Herbert Philbrick was a young professional and pacifist in 1939 Boston. He joined an anti-war group and quickly found himself caught up in the secret world of underground communist activity... See full summary »




3   2   1  
1956   1955   1954   1953   Unknown  
Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »


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Complete series cast summary:
 Herbert A. Philbrick (115 episodes, 1953-1956)
John Zaremba ...
 Special Agent Jerry Dressler / ... (67 episodes, 1953-1956)


Herbert Philbrick was a young professional and pacifist in 1939 Boston. He joined an anti-war group and quickly found himself caught up in the secret world of underground communist activity. He agreed to spy on the Communists for the FBI, and spent the next 9 years of his life as a Communist, FBI spy, and Communist counter-spy, since they had asked him to follow other comrades to test their loyalty. Hence the 3 lives; and his family, co-workers, and church never knew. This TV show is based on the TRUE story of how Philbrick (played ably by Richard Carlson) could never relax, but had to sneak to secret cell meetings and meet FBI agents in clandestine places to make info drops, never knowing when he might be found out, and if he would live to see the next rendezvous. Written by J Barlow <jonahsdive@gmail>

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Plot Keywords:

spy | communism | number in title | See All (3) »


TREASON on our doorstep - This man slammed the door! See more »







Release Date:

1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

I Led Three Lives  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


According to the PBS special _"Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" (1992) (mini)_, this was Lee Harvey Oswald's favorite TV show. See more »


Featured in Frontline: Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald? (1993) See more »

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User Reviews

".....for it was I, Herbert A. Philbrick, who for 9 frightening years did lead 3 lives:Average Citizen, Communist Party Member and FBI double Agent!"
12 August 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

We remember hearing somewhere, some time ago, a saying that went something like this:

"The Devil does his best when the belief in him by the people of the World in his existence is low!"

Now, one can take this LITERALLY, as a METAPHOR or even both ways, we want to respect your own beliefs. But no matter which route you take, the one universally true fact remains. There is true Evil in the world. We have to deal with that every day.

"There is No Evil!", I heard someone say? We have "moral equivalence" among different beliefs of various Peoples, Nations, Creeds, Political and Economic Systems. One is as good as the next. Is that what you say? Well, let's go there, just momentarily.

Let's see now, can we think of any examples of what could be truly be labeled as "Evil", with that Capital "E". How 'bout the indiscriminate detonation of explosives or incendiary devices in a crowded place, with a innocent civilian lives(you know, women, children, the aged, the infirm). Is this a "justified" "Warefare"? What about Late Term "Abortion"? Really now, wouldn't Late Term "Murder" be a more realistic terminology? Finally, what about Child Pornography? Got anyone out there who wants to defend this true "Evil"? Just as this 'Devil', be it literal or metaphoric, prospers the most when ignored, so it is the same for the "Vanguard of the People", the Communist Party.

If we go back to say, the 1930's, one could be an openly Soviet type "Scientific Socialist" (It's their term, not mine). Then, we came to the Post World War II Era of "the Iron and Bamboo Curtain", aka the 'Cold War'. We found former Allies like the Soviet Union with our former "Uncle Joe" Stalin still calling the shots and China, with "Agraian Reformer", Mao Tse Tung, now in charge. In short order, the Communist Party of the United States of America, found itself on our sh*t list. They were declared illegal. The reasoning being, that the Soviet-style of Socialism, aka International Communism, is a movement that recognizes on international boundaries in their self proclaimed "Revolution without borders." Ergo, the C.P.U.S.A. is an extension of the Kremlin's own field operators.*

So we come to this I LEAD 3 LIVES TV series. It was a moderately budgeted, yet very realistically produced series of half hour dramas.The choice of Richard Carlson as the lead portraying the real life hero, one Herbert A. Philbrick. The only other regulars that this writer can recall were(actors name unk to me)Mrs. Philbrick and his F.B.I. contact man(played by the same guy who was later cast as "The Hills Brothers Coffee Broker" in those commercials.) The episode always had at least one scene of Philbrick getting his assignment or passing info by meeting with his "handler" in some supermarket, drug store or similar type of shop .

Because so much of the action of the story takes place with the main character, Philbrick dealing with his Red superiors, there is a lot of voice over "thinking to self" portrayed. Lines from Mr. Carslon something like, "What do you do now, Philbrick?", are employed in virtually every segment.

As an instructional as well as public service, the main pillars of the Reds' belief system are clearly exemplified on screen. Hence, we have references to the Party and Atheism, Dialectic Materialism, Class Struggle and etc. There is proper protocol maintained by the calling by the fellow 'Cell' members "Comrade".

And speaking of the depiction of these "Cell Meetings", there is great care showing of the secrecy employed.**Hence, we were shown how the members would all arrive to the secret location via separate routes, at staggered times,and both entering and exiting via different routes.

And so about my favourite episode involved the discovery by Mrs. Philbrick that husband Herb was a Communist. It seems that it must have been about 3/4 of the program filled with Mrs. P giving her husband the needle by using such references as, "why pray, Herb, your kind doesn't believe in God!" Eventually Herb's FBI Handler shows up and sets the record straight!

There are some lesson to be learned by our Nation from this 1950's cold war relic. In particular is the use of these highly secret "Cells", with all of their super secret activity. If the Cells of the Reds were dangerous to our way of life then why do we not take the secret Cells of the Militant Islamists seriously.

After all, what is the reason for all of this secrecy? You don't suppose that it means that they're involved in some dangerous, deadly and (yes) evil activity, do you? Shocking!!

* Although most folks in the USA, were not fooled by the Red propaganda machine, it was proved that Moscow was financing this Gus Hall(perennial CPUSA Leader) & Company for the years.

** It also is an obvious question, but who needs secret operations, other than "wrong Doers", who are up to no good!

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