The FBI Story


2h 29m 1959
The FBI Story

Brief Synopsis

A dedicated FBI agent thinks back on the agency's battles against the Klan, organized crime and Communist spies.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Historical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 10, 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 24 Sep 1959
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States; Quantico, Virginia, United States; Washington, D.C., United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book The FBI Story: A Report to the People by Don Whitehead (New York, 1956).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 29m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Film Length
13,398ft

Synopsis

Before an audience of agency recruits, longtime FBI agent John Michael "Chip" Hardesty relates the history of the agency as he has experienced it: In 1924, before the FBI is actually a government bureau, Chip and his colleague, Sam Crandall, learn that their ineffective and highly politicized organization has a new director, J. Edgar Hoover. That afternoon, Chip proposes to his sweetheart, a pretty Tennessee librarian named Lucy. Before she accepts, she exacts a promise from him that, directly after he meets the new director on their post-honeymoon trip to Washington, D.C., he will resign from the Bureau, which she considers too unrewarding for a brilliant young lawyer like Chip. The newlyweds join Sam on the train to Washington, and are surprised when Sam makes an emotional plea for Chip to remain in the FBI, which he believes could be an effective crime-fighting force under its new leader. Chip is so moved by Hoover's first speech to the agents, an address that demonstrates the director's fire and drive, that he decides to remain in the Bureau for several more years. Disappointed but determined to support her husband, Lucy agrees to the plan, and the next day, the couple is sent south to investigate the terrorist activities of the Ku Klux Klan. On the night Lucy gives birth to their first child, Mike, Chip and Sam finally arrest the Klansmen as they attempt to destroy a newspaper and murder its editor. During the next few years, Chip tackles assignments in various parts of the country while Lucy has two more children, Anne and Jennie. The Hardesty family then settles in Ute City, Oklahoma, as Chip tries to discover who is murdering local Osage Indians, a poor band made suddenly wealthy by the discovery of oil deposits on their land. The Indians fall prey to a veritable circus of salesmen, who peddle everything from patent medicines to casket linings in "official Osage colors." On the night Chip finally arrests white banker Dwight McCutcheon and his nephew for murdering rich Indians and then quietly appropriating their estates, Lucy suffers a miscarriage, and Chip promises to take the family away from "this God-forsaken place." His following assignments take them to the Midwest, where the FBI has begun to track down dangerous gangsters such as Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger and Ma Barker. After Congress allows the FBI to arm its agents, Sam is killed in a gun battle, leaving a young son named George behind. As the Bureau intensifies its war on the underworld and more agents lose their lives, Lucy's concern for Chip's safety becomes too much for her to bear, and she begs him to resign. When he refuses, she takes the children to live with her parents in Tennessee. Several months pass, and finally, Lucy realizes what her husband and children already know: the family must be reunited. On the very day on which she brings the children home, however, Chip is reassigned and the family moves to Washington, D.C. Years later, during World War II, thousands of agents are accepted into the FBI and instructed to round up "enemy aliens." One of the recruits is Sam's son George, who, while struggling through the Bureau's rigorous training program, becomes seriously involved with Chip's daughter Anne, now an attractive young woman. Young Mike Hardesty joins the Marines and is sent to the Pacific, and Chip is dispatched to Argentina to aid in the interception of coded submarine messages. George is stationed in the jungle there, and he, Chip and a heroic agent named Mario are forced to flee approaching federales . In 1945, the Hardesty family is grieved to learn that Mike has been killed during the landings at Iwo Jima. Following the war, the FBI faces a new threat: international Communism. Using its extensive lab facilities and research capabilities, the FBI tracks down and arrests spies. Chip directs one such case from his desk in Washington. With the help of telephones and radios, the veteran agent coordinates the extended pursuit and ultimate arrest of two New York-based Communist spies. The story of his adventurous life with the FBI over, Chip concludes the day's lecture and joins his waiting family, which now includes a grandson named Mike. Their drive takes them past several of Washington's most famous monuments to freedom, including the sculpture commemorating the landing at Iwo Jima.

Cast

James Stewart

John Michael "Chip" Hardesty

Vera Miles

Lucy Hardesty

Murray Hamilton

Sam Crandall

Larry Pennell

George Crandall

Nick Adams

Jack Graham

Diane Jergens

Jennie Hardesty

Jean Willes

Anna Sage

Joyce Taylor

Anne Hardesty

Victor Millan

Mario

Parley Baer

Harry Dakins

Fay Roope

Dwight McCutcheon

Ed Prentiss

U.S. marshal

Robert Gist

Medicine salesman

Buzz Martin

Mike Hardesty

Kenneth Mayer

Casket salesman

Paul Genge

Suspect

Michael Garrett

Insurance salesman

Les Hellman

Kirby

John Truax

Boyd

Will J. White

Silvano/J. Edgar Hoover

Sid Kane

Metzger

Gil Smith

Mike Hardesty, age 6

Rickey Kelman

Mike Hardesty, age 10

Robin Eccles

Anne Hardesty, age 4

Dawn Menzer

Anne Hardesty, age 8

Kimberly Beck

Jennie Hardesty, age 2

Jennie Lynn

Jennie Hardesty, age 4

Michael Switlick

Anne's 3-year-old son

Al Paige

Checker

Richard Boyer

Ticket agent

Eleanor Audley

Mrs. King

John Damler

Denver S.A.C.

George Pembroke

Chief of C.A.B.

Al Tonkle

Druggist

Rand Harper

Assistant Denver S.A.C.

Luana Anders

Mrs. Graham

Mary Ann Edwards

Marge

Elizabeth Harrower

Clerk

William J. Thomas

Janitor

Forrest Taylor

Minister

George Selk

Organist-janitor

Ann Doran

Mrs. Ballard

Al Mcgranary

Mr. Ballard

Audley Anderson

Farmer

Elmore Vincent

Farmer

Britt Wood

Farmer

Vera Denham

Farmer's wife

Fern Barry

Farmer's wife

Ella Ethridge

Farmer's wife

David Mcmahon

Klansman

John Pickard

Klansman

Tom Monroe

Klansman

Terry Frost

Craig

Harold Mcnulty

Lum Fong

Roy Gordon

Emmet Reese

Rocky Ybarra

Indian killed

Jim Porcupine

Indian at switchboard

Vince St. Cyr

Dan Savage Horse

Eddie Little Sky

Henry Roanhorse

Chief Yowlachie

Harry Willowtree

Charles Bruner

Bill Smith

Dorothy Sky Eagle

Rita Smith

Emily All Runner

Servant girl

Charles Soldani

Indian on train

Mary Lou Clifford

Indian switchboard girl

Guy Teague

Deputy marshal

Paul Smith

Albert Shaw

Kay Kuter

Barber

Trippy Elam

Shoeshine boy

Sam Flint

Doctor

Bob Petersen

Pretty Boy Floyd

Maurice Wells

Speaker

Mike Smith

George Crandall, age 12

Burt Mustin

Schneider, storekeeper

Guy Wilkerson

Eberhardt

William Phipps

Baby Face Nelson

Grandon Rhodes

Minister

Theona Bryant

Edith Crandall

Bob Peoples

Sam Cowley

Scott Peters

John Dillinger

Herbert Armstrong

Frank Nash

Jack E. Henderson

Hardware store owner

Jane Crowley

Ma Barker

Alan Craig

Fred Barker

George Khoury

Alvin Karpis

Angelo Demeo

Fred Hunter

Stacy Keach

Machine Gun Kelly

John Quijada

Argentine policeman

Gabriel Del Valle

Argentine policeman

James Porta

Argentine policeman

Paul Denton

FBI agent

Charles Bateman

FBI agent

Arthur Gilmour

Major

Patrick Whyte

Major

Robert Clarke

Bartender

Ray Montgomery

Driver

Nesdon Booth

Driver

Jack Tesler

Operator

Dorothy Neumann

Landlady

Ben Erway

Justice Department. lawyer

Charles Postal

Justice Department. lawyer

Jerry Brent

Western Union boy

William Lovett

Guest at party

Roy Thinnes

Guest at party

Judd Holdren

Guest at party

Morgan Lane

Guest at party

Lowell Brown

Guest at party

Grant Scott

Guest at party

Jeanne Dante

Guest at party

Shirley Bonne

Guest at party

Joan Dupuis

Guest at party

Susan Davis

Guest at party

Barbara Beall

Guest at party

Herman Rudin

Hoodlum

Selene Walters

Polly

Carroll House

Dover

James Vickery

Schaeffer

Ed Wagner

Sawyer

John Varnum

Breckenridge

Photo Collections

The FBI Story - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Here is a photo taken behind-the-scenes during production of Warner Bros' The FBI Story (1959), showing the film crew on location in Washington D.C.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Crime
Historical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 10, 1959
Premiere Information
New York opening: 24 Sep 1959
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States; Quantico, Virginia, United States; Washington, D.C., United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the book The FBI Story: A Report to the People by Don Whitehead (New York, 1956).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 29m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Film Length
13,398ft

Articles

The FBI Story


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
The Fbi Story

The FBI Story

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

Quotes

Trivia

Two F.B.I. agents were on the set at all times.

J. Edgar Hoover personally chose James Stewart for the role of Chip Hardesty because he felt that Stewart conveyed a positive image.

Hoover forced director Mervyn LeRoy to re-shoot a scene because he didn't approve of one of the extras.

Security checks were performed on all those involved on the film's production.

Notes

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.


Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States on Video Summer 1991

Released in United States 1959

Released in United States on Video Summer 1991