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The FBI Story

The FBI Story(1959)

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teaser The FBI Story (1959)

This mash note to the Federal Bureau of Investigation might have come via fiat of the notoriously PR-minded (yet irresolutely clandestine) bureau director J. Edgar Hoover himself... but the driving force behind this Hollywood adaptation of the Don Whitehead non-fiction best-seller (issued in both adult and kid-friendly editions in 1956) was its star, James Stewart. At age 51, Stewart was far from the likeliest of candidates to headline a police procedural, especially one spanning nearly forty years, following the formation of the government agency (known then as the Bureau of Investigation, a subsidiary of the United States Department of Justice) after the turn of the 20th Century through to the white hot epicenter of the Cold War. Backed by Warner Brothers (which had produced the similar "G" Men starring James Cagney back in 1935) with veteran director Mervyn LeRoy (a close personal friend of Hoover) at the helm, The FBI Story fictionalizes several high profile bureau cases (involving white supremacists, Dust Bowl thugs, Axis agents, and Red Menace rats) with Stewart cast as lead investigating agent Chip Hardesty (whose devotion to duty places a strain on his marriage to Vera Miles, subbing for Stewart's usual onscreen wife, June Allyson). This hagiographic white-wash was vetted by the Bureau on every level, resulting in a fascinating and/or repugnant recruitment video that failed to impress the critics of the day but spawned the long-running Warners-Quinn Martin television series The FBI (1965-1974).

By Richard Harland Smith

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