I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. (1951)

82-84 mins | Drama | 5 May 1951

Director:

Gordon Douglas

Writer:

Crane Wilbur

Producer:

Bryan Foy

Cinematographer:

Edwin DuPar

Production Designer:

Leo Kuter

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The opening title cards reads: " I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. Based on the experiences of Matt Cvetic as told to Pete Martin and published in The Saturday Evening Post ." Voice-over narration, spoken by Frank Lovejoy as Cvetic, is heard at the beginning of the film. Jan and Feb 1951 HR news items add Don Blackman, Russ Conway and Harlan Warde to the cast. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to a Feb 1951 HR news item, 2,000 extras were hired for the strike sequences.
       Warner Bros. production notes state that some scenes were shot on location at Burbank High School in Burbank, CA, and that the Bunker Hill area of downtown Los Angeles was to be used for exterior neighborhood shots, but was not because the houses were torn down to build the Hollywood Freeway. The set for the final courtroom scene was designed using authentic photographs and drawings of the room in the House of Representatives building where the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) held its hearings. A special trailer for the film, featuring James Millican, was made to target college students, according to a Jan 1951 HR news item. The film, one of the first to deal with HUAC, epitomized Hollywood's response to the threat of Communism, and the title and style of the film was often parodied in later film and television productions. The picture received an Academy Award nomination in the Documentary (Feature) ... More Less

The opening title cards reads: " I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. Based on the experiences of Matt Cvetic as told to Pete Martin and published in The Saturday Evening Post ." Voice-over narration, spoken by Frank Lovejoy as Cvetic, is heard at the beginning of the film. Jan and Feb 1951 HR news items add Don Blackman, Russ Conway and Harlan Warde to the cast. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to a Feb 1951 HR news item, 2,000 extras were hired for the strike sequences.
       Warner Bros. production notes state that some scenes were shot on location at Burbank High School in Burbank, CA, and that the Bunker Hill area of downtown Los Angeles was to be used for exterior neighborhood shots, but was not because the houses were torn down to build the Hollywood Freeway. The set for the final courtroom scene was designed using authentic photographs and drawings of the room in the House of Representatives building where the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) held its hearings. A special trailer for the film, featuring James Millican, was made to target college students, according to a Jan 1951 HR news item. The film, one of the first to deal with HUAC, epitomized Hollywood's response to the threat of Communism, and the title and style of the film was often parodied in later film and television productions. The picture received an Academy Award nomination in the Documentary (Feature) category. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
21 Apr 1951.
---
Daily Variety
19 Apr 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
19 Apr 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 51
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 51
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 51
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 51
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 51
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 51
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
21 Apr 51
p. 809.
New York Times
2 May 51
p. 35.
New York Times
3 May 51
p. 34.
New Yorker
12 May 1951.
---
Time
7 May 1951.
---
Variety
25 Apr 51
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Stills
Best boy
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Props
Asst props
COSTUMES
Women's ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the article "I Posed as a Communist for the FBI" edited by Pete Martin in The Saturday Evening Post (Jul 1950).
DETAILS
Release Date:
5 May 1951
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 2 May 1951
Production Date:
early January--early March 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 May 1951
Copyright Number:
LP905
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
82-84
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15124
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation alert the local FBI chief, Ken Crowley, that a top Communist agent, Gerhardt Eisler, is coming to Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Matt Cvetic, a second-generation Slovenian American, is at a family gathering where everyone except his mother is uncomfortable around him, including his sixteen-year-old son Dick. When Matt must leave in response to a call he receives ordering him to Eisler's hotel suite, his brother Joe accuses him of being a "Red." After he reports by pay phone to Crowley's assistant Mason, Matt arrives at Eisler's luxury hotel room, where an expensive spread, with caviar and champagne, is laid out for the local Communist officials. Jim Blandon, the Pittsburgh party leader, introduces Matt to Eisler, commending Matt for bringing Slovenians into the party and using his position in the personnel office of North American Steel Company to hire party members for key positions. Eisler promotes Matt to the position of chief party organizer for the Pittsburgh district, then orders the group to create discontent in the Pittsburgh workers. The next day, Matt is called to Dick's school, where he learns that Dick has been scrapping with students over the question of Matt's party membership. When Matt privately admits to Dick that he is a member, Dick expresses his shame. That evening at his apartment, Matt writes a letter explaining why he works undercover for the FBI as a Communist party infiltrator, planning to entrust it to the priest, Father Novac, with instructions to give it to Dick should he die. Although weary of the burden of his double life, Matt cannot clear his name without jeopardizing the FBI's work. He hides his displeasure when ... +


Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation alert the local FBI chief, Ken Crowley, that a top Communist agent, Gerhardt Eisler, is coming to Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Matt Cvetic, a second-generation Slovenian American, is at a family gathering where everyone except his mother is uncomfortable around him, including his sixteen-year-old son Dick. When Matt must leave in response to a call he receives ordering him to Eisler's hotel suite, his brother Joe accuses him of being a "Red." After he reports by pay phone to Crowley's assistant Mason, Matt arrives at Eisler's luxury hotel room, where an expensive spread, with caviar and champagne, is laid out for the local Communist officials. Jim Blandon, the Pittsburgh party leader, introduces Matt to Eisler, commending Matt for bringing Slovenians into the party and using his position in the personnel office of North American Steel Company to hire party members for key positions. Eisler promotes Matt to the position of chief party organizer for the Pittsburgh district, then orders the group to create discontent in the Pittsburgh workers. The next day, Matt is called to Dick's school, where he learns that Dick has been scrapping with students over the question of Matt's party membership. When Matt privately admits to Dick that he is a member, Dick expresses his shame. That evening at his apartment, Matt writes a letter explaining why he works undercover for the FBI as a Communist party infiltrator, planning to entrust it to the priest, Father Novac, with instructions to give it to Dick should he die. Although weary of the burden of his double life, Matt cannot clear his name without jeopardizing the FBI's work. He hides his displeasure when Eve Merrick, who introduced herself to him that afternoon at the school, shows up to confide that she, too, is a party member. Later, at the Communist headquarters, Blandon tells Matt that Eisler wants them to engineer a strike at the steel mill. As the room has been wired with a hidden microphone by the FBI, Crowley is able to warn Matt later that Eve has orders to shadow him. Matt's mother dies, and after the funeral, Novac returns Matt's letter, as he is being transferred to Rome. Matt, who is accompanied by Eve, puts the letter in his coat, but it falls to the ground when Joe, angered by the presence of Matt's "comrades," slugs him. When Matt later discovers the letter missing, he fears that Eve has it, until he hears a secret FBI recording of her report to Blandon, during which she does not mention it. At the strike, Blandon has thugs physically assault opposing union members, and Eve is disgusted by the violence. Matt realizes that they are being watched by Blandon's informers, so he reprimands her for her disloyalty. Then, after Crowley and Mason promise protection for Eve, Matt reports the incident to Blandon. To keep his cover intact, Matt later confronts Eve about her loyalty in front of the other officials, and she admits her disillusionment and quits. Matt guesses that Blandon has ordered her death and convinces her to leave town. Eve returns his letter, saying how it helped her to repudiate Communism. After Eve leaves with Matt for the train station, Blandon's thugs break into her apartment and stab a mysterious man who is trying to arrest them. Meanwhile, seeing two men follow Eve, Matt boards her train and stops them from killing her. After a fight in which both of the would-be assassins are killed, Eve is sent safely out of town and Matt resumes his cover, as no one alive can incriminate him. However, after the newspapers report the deaths of the two men, Matt is interrogated and beaten by Blandon and Clyde Garson, a visiting Communist leader. Policemen show up fortuitously to arrest Matt for the murder of Jim Broderick, an FBI agent found dead in Eve's apartment. After Matt is taken away, Mason and Crowley, who were behind his rescue, order him to testify against eleven New York Communists and suggest that, until the trial, he is safer behind bars. Later, the district attorney decides that Matt's testimony is unnecessary to convict the defendants, and Blandon springs Matt from jail, after having second thoughts about his suspicions. All of the Pittsburgh Communist leaders are subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. On the day of Matt's appearance, Crowley brings Joe and Dick to hear Matt's testimony, in which Matt states that he has been an undercover FBI agent for nine years. Afterward, Matt is free to resume a normal life with his proud family. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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