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The FBI Story

The FBI Story(1959)


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Part of the "Jack Graham" sequence preceded the opening credits. After the film, a written acknowledgment thanks the FBI and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover for their guidance and participation in the film, and for "making this world of ours a safer place in which to live." According to a September 26, 1959 Los Angeles Times article, The FBI Story was the first film to be made with the full cooperation of the agency. A June 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the FBI ran "routine checks" on all personnel involved in the film. According to the news item, the agency wanted "no one involved in the production who might later embarrass the F.B.I. by being subsequently revealed as having a commie or criminal past."
       A December 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Warner Bros. had purchased The FBI Story from Pulitzer Prize winner Don Whitehead for "a reported sum well over $100,000." The same item stated that Martin Rackin would produce the picture. Hoover wrote the foreword to the Whitehead book on which the film was based. According to news items, in 1957, Gramercy Pictures bought the rights to a 1950 novel by Mildred and Gordon Gordon, which was also titled The F.B.I. Story, and planned to adapt it for the screen using the same title. Although Gramercy registered the title with the MPAA one week prior to Warner Bros., in November 1958, the MPAA board announced that it was awarding title rights to Warner Bros., who, according to a Variety news item, had the approval of the FBI to use the title. Later, the Gordons filed a plagiarism suit against Warner Bros., claiming that they submitted a script titled F.B.I. Story to the studio before Warner Bros. purchased Whitehead's book. Warner Bros. argued that their film was a documentary based on the Whitehead book, while the Gordons argued that the film was a work of fiction. The Gordons were awarded $54,000 in damages. According to a March 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, the Gordons later dropped plans to film their novel, became involved with two television productions and bought back their novel from Gramercy.
       Portions of the film were shot in Washington, D.C., Quantico, VA and New York City, including the IRT Subway, Yankee Stadium and Central Park. According to a September 1959 Newsweek article, six FBI agents in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. were used as technical advisors in the film.
       In the sequence depicting the capture of John Dillinger, a theater marquee advertises the 1934 M-G-M film Manhattan Melodrama (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). According to a September 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, studios usually prefer to highlight their own films in scenes showing marquees, but Warner Bros., for historical accuracy, named the actual film that was shown at Chicago's Biograph Theatre the night the real-life Dillinger was killed.