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(1959)

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3/10
Turgid Cop Epic!
jpdoherty21 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
THE FBI STORY (1959) was Warner Bros. 149 minute epic tribute to the famous criminal investigation agency! From a book by Don Whitehead came a somewhat laborious screenplay by Richard L. Green and John Twist and was directed with only a modicum of flair by Mervyn LeRoy. However it did have splendid colour Cinematography by Joseph Biroc and a helpful score by the studio's musical magician Max Steiner!

The movie charts the history of the Bureau from its lowly beginnings in the twenties to modern times and its all seen through the recollections of aging fastidious agent Chip Hardesty (James Stewart) as he relates his investigative experiences - in flashback - to a class of budding young agents. But it's all very long-winded and episodic! And as it progresses it begins to look like a TV mini series instead of a major movie production as the young Hardesty runs the American crime gamut from taking on such notorious criminal figures as "Baby Face" Nelson, Ma Barker, Dillinger etc. to sorting out nefarious organisations like the Ku Klux Klan, Nazi spy rings and the Red Menace. And here it has to be said that only for the screen presence and appeal of its star THE FBI STORY would probably have ended up a forgotten disaster. Moreover, this is another problem with the picture - Stewart is left to carry the entire movie almost on his own! With the exception of Vera Miles - who has the thankless role of being his long suffering but devoted wife - he is surrounded by a cast of minor players! Throughout you find yourself half expecting someone like Robert Ryan, Jack Palance or even Raymond Burr to make a welcome entrance as a mobster or a police chief or whatever. But nothing quite as imaginative as that ever occurs! Pity!

The film does however manage to give a good look inside the workings of the Bureau! With the help of Stewart's narration we learn about the thousands of men and women who work for the organisation which includes the hundreds of agents in the field. And we are also treated to a peek inside headquarters which houses the gigantic records section and we also get a glimpse of the chemists and fingerprint experts meticulously going through their daily chores.

Another plus for the movie is Max Steiner's remarkable score! Heard over the titles is a powerful, rousing and determined march while for the picture's gentler moments there is an attractive love theme. But quite ingenious is the menacing and ominous march theme for the Ku Klux Klan sequence. And better still is the rhythmic Latin-American music the composer wrote for the South American scenes especially the exciting Fandango like orchestrations for the arrival of the Federal troops on horseback. THE FBI STORY was one of five scores the composer wrote in 1959 which included Samuel Bronston's naval epic "John Paul Jones", the charming Rom-com "Cash McCall", Delmer Daves' seminal western "The Hanging Tree" and Daves' "A Summer Place" from which derived the Young Love Theme - which was to become a major hit tune for Steiner better known as "Theme From A Summer Place".

THE FBI STORY just about passes muster as a movie thanks to Biroc's rich colour Cinematography, Steiner's wonderful music and of course Jimmie Stewart who makes anything watchable!

Classic but implausible line from THE FBI STORY............. As the bland Nick Adams (who has just blown up a plane with 43 people on board, including his mother) is being led away handcuffed he turns to the arresting officer and blurts: "In case I get any mail you can send it to Canyon City prison for the next month or so - after that you can send it to HELL". Wow!
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"Since he was a Communist, we knew he wasn't going to church."
utgard146 May 2014
Entertaining docudrama about the history of the FBI, as told by one agent in particular named Chip (James Stewart). Yes, it's more fiction than fact but it's also a good movie. Judging by some of the reviews here, most of the people hating on the movie seem to be political ax grinders. Obviously J. Edgar Hoover had a hands-on part in the making of this film. He inspires Jimmy to stick with the FBI in an amusingly corny scene. But I'm judging the movie on an entertainment basis, first and foremost, and this movie is entertaining.

The FBI parts are great. The parts dealing with Jimmy's domestic life not so much. Vera Miles is very attractive as a blonde and plays the clichéd but likable wife role well. It's just this part of the movie isn't that interesting and takes up too much time in a movie that goes on for over two hours. Murray Hamilton is good as Jimmy's partner ("I never want to cool off! NEVER!"). If your blood boils about J. Edgar Hoover or you demand absolute historical accuracy from any film depicting real people and events, you'll hate this. But if you like Jimmy Stewart, you'll certainly find things to enjoy here. He's really the whole show. Whether he's taking on the KKK, gangsters, and Commies or just getting ticked off at his kids, he's fun to watch. It's a little long but never boring.
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3/10
I Love You, J. Edgar Hoover
Bill Slocum30 July 2015
An entertaining tribute to American law enforcement's most legendary force falls victim to Hollywood hokum, unrealistic dialogue, and choking piety regarding everything about the Federal Bureau Of Investigation, especially its founder, J. Edgar Hoover.

While Hoover is often referenced, sometimes heard, and even briefly seen at his desk, Buddha-like, the focus here is on fictional FBI agent Chip Hardesty (James Stewart), who dedicates himself to serving the bureau through decades of crime-fighting heroics. Whether ambushing John Dillinger or rounding up the Ku Klux Klan, Hardesty provides a case example of the heroism from which the FBI was made.

The final words of the film, superimposed on the screen over triumphant fanfare, establish what "The FBI Story" is all about: "Our sincere thanks to the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover not only for their guidance and active participation in the making of this motion picture but also for making this world of ours a safer place in which to live..."

If they had saved this boilerplate for the end, "The FBI Story" might have had a chance. Stewart was one of the greats, and in Vera Miles as the love interest he enjoys steady support. Few color films from the 1950s are this crisp- and dynamic-looking. Director Mervyn LeRoy was famously good at his job, and manages some stellar framing work with an eye for period detail in the episodic sequences showing Hardesty on the job at various stages of the FBI's existence.

But the accent of this film is not on delivering quality entertainment but burnishing Director Hoover's ego. At every turn, we get our noses rubbed into how brilliant an organization he set up, to the point where suspense gets crushed before it has a chance to develop.

An opening sequence features Nick Adams as a young man named Graham who kills his mother and 48 other people on board a plane by putting a bomb inside her luggage. Immediately we see FBI agents questioning him and searching his house until he cracks and confesses, even yelling at the end to send his mail to hell.

"Jack Graham's only mistake was that he was absent-minded," Stewart tells us in a voice-over. "He forgot about the broad research powers of the FBI."

Elsewhere we get lengthy descriptions of what these powers are, and even footage of people typing or staring into microscopes at FBI headquarters.

The dialogue in this film is much too purple, as if competing for your attention with Max Steiner's bombastic score. There are some howlers other reviewers here pointed out; my favorite is when Miles gets cross when she finds out her husband is going out armed to take on some public enemies. He tells her to take it easy.

"You take it easy, Chip! I don't look good in black."

Murray Hamilton has his own over-the-top moments as Chip's FBI buddy, all charged up with Hoover in charge. "I never wanna cool down," he says. No worries; a breathless script by Richard L. Breen and John Twist won't let him until it's time to stop and smell the lilacs.

There's one solid sequence where Hardesty investigates the murders of Osage Indians in Oklahoma. That works as a crime story with some mystery and humor to it, not to mention a satisfying wrapper.

The rest of the time, it's like some jacked-up medley of J. Edgar's greatest hits, like taking down bank robbers and a Soviet spy ring. Much padding involves Hardesty's family affairs, like his search for missing tissue paper or a crisis involving a shattered dish of pickles. Even when the script tries to drum up a crisis between Hardesty and his wife, the result is unconvincing and much-too-easily resolved.

That goes for most everything else involving "The FBI Story," rich in visual style but cheap in too many other departments, including the kind of patriotism too often used as the refuge of scoundrels. I do admire J. Edgar Hoover in some areas, but when it came to making movies, he should have stayed in the closet.
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J Edgar Stamped This One
DKosty12319 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The thing that makes this movie watchable is Jimmy Stewart. It is his acting that brings life to a pretty wooden account of the history of the FBI.

Hoover and the agency had full control of what goes into this movie. Coming off as a heroic account of the agency, it does at least throw in some family stuff and Stewart & Vera Miles do get some pretty decent scenes together.

One you get past these performances, the story is pretty cut and dried, showing the history of the agency. Still, watching Stewart make another unlikely role appealing with his considerable acting skills is worth the ride. Think this was the first wide spread media exposure of FBI's Hogan's Alley course.

Wondering how Eastwoods new J Edgar might show a different side to this story?
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5/10
Disappointing Docu-drama!
bsmith555210 November 2006
"The FBI Story" tries to tell the story of the evolution of the FBI over 35 years, through the eyes of a veteran agent, Chip Hardesty (James Stewart). It spins off into several segments covering Hardesty's career. There's a segment on the Klu Klux Klan (with nary an African American in sight), one showing the cheating of native Americans out of their oil leases in Texas and several brief run-ins with the well known gangsters of the 1930s.

Inrerspersed with these episodes are home life interludes where Stewart's character turns into George Bailey ("Its a Wonderful Life" (1946)). He meets and marries Lucy (Vera Miles) and we follow their lives through the birth of three children, a miscarriage, a separation and a war time tragedy.

Told in a documentary style, this film, in my opinion is far too long at 149 minutes. The action sequences, such as they are, are brief and with no character development of the gangsters. They are simply confronted by the FBI and either arrested or gunned down. The Hardesty character is hardly involved in these segments and he does not confront any of the gangsters directly.

The at home sequences while well played, look like something out of "Father Knows Best", the popular TV series of the day. Another thing I found unusual was the fact that Stewart and Miles basically carry the whole film. Other characters appear briefly then either get killed off or disappear altogether. While Stewart and Miles do their best, they hardly seem to have aged 35 years over the course of the story. And there are no name actors to speak of in the supporting cast. Murray Hamilton, Larry Pennell and Nick Adams do appear briefly, but were not that well known in 1959.

James Cagney's "G-Men" (1935) covered the FBI's early years much better.
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7/10
Good entertainment, but that's all
William J. Fickling27 July 2002
This is an entertaining "history" of the FBI, but it should be viewed as fiction, because that's exactly what it is. What else could it be when J. Edgar Hoover personally approved and had a cameo role in the production. James Stewart is excellent, as usual, and the supporting cast, except for the talentless Vera Miles, is good. Murray Hamilton is especially good in a supporting role as Stewart's partner and best friend. The FBI accomplishments that the film highlights are undoubtedly all true. What is significant is what it leaves out.

One of the most shameful parts of the film is the depiction of the killing of John Dillinger. It is portrayed pretty much as it happened, but no mention at all is made of Melvin Purvis, the Chicago Bureau Chief who headed the operation. Instead, the operation is depicted as if the fictional Chip Hardesty were running it. It has been said that Hoover was jealous of the publicity that Purvis received after Dillinger was killed; Purvis was subsequently transferred to a remote outpost, and shortly afterward left the FBI. This is no doubt why Purvis was never mentioned in the film. But this viewer, at least, paused to think that if Purvis was treated this way, what about all the agents who conducted all the other operations depicted in the film. Were they also completely ignored and replaced by the fictional Hardesty.

The film is probably accurate in its portrayal of FBI activity up through the end of WWII. However, after that point, the film would have us believe that the only threat facing the US came from international communism, which is no doubt what Hoover believed. Never mind the Mafia. Never mind the lynchings that were still going on in the South. Never mind that blacks were being intimidated to keep them from voting in much of the South. I don't know if the FBI had started wiretapping Martin Luther King by the time this film was made, but if not, it wasn't very long afterward that it started.

As I said at the outset, this is pretty good entertainment, but it should be viewed as the sanitized fictionalization that it is.
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7/10
The FBI For Richer Or Poorer
bkoganbing20 January 2007
In the tradition of G-Men, The House On 92nd Street, The Street With No Name, now comes The FBI Story one of those carefully supervised films that showed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the best possible light. While it's 48 year director J. Edgar Hoover was alive, it would be showed in no other kind of light.

The book by Don Whitehead that this film is based on is a straight forward history of the bureau from it's founding in 1907 until roughly the time the film The FBI Story came out. It's important sometimes to remember there WAS an FBI before J. Edgar Hoover headed it. Some of that time is covered in the film as well.

But Warner Brothers was not making a documentary so to give the FBI flesh and blood the fictional character of John 'Chip' Hardesty was created. Hardesty as played by James Stewart is a career FBI man who graduated law school and rather than go in practice took a job with the bureau in the early twenties.

In real life the Bureau was headed by William J. Burns of the Burns Private Detective Agency. It was in fact a grossly political operation then as is showed in the film. Burns was on the periphery of the scandals of the Harding administration. When Hoover was appointed in 1924 to bring professional law enforcement techniques and rigorous standards of competence in, he did just that.

Through the Hardesty family which is Stewart and wife Vera Miles we see the history of the FBI unfold. In addition we see a lot of their personal family history which is completely integrated into the FBI's story itself. Stewart and Miles are most assuredly an all American couple. We follow the FBI through some of the cases Stewart is involved with, arresting Ku Klux Klan members, a plot to murder oil rich Indians, bringing down the notorious criminals of the thirties, their involvement with apprehending Nazi sympathizers in World War II and against Communist espionage in the Cold War.

There is a kind of prologue portion where Stewart tells a class at the FBI Academy before going into the history of the bureau as it intertwines with his own. That involves a bomb placed on an airline by a son who purchased a lot of life insurance on his mother before the flight. Nick Adams will give you the creeps as the perpetrator and the story is sadly relevant today.

Of course if The FBI Story were written and produced today it would reflect something different and not so all American. Still the FBI does have a story to tell and it is by no means a negative one.

The FBI Story is not one of Jimmy Stewart's best films, but it's the first one I ever saw with my favorite actor in it so it has a special fondness for me. If the whole FBI were made up Jimmy Stewarts, I'd feel a lot better about it. There's also a good performance by Murray Hamilton as his friend and fellow agent who is killed in a shootout with Baby Face Nelson.

Vera Miles didn't just marry Stewart, she in fact married the FBI as the film demonstrates. It's dated mostly, but still has a good and interesting story to tell.
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7/10
James Stewart is this Movie
Jay0910195110 May 2009
This is a film that on the surface would seem to be all about J.Edgar Hoover giving himself a a big pat on the back for fighting Klansmen,going after Indian killers, hunting the famous gangsters of the 1930's, fighting Nazi's in the US and South America during world war 2 and Commies in New York during the early 1950's. Of course in 1959 we did not know about Mr. Hoover's obsession for keeping secret files on honest Americans, bugging people like the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, but worst of all,his secret love affair with his deputy director,Clyde Tolson( If you want to know more about that subject, I suggest seeing the film Citizen Cohn). Hoover aside, This story of a life in the FBI as told by Jimmy Stewart makes for a decent, but dated film. Vera Miles as his devoted wife is also good. But Jimmy is the movie. As much as Hoover controlled production and always made sure the FBI was seen without fault, Jimmy Stewart gave the film a human side,quite an achievement considering Hoover was always looking over his shoulder. The background score is also pleasant. I have read recent online articles suggesting that this is a forgotten film. Jimmy Stewart was one of the greatest film stars of all time and none of his films should be forgotten. TCM was the last network to show it a long time ago and I hope they show it again.
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5/10
Riveting Back In '59; Not Much Now
ccthemovieman-18 January 2007
When I was a very young teen, I saw this in the theater and was just awed. The different segments were very dramatic and stayed with me for decades.

So after a long, long absence, seeing this again in the late '90s turned out to be a major disappointment. As a kid, this movie was exciting, but it sure isn't now. It's two-and-a-half hours long and moves pretty well but too much time is spent on the marriage of Jimmy Stewart-Vera Miles ("Chip and Lucy Ann Hardesty").

As one who watches a lot of modern- day crime movies, it was odd to see one with absolutely no profanity in it and very little blood, but that's because it's a 1959 film. We see the FBI cracking down on the KKK, anti- Native Americans, the Communists, spies, etc. Some of those parts are exciting, but nothing like when it came out almost 50 years ago. Now, it's almost ho-hum stuff.

For me now, this movie is more of a nostalgia piece than anything else. Frankly, I doubt if I would watch it again.
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4/10
Lots of talent involved, but film offers little dramatic appeal
moonspinner5519 July 2007
Pedantic, overlong fabrication which attempts to chronicle the birth of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Begins quite promisingly, with a still-relevant probe into an airplane explosion, however the melodrama involving James Stewart and wife Vera Miles just gets in the way (Miles had a habit of playing tepid wives under duress, and her frayed nerves arrive here right on schedule). Esteemed director Mervyn LeRoy helmed this adaptation of Don Whitehead's book, but despite the talent involved, the picture fails to make much of an impression. Best performance is turned in by Murray Hamilton as Stewart's partner, however most of the dialogue is ludicrous and the dogged pacing causes the movie to seem twice as long as it is. *1/2 from ****
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Good but way too long
slymusic3 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"The FBI Story" is a movie with essentially no plot but rather a series of events, as it traces the story of the growth and development of the Federal Bureau of Investigation over a thirty-five-year span, focusing on the career and family of one particular agent named John Michael "Chip" Hardesty (James Stewart). It's a good story, with some nice action scenes, light touches of family humor, and a fine music score by Max Steiner. And yet, this two-and-a-half-hour movie really drags at times. Nonetheless, Stewart turns in a very good performance not only on-screen but also via voice-over narration.

The most memorable scenes in "The FBI Story" include the following (don't read any further if you have not seen this film). Most of Chip's domestic scenes, interwoven between his various FBI cases, are aggravating and interfere with the pace of the movie, but one of these scenes is very funny as Chip carries on about something as trivial as missing tissue paper. Among the numerous settings required for this picture, perhaps the most interesting one is the South American jungle, where Chip and his son-in-law George Crandall (Larry Pennell) work together on a case involving German espionage agents. The Ku Klux Klan invades a newspaper editor's office, destroys it, and threatens to kill the editor; Chip and his fellow agent Sam Crandall (Murray Hamilton), who is George's father, arrive just in time to foil their plan. At the marine base in Quantico, VA, the young FBI recruits are introduced to Hogan's Alley, a series of storefronts with black-and-white cardboard photos of some famous criminals which pop out from behind various windows and doorways; the somewhat inept George Crandall walks down this alley, having only a split second to decide whether to fire at these "criminals" as they emerge one by one, and he fails miserably. The Hardestys' celebration of their daughter Anne's (Joyce Taylor) and George's first wedding anniversary, complete with a short piano rendition of "Jeepers Creepers" and a lengthy vocalization of "Oh! You Beautiful Doll," is interrupted with the news of young Michael Hardesty (Buzz Martin) being killed in action at Iwo Jima during World War II. (A decade after this movie was made, James Stewart himself grieved the loss of one of his stepsons in the Vietnam War.)

"The FBI Story" might be a respectable movie in terms of showcasing the Bureau, but it sure is plodding. James Stewart, being the professional that he was, treated it as if it were the greatest project he ever tackled, even though it wasn't. I believe we can all learn something from that, as J. Edgar Hoover himself acknowledges in his brief address to a small group of agents: no matter how unpropitious the job is, our best effort is its own reward.
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4/10
Overly earnest retelling of Hoover's fairy tale.
mryerson2 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film is to the F.B.I.'s history as Knott's Berry Farm is to the old west. Shamelessly sanitized version of the Federal Bureau of Investigation fight against crime. Hoover's heavy hand (did he have any other kind?) shows throughout with teevee quality script-reading actors, cheesy sets, cheap sound effects and lighting 101. With Jimmy Stewart at 20% of dramatic capacity, Vera Miles chewing the scenery, the film features every c-lister known in the mid-fifties with nary a hint of irony or humor, from the 'Amazon jungle' to the 'back yard barbecue', everything reeks of sound stages and back lots. Even the gunshots are canned and familiar. I imagine Mervyn Leroy got drunk every night. Except for a few (very few) interesting exterior establishing shots, nothing here of note beyond a curio.
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5/10
Dated and Disappointing Propaganda
Claudio Carvalho23 December 2007
After resolving a case related to an explosion of an airplane with forty-nine casualties by a swindler using state-of-art technique, the experienced agent Chip Hardesty (James Stewart) gives a lecture at FBI Headquarter in Washington. He tells the story of the agency entwined with his own personal life since 1924, when FBI was a bureaucratic department that gave employment to god nephews of politicians. Along the years, the agency modernizes and faces Ku Klux Klan; deaths of Indians enriched with oil; the organized crime, when the agents are authorized to use weapons for the first time; the period of World War II; and the Cold War, acting as a counter-espionage agency. In his personal life, he gets married with Lucy Ann Hardesty (Vera Miles); they have three children; he loses his best friend and also agent Sam Crandall (Murray Hamilton), killed in action; his marriage has a crisis due to his dedication to the Bureau; his older daughter gets married; and he loses his son in World War II.

"The FBI Story" is a dated and disappointing propaganda of the FBI of Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, who certainly sponsored this flick. The idea is to show that the omnipotent and powerful FBI is composed by human beings, with flaws and family like any other ordinary American person. Chip and Lucy are the typical middle-class American family of the 50's. However, this film is bureaucratic and too long, and does not bring any emotion to the viewer, in spite of the good performance of James Stewart. The greetings in the very end are ridiculous. The DVD released in Brazil by Ocean distributor has a total lack of synchronization between sound and image. My vote is five.

Title (Brazil): "A História do FBI" ("The FBI Story")
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8/10
Overlooked, but still great!!! (*contains spoilers*)
esdavis20 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Have you ever felt like your being watched, like someone keeps tabs on every move you make? Well, just remember before you decide to break the law, the FBI will always be there. At least that's the feeling you get after watching the gripping but slightly mellow crime drama, The FBI story. It traces the roots of the organization from a small bureau to one of the most modern facilities in the world (in 1959), by telling the story through they eyes of one of its agents, Chip Hardesty (James Stewart).

Chip was with the FBI from day one, and he gladly puts his job above everything else in the world, even occasionally his family. The FBI Story tracks his life by depicting what he does as an agent, and how being one affects his personal life. The film does a spectacular job of showing what kind of cases the FBI handles and how they handle them. The audience gets to see Chip stop Ku Klux Klan riots, go undercover to solve an Indian murder/estate scandal, bring fugitives into custody, rescue hostages, and helped fight in WWII. He even helped bring Communist spies to justice.

Stewart, in a vaguely complex performance, is stellar (as always) as the slightly neurotic agent who loves his job maybe a little too much. One of the best parts about this film is that we get to see the inside workings of both Chip's family life and his job. We witness him suffer through the death of his best friend and then his son. We also observe his wife having a miscarriage, and his marriage having rocky times. Almost all of his personal problems are caused by love of his job. Vera Miles gives a spotty performance, but it's very convincing, none the less. She was never a brilliant actress, but there was always something very attractive and alluring about her. Well maybe that's just me? Sadly, none of the other performances are worth mentioning, but the attention-grabbing story managed to keep me exceedingly interested.

The cinematography of this film was impressive, especially the scenes in the South American jungles. The colors all had a texture that really set the atmosphere of the film. Perhaps the greatest part of this movie was Mervyn Leroy's fabulous direction. Every scene was so fluid they just rolled together to tell a brilliant story. It's chock full of ingenious camera shots, some with a very Hitchcockian feel.

All in all, The FBI Story is a spectacular, but overlooked film. Clocking in at two and a half hours some viewers might be intimidated, but if you get the chance I recommend jumping into this one. I enjoyed Jimmy Stewart's spectacular performance, and the captivating story.
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7/10
Entertaining film including appearance of known gangsters as Alvin Carpis , John Dillinger , Pretty Boy Floyd , Baby Face Nelson , Machine Gun Kelly , Ma Baker ...
ma-cortes4 July 2016
Interesting story about the Federal Bureau , -headquarters in Washington- , that unfolds through the eyes of one of its agents , following the career of a fictional FBI agent , Chip Hardesty (James Stewart) from when it was a second-class office against crime to the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country. During his FBI life he investigates mobsters , swindlers , the Klu Klux Klan , the case of Oklahoma Indians who were being killed , among others . Revolving around his wife (Vera Miles) , children , friends and other FBI agents , as Sam Crandall (Murray Hamilton, he is loosely based on FBI agent Sam Cowley) and his son (Larry Pennell) . It's set during the Depression era, and the 30s , when any job , even illegal one , was cherished, greed , money and power originated an interminable cycle of fury and violence . Dealing with famous gangsters whose criminal rampage didn't stop until the FBI agents worked to chase the crime bosses . During World War II their focus was on Nazi spies and subversive elements . By the 1950s , the focus was on communist spies and cold war spies.

Nice story with thrills , emotion , noisy action , suspense and family life . If you are aficionado of the gangster genre , this actioner offers a pseudo-factual or real fictional glimpse based on colorful mobsters and actual cases from the 1920s through the 1930s into the life of a fictitious agent . As the starring recounts his career with the bureau , describing the various cases he worked on and not specially persnickity about fidelity to the facts . The film provides an excellent main cast and good support cast . Even J. Edgar Hoover has a cameo , he personally chose James Stewart for the role of Chip Hardesty because he felt that Stewart conveyed a positive image . It packs a rousing cinematography in brilliant Technicolor by Joseph Biroc . Thilling as well as sensitive musical score by the classic composer Max Steiner . This anatomy of the FBI was well directed by Mervyn LeRoy (earlier he directed the classic mobster movie : ¨Little Caesar¨ with Edward G. Robinson) , though Edgar Hoover forced director LeRoy to re-shoot a scene because he didn't approve it , and even two FBI agents were on the set at all times.

This overlong picture is partially based on the real characters of notorious gangsters and with high profile bank robbers of the 20s and 30s , as there appear : Pretty Boy Floyd , Baby Face Nelson , John Dillinger , Alvin Karpis , Nash and Ma Barker . And re-enacting known and violent confrontations between prestigious agents , as Melviln Purvis or Sam Cowley , against the nasty delinquents . As when agent Sam Cowley -who worked for Melvin Purvis- was killed in a shootout with Baby Face Nelson -who was also killed- in the Little Bohemia Raid of 1934 near Mercer, Wisconsin . When Alvin Carpis -the last of the high-profile 1930s era bank robbers- is ¨personally¨ arrested by J. Edgar Hoover (though it has since been debunked as a myth created by Hoover himself) ; as Hoover and his assistant 'Clyde Tolson' -who makes a cameo appearance in the film in the same scene as Hoover- came out and Hoover dramatically showed Carpis his badge , declaring , "Carpis, you're under arrest! . Well described was the John Dillinger's arrest , when doublé-crossed by the foreign prostitute Anne Sage , ¨the lady in red¨ , he is shot next to a cinema . Furthermore , when is detained the famous gangster Machine Gun Kelly and shouting : ¨the G-men¨ . And The Jack Graham airliner bombing piece is basically correct , and Graham's real name is correctly used .
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3/10
So Completely Hoover-Approved, He Even Let His Boyfriend Appear In It!
mp9915 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There are moments in this film when it actually gets up on its back legs and starts to shake the tail feathers a bit; the opening sequence involving a Colorado n'er-do-well named Jack Graham murdering his mother and 40-some other people (he bombs an airliner) in an attempt to collect on insurance (mostly because of Nick Adams); some of the early domestic scenes between James Stewart and Vera Miles as a couple who love each other but don't always like each other, and the nasty story of an Oklahoma banker who becomes a for-profit serial killer in a scheme to swindle Native Americans out of their oil-rich land.

But then the story of this marriage loses its early edge, and the film bogs down into Hoover-Approved propaganda about the Bureau, failing to note that the director's desire to turn what was supposed to be a law-enforcement agency into a private cult wired to jump every time his sphincter muscles trembled often undercut good law enforcement, turning regional offices into vicious rivals for Hoover's approval instead of colleagues working together to get their appointed job done. And, of course, the none-too-surprising dose of anti-Communist hysteria which implies that any looking askance at the Bureau's tactics was tantamount to treason. Needless to say, there's nothing about Hoover's career-long blackmail of sitting presidents, or the way that they sometimes used him to gather dirt on their enemies, or the fact that Hoover's ego was too delicate to allow him to admit that there was this big thing called Organized Crime that he hadn't even tried to get a handle on (and ego and incompetence seem far more likely motives for Hoover's non-pursuit of La Cosa Nostra than stories about snaps of J. Edgar in a frock -- no one as obsessed with dignity, and possessed of so little, as Hoover, would ever make themselves that vulnerable to ridicule or exposure).

The cast does what they can. James Stewart and Vera Miles are always appealing, Nick Adams suggests some of the chilly squishiness of the sort of bush-league criminal he was playing, and Murray Hamilton is very appealing as the Hero's Best Friend, whose main function in the plot is to get killed, which he does. Some of Joseph Biroc's photography is subtle and handsome (I'm thinking particularly of a scene on the balcony of a seafood restaurant), and it's always refreshingly unfussy. Max Steiner's music in the first few minutes, which involve the airline bombing, has a chill and an edge his stuff rarely did, before it settles into big-movie bombast. Mervyn LeRoy's direction is utterly undistinguished. But then, this wasn't so much a movie as it was Hoover's Valentine. To Himself.
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8/10
An FBI propaganda film that paints an idealized picture of the bureau.
ozthegreatat4233020 June 2007
The film as entertainment is very good and Jimmy Stewart is excellent as Chip Hardesty, with well done co-starring turns by Vera Miles and Murray Hamilton. But the film, directed by legendary director Mervyn Leroy, was constantly vetted and script approval as well as every aspect of the film, down to clothing, was closely watched and controlled by J. Edgar Hoover. Not that J. Edgar Hoover didn't have something to be proud of. His management of the bureau from 1924 to his death crated on of the finest investigative services in the world. But by 1959 Hoover was already beginning to worry about being forced out and had already started to collect dossiers on powerful people to make sure and protect his little kingdom. And he was determined to make sure that no motion picture showed even a single wart about the bureau. The films shows only continued successes and glosses over the failures which occurred, and the bureau's part in the witch hunts of the early 1950's. Enjoy the story, but with tongue firmly in cheek.
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8/10
James Earl Jones as an uncredited star
j_keamigh10 February 2006
Has anyone noticed that James Earl Jones is the waiter who is serving when Hagarty's wife reveals that she is pregnant while they are at the restaurant next to the lake. I watched this movie on a video that I had taped off of the television. When I watched this scene I thought I recognized the voice of Jones when the "waiter" laughed at the end. I rewound the tape then slowly stepped through that part as the camera pulled back and showed the waiter. Listen closely as the waiter laughs when Hagarty looks up and tells him that they are going to have a baby, then watch closely or slow down the scene when the camera shows the waiter, albeit, quickly.
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5/10
What happened to the last segment?
arscher126 March 2005
If you have seen this movie recently on cable, the story ends with the capture of Communist spies and then Jimmy Stewart drives off into the sunset with his family.

However, the last chapter that has been deleted for years had Nick Adams killing his mother for the insurance money by planting a bomb in her suitcase that explodes in mid-flight of a commercial airliner.

This was cut long before 9/11. Does anyone know why?

Unfortunately I can't tell you when this occurred, especially whether it happened before or after J. Edgar Hoover's death.

Nick Adams is still listed as having appeared in the film. Very strange!
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1/10
Pure propaganda and without any artistic merit.
Irving Warner19 August 2003
Not much to say beyond the summary, save that this is an example of J. Edgar's Hoover's constant attention to maintaining a good "PR" profile. They don't make movies this bad very often, especially with the likes of Jimmy Stewart and Vera Miles in the blend. Too bad.
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6/10
Truth - Justice - And The FBI's Way
Dalbert Pringle25 October 2017
This well-mounted film details the fabricated history of the FBI from its formation in 1924 (when it was nothing more than an over-glorified legal clerk's office) to the way it stood in 1959 as the most powerful law enforcement agency in the entire USA.

While watching this flick it's important to keep in mind the year that it was released (1959), which was at a time when the FBI was considered to have a virtually spotless, 'goody-2-shoes' reputation. So, please, don't anyone expect any disreputable scenes of bureau agents wire-tapping Civil Rights Leaders, or, especially, scenes with the likes of J. Edgar Hoover twittering around in his favourite dress.

The FBI Story is competently told through the eyes of fictitious FBI Agent, Chip Hardesty, played by actor James Stewart. It's interesting to note that J. Edgar Hoover, himself, personally chose Stewart for the part of Chip.

THE FBI STORY has a somewhat lengthy running time of 149 minutes. Its story is primarily a compilation of separate episodes featuring the tough FBI boys tackling such villains as the Klu Klux Klan, the Mob, the Nazis, and, of course, the Communists. The opening sequence is a real 'Wowser', showcasing a matricidal mad bomber.

The FBI Story's tag-line was - "The Fury Of America's Fight for Decency!" And on a final 'special' trivia note - During the entire filming of The FBI Story two very real FBI Agents were on the set at all times.
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6/10
pretty bad
KyleFurr228 November 2005
Hard to believe that this was directed by Mervyn LeRoy but no surprise that it stars James Stewart since he was a conservative. This movie is total propaganda and it puts J. Edgar Hoover in a total positive light. The movie starts out in 1924 with Stewart getting married to Vera Miles while he's working at the FBI in Tennessee. Things are really bad until Hoover takes over and Stewart decides to stay over his wife's objection. It shows him working on several cases like taking on the KKK and all kinds of other cases. The FBI isn't allowed to carry guns until some gangsters like Pretty Boy Floyd starts to kill several agents. After the war the FBI goes after a man just because he was a communist and this movie is nothing but propaganda for capitalism.
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5/10
Capable performances, incompetent direction
tim777ca4 January 2003
Several unrelated crime cases are piled up to make a propaganda for FBI, with agent Stewart's domestic life unevenly blended in between them. The straight-forward narrative has little action, no suspense, and no excitement. When the last episode is well built up toward a climax, the director just ends it abruptly, much to the audience's disappointment. Fortunately, it has wonderful James Stewart and underrated Vera Miles in the cast, so it wouldn't be dull to the core.

Mervyn LeRoy was a respected director at the time, who had made some commercially successful movies like LITTLE CAESAR (1930), WATERLOO BRIDGE (1940), and RANDOM HARVEST (1942). He's the kind of director that could get lucky when assigned a good script, otherwise his ability is very doubtful. According to character actor Arthur Hill, who worked with him in MOMENT TO MOMENT (1965), "He knew a lot about the cosmetics of acting. He'd counsel you not to move your lips too much, and he was absolutely right. But when it came to understanding what went on inside an actor, he didn't pretend to have an idea. 'Okay, let's have a good scene now with lots of energy,' he'd say to us. After a while we realized that's what he said before every scene."
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6/10
Not bad, but it plays like a J Edgar film.
Lee Samuel20 September 2006
An entertaining look at the FBI from its fledgling days, when 36 unarmed investigators constituted the "Bureau of Investigation" up till the days when FBI agents sought to prevent Soviet agents from gathering sensitive intelligence.

The FBI Story tracks the career of an FBI agent Chip Hardesty, who joins the Bureau in its early days. He expresses frustration with the ineffectiveness of the agency, but when J. Edgar becomes Director, he has a change of heart. (Surprise, surprise-- Edgar was actually in the movie, so I'm guessing that he had a part in Hardesty's position) Hardesty battles Klan members, gangsters, and Nazi influence in South America, as well as counter-intelligence efforts at the peak of his career as an FBI SAC (Special Agent In Charge) of the New York Field Office.

It's not a bad film, and there are some really classic quotes. There was this one about how sometimes with gangsters you just need a slide-fed, automatic machine gun. I enjoyed that one a lot. However, it did strike me very much as a propaganda film, being as though J. Edgar seems like a hero. The film even shows his personal arrest of a gangster making death threats.
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7/10
Actually, FBI Mini-Stories
kenjha11 October 2006
The history of the FBI, as told from the point of view of Agent Stewart via flashbacks, interwoven with his personal life story. Stewart and Miles (as his wife) are pretty good, as is Hamilton as an earnest agent. The problem is that the episodic nature of the story makes it difficult to get involved. It's like watching bits and pieces of a dozen different movies as we get glimpses of a who's who cast of gangsters. Some of the episodes are too long, some too short, and some just look out of place (Stewart's daughter's school sequence). Overall, it goes on way too long. Nevertheless, it's worth a look for its handsome production values.
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