The FBI Story (1959)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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If Warner Bros.' pageantlike The FBI Story resembles an episode of Jack Webb's Dragnet at times, it's probably because the screenplay was by veteran Dragnet scrivener Richard L. Breen. The film meticulously details the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, from its formation in 1924 to the present day (1959, that is). The story is told through the eyes of FBI agent Chip Hardesty (James Stewart), who narrates the film. We see the FBI tackling such villains as the Ku Klux Klan, the mob, the Nazis and the communists. Subplots include the struggle by the federal agents to be given permission to carry firearms, a plight driven home when Hardesty's best friend (Murray Hamilton) is killed by gun-toting Baby Face Nelson (William Phipps). Offsetting moments like these are scenes of Hardesty's home life with his wife Lucy (Vera Miles), who at first opposed her husband's joining the bureau but who later becomesJ. Edgar Hoover's biggest fan. Excessively sentimental at times (it seems that the Hardesty family can never hold a party without receiving a terse telegram announcing yet another personal tragedy) and saddled with a rambling, stop-and-start continuity, the overall success of The FBI Story hinges upon its individual episodes, including a wowser of a pre-credits sequence involving matricidal mad bomber John Graham (Nick Adams). Since the film was made at a time when the FBI was considered to be of spotless reputation, don't expect to see any scenes of the bureau wiretapping civil rights leaders--or, for that matter, J. Edgar Hoover prancing around in drag.
Classics , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
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James Stewart
as John Michael ('Chip') Hardesty
Vera Miles
as Lucy Ann Hardesty
Murray Hamilton
as Sam Crandall
Nick Adams
as John Gilbert ('Jack') Graham
Larry Pennell
as George Crandall
Diane Jergens
as Jennie as an Adult
Jean Willes
as Anna Sage
Joyce Taylor
as Anne as an Adult
Parley Baer
as Harry Dakins
Fay Roope
as McCutcheon
Ed Prentiss
as US Marshal
Robert Gist
as Medicine Salesman
Buzz Martin
as Mike as an Adult
Ken Mayer
as Casket Salesman
Paul Genge
as Suspect
Ann Doran
as Mrs. Ballard
Forrest Taylor
as Wedding Minister
Scott Peters
as John Dillinger
William Phipps
as Baby Face Nelson
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Critic Reviews for The FBI Story

All Critics (4)

LeRoy's picture is an uncritical, decently made salute to the FBI and Edgar Hoover

Full Review… | April 28, 2011

Seems to have an endless amount of stories at its disposal.

Full Review… | April 20, 2011
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Several things about this film left me less than enthusiastic about it.

August 19, 2006

Hoover was very proud of The FBI Story. If you can stay awake through it, you might like it, too.

Full Review… | August 8, 2006
Movie Metropolis

Audience Reviews for The FBI Story

Although THE FBI STORY survives on the charisma of its leading man, James Stewart, only the a viewer interested in a McCarthy-era curio should see this one. Technical proficiency from director and Hollywood shill Mervyn LeRoy (THE GREEN BERETS, THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO) is not enough to commend this dated piece of propaganda. LeRoy manages to keep a pulse in this 2 1/2 hour long FBI advertisement, but the viewer must sit through Stewart's domestic troubles and mid-life crises. But even in its overlength, THE FBI STORY has enough to earn a "fresh" rating from me-- just barely. Chief among the film's boons are its several chase scenes and shootouts, my favorite being the shot on location Dillinger sequence. The film is also unintentionally risible at points, including Stewart's earnest quip: "On Sunday morning he left the house. He couldn't be going to work. Since he was a Communist, we knew he wasn't going to church." That was perhaps the highlight of this Pinko-era flick, which doesn't leave it with much to stand on.

Jake Gittes
Jake Gittes

Jimmy Stewart is ALWAYS good, his movies are top notch at all times. Good performances, suspenseful and a very interesting story. I liked the style of the film. Compelling.

James Higgins
James Higgins

Intriguing condensation of some the FBI's major cases.

Anthony Valletta
Anthony Valletta

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