the night in hopes of catching the two having sex—since interracial relations was a crime, too, so that would allow the cops the chance to arrest them. They didn’t catch them in the act, but they were simply sleeping.

When Mildred showed the police their marriage certificate, the cops told her it wasn’t valid in Virginia and they were arrested anyway.

That led to a conviction in January of 1959 by the Caroline County Circuit Court in Virginia, which cited a law from 1924 that made interracial marriage a crime. They also pointed out a section of Virginia Code that prohibited interracial couples from going around the Virginia law by getting married out of state and returning to Virginia.

In short, the Lovings were sentenced to one year in prison simply for marrying the person they loved. However, they were given the option of suspending the sentence if they left Virginia and didn’t return together for no less than 25 years.

So, the Lovings moved to Washington, D.C.

But they couldn’t afford to stay there long. They also couldn’t go home to Virginia to visit their families together out of fear of being arrested.

So, Mildred wrote to the Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy who then referred her to the ACLU. That’s how Bernard S. Cohen and another lawyer named Philip J. Hirschkop got involved when they petitioned the Supreme Court of Virginia to vacate the Lovings’ sentences.

On January 22nd, 1965, Judge Leon Bazile issued these very racist words as part of his decision to deny their motion:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.


Thankfully, the ACLU didn’t stop working. They went above the state of Virginia and appealed the U.S. Supreme Court with the case we now know as Loving v. Virginia.

After a couple years of hard-fought legal battles, the Supreme Court finally issued their unanimous 9-0 decision in favor of the Lovings.

Part of that decision stated matter-of-factly the true reasons behind Virginia’s racist law. Here’s a brief section from the U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, Page 388 U.S. 11:

There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy. We have consistently denied the constitutionality of measures which restrict the rights of citizens on account of race. There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.

If you want to watch how the movie shows the Lovings receiving news of the decision from this week in history, check out the 2016 movie named after them: Loving.

We started our segment at about an hour and 52 minutes into the movie, but really this is a great week to watch the whole movie.


June 15, 1815. The Netherlands. Modern-day Belgium.

We’re in an elegant ballroom filled with well-dressed men and women. Most of them are watching the men dancing to the music of bagpipes. We can see five sets of men in the frame, four men in each set and they’re dancing in very orderly fashion—so four men dancing in one set, another four in another set and so on.

The camera focuses in on a few of the people watching the dance. All the men seem to be dressed in their fine military uniforms while all the ladies are wearing beautiful dresses. It’s a very fancy affair.

The music stops at precisely the same time as the dancers and everyone claps. Then, the band of bagpipes and drums start up a new song. The dancers form a line with swords doing a military dance of sorts. This time, the band joins in marching along the ballroom floor for the approving guests. As they march out of the room, the music fades away and everyone turns as Christopher Plummer’s character, the Duke of Wellington, enters the room.

Wellington walks arm in arm with Virginia McKenna’s character, the Duchess of Richmond, as Wellington criticizes his own men in the room. They don’t hear this, of course, but Richmond says something like, “And you expect them to die for you?” Wellington just says, “Mmhmm,” and Richmond responds, “Out of duty?” Wellington again, this time with a smirk on his face: “Mmhmm.”

Richmond laughs, saying that she doubts even Bonaparte could draw men to him by duty. Wellington says, well, Bonaparte is not a gentleman.

In the next shot, we see Rod Steiger’s character, Napoleon Bonaparte, on his horse outside. In the background we can hear it’s raining and he tells one of his men they’ll cross the river and tomorrow we’ll dry out our feet in Brussels. It may be dark and foggy out, but we can see countless soldiers marching in unison as they cross a river. Some on horseback, some on foot. Some cross on a bridge, some—especially those on horses—cross through the river itself.

Back in the ballroom, there’s more music and dancing. It’s not the same soldiers dancing to bagpipes as before, but now the music is more what we’d expect in a ballroom with men and women all dancing together happily. After some time of this, we can see a soldier arriving who is wearing what looks to be a cross on his uniform. His overall uniform is different than the rest of the soldiers there. He finds the Duke of Wellington and tells him about Napoleon. Wellington says he’s aware Napoleon has crossed the border.

We can tell from the dialog that this man’s name is Muffling, and he’s played by John Savident. Muffling tells Wellington that Napoleon has all his horses, and he’s come between both our armies.

Wellington asks where, to which Muffling replies: “At Charleroi.”

A smile crosses Wellington’s face. He starts giving orders to his generals to start their soldiers marching to Charleroi.

The true story behind this week’s event depicted in the movie Waterloo

That scene is how the 1970 film Waterloo sets up what would be a sequence of events that would be Napoleon’s final defeat at Battle of Waterloo. And it was, just like the movie shows, against Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington. That battle was actually June 18th, but I mentioned June 15th at the start of this segment because that’s when the movie has the text on screen establishing the date.

Something the movie doesn’t really explain, though, is who the Prussian named Muffling is. He’s the one telling the Duke of Wellington about Napoleon’s movements in the movie.

The real Karl von Müffling worked for Generalfeldmarschall Blücher, who was leading the Prussian army, but he worked in the Duke of Wellington’s headquarters as Blücher’s liaison officer.

As a little side note, the British and Prussians were part of the Seventh Coalition, which included a number of countries that were allied together to try and end Napoleon’s rule. There were over 600,000 soldiers in armies from different nations and Napoleon wanted to defeat the armies separately before they could join together.

For the events that happened this week in history, the movie was correct to mention Charleroi, that’s nearby where Napoleon crossed the Sambre river on June 15th. At about 2:30 PM on the next day, Napoleon attacked Blücher’s Prussian army near the town of Ligny.

The Battle of Ligny was a victory for Napoleon. Of course he didn’t know it at the time, but that would end up being Napoleon’s final victory in battle.

Although he won the battle, he didn’t defeat the entire Prussian army. So, Napoleon split his army at this point, sending about a third of his army after the retreating Prussians.

With the rest of his army, he went to face the Duke of Wellington. They met two days later, on June 18th, 1815. Napoleon had about 72,000 soldiers while Wellington had about 68,000. That number changed, though, once 50,000 of Blücher’s Prussian army joined the battle in the afternoon.

When the day was done, there were about 42,000 French casualties to about 24,000 on the other side—17,000 in Wellington’s army and 7,000 in Blücher’s.

If you want to watch the multiple events that happened this week in history, check out the 1970 film Waterloo. The text on the screen telling us it’s June 15th, 1815, is at about 35 minutes and 43 seconds into the film.

Then, of course, there’s the battle itself that we didn’t really talk about. As you can probably guess by the title of the movie, that’s most of it—so that’s why we didn’t cover it all. But if you want to learn more about the true story, we covered that back on episode #174 of Based on a True Story.


June 15, 1924. Washington, D.C.

We’re in a dimly lit office. The lamp on the desk is off, but there is some natural light coming in through the window blinds. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, J. Edgar Hoover, is wearing a nice suit as he stands behind a black, leather chair in the office.

In the foreground there’s another man listening as Hoover explains he has files on potential suspects and with a congressional hearing…

The man behind the desk cuts him off.

On the other side of the desk, also standing, is Ken Howard’s character, Harlan Stone. Stone reminds Hoover that he didn’t call the meeting, Stone did. He invites Hoover to sit, and does the same.

Both men are now seated across from each other with Stone’s elegant, wooden desk between them.

Stone goes on to tell Hoover that everyone he’s worked with is gone, and there’s a reason for that. This Bureau is of exceedingly bad odor, would you agree?

Hoover agrees.

Stone goes on to mention Hoover has no social life. No wife, no girlfriend, and no pals at all.

Again, Hoover confirms.

Stone continues, talking about Hoover’s fixation on fingerprinting. Stone calls it a speculative science at best.

Hoover agrees, although the look on his face tends to indicate perhaps he doesn’t actually agree with this.

Stone asks about Hoover’s nickname, Speed. At this, Hoover stutters a bit. Then, we find out what this conversation is all about when Stone tells Hoover that he wants him to take over as acting director of the Bureau of Investigation.

The true story behind this week’s event depicted in the movie J. Edgar

That brief scene comes from the 2011 movie called J. Edgar and while the conversation is made up for the movie—like most dialog is, of course, it is showing an event that really did happen this week in history when then-Attorney General Harlan F. Stone appointed J. Edgar Hoover as Director of the Bureau of Investigation.

At the time, Hoover was just 29 years old, and he’d be pivotal in the Bureau of Investigation turning into the Federal Bureau of Investigation 11 years later, and J. Edgar Hoover would be the first director of the FBI for the next 37 years.

So, while the specifics of the conversation are dramatized for the film, this marks an important event in history as Hoover’s life would end up being both instrumental in the formation of the FBI as well as controversial for abusing his power as head of the FBI.

If you want to learn more about him, I had a chat with Paul Letersky, who is a former FBI agent that worked as J. Edgar Hoover’s personal assistant. We talked about the historical accuracy of the 2011 J. Edgar movie, and you can hear that back on episode #185 of Based on a True Story.



Latest episode