In 1935, after forty years in a West Virginia prison, three released convicts wish to open a legitimate business using the twenty-five thousand dollars earned in jail, but a crooked prison guard in cahoots with the town banker plans to defraud them.
The story of the FBI unfolds through the eyes of one of its agents. During his career he investigates gangsters, swindlers, the klu klux klan, Nazi agents and cold war spies.Written by
Col Needham <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The scene in the film in which J. Edgar Hoover "personally" arrested Alvin Carpis has since been debunked as a myth created by Hoover himself. In 1936 Hoover had gone before the Senate Appropriations Commitee to get more funds to continue to build the FBI. A senator asked Hoover if he'd ever personally made an arrest. Hoover kept trying to dodge the question but was eventually forced to answer that he hadn't (he'd joined the bureau as an Assistant Director and was promoted through the bureaucracy without ever having served in the field). Embarrassed by the hearings, Hoover made it a point to follow the case of Carpis, the last of the high-profile 1930s-era bank robbers. According to Carpis himself in his autobiography "Public Enemy Number One: The Alvin Karpis Story", as he was leaving the hotel to get into his car, he was surrounded by nearly a dozen well-armed agents who forced him out of the car. As he stood there being patted down for weapons, he noticed two men peering around the corner. An agent saw what Carpis was looking at and said, "It's okay, Chief. We got 'im." Then Hoover and his assistant 'Clyde Tolson (I)' (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!" See more »
The airliner used in the bombing scenes apparently started off as a DC-7, then as a DC-4, from the takeoff scene of "The High and the Mighty", before apparently becoming a DC7 (due to silhouette proportions) in flight. See more »
John Michael Hardesty:
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.
See more »
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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