The FBI Story (1959)

149 mins | Drama | 10 October 1959

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Cinematographer:

Joseph Biroc

Production Designer:

John Beckman

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

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 26 Sep 1959 LAT article, The FBI Story was the first film to be made with the full cooperation of the agency. A Jun 1958 HR 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 Dec 1956 HR 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 Nov 1958, the MPAA board announced that it was awarding title rights to Warner Bros., who, according to a Var news item, had the approval of the FBI ... More Less

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 26 Sep 1959 LAT article, The FBI Story was the first film to be made with the full cooperation of the agency. A Jun 1958 HR 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 Dec 1956 HR 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 Nov 1958, the MPAA board announced that it was awarding title rights to Warner Bros., who, according to a Var 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 Mar 1959 HR 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 Sep 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 Sep 1958 HR 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.


More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 May 59
pp. 286-87, 305-09.
Box Office
24 Aug 1959.
---
Box Office
31 Aug 1959.
---
Daily Variety
18 Aug 59
p. 3.
Daily Variety
12 Aug 1965.
---
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1965.
---
Film Daily
18 Aug 59
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
22 Aug 59
p. 134.
Hollywood Citizen-News
24 Sep 1960.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 1956.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 1957.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1958
p. 2, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Aug 1958
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1958
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1958
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1958
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 1959
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 59
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
26 Sep 1959.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Aug 59
p. 380.
New York Times
25 Sep 59
p. 23.
Newsweek
28 Sep 1959.
---
The Exhibitor
26 Aug 59
p. 4618.
Variety
7 Nov 1958.
---
Variety
19 Aug 59
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Kenneth Mayer
Indian sequence:
Rocky Ybarra
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mervyn LeRoy Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Stills
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd ed
Sd ed
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Transportation
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book The FBI Story: A Report to the People by Don Whitehead (New York, 1956).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Too Marvelous for Words," music and lyrics by Johnny Mercer and Richard A. Whiting
"The Marines' Hymn," music based on a theme from the opera Geneviève de Brabant by Jacques Offenbach.
SONGS
"Oh, You Beautiful Doll," music by Nat D. Ayer, lyrics by A. Seymour Brown.
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 October 1959
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 24 September 1959
Production Date:
12 August--mid December 1958
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
10 October 1959
Copyright Number:
LP17156
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
149
Length(in feet):
13,398
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19140
Passed by NBR:
No
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 ... +


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. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.