For showtimes for The FBI Story, click here.
When Warner Brothers studio head Jack Warner asked J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for cooperation with a film, he had no idea what he was getting into.
Hoover agreed to help with The FBI Story if James Stewart would play the lead and if he could be involved with picture.
Stewart said, “I was honored that Mr. Hoover thought that I should be the one to embody the FBI agent.”
The request for Stewart isn’t a surprise, considering his upstanding reputation and that he had actually been asked by Hoover to help identify known communists in Hollywood (read about that here).
Stewart said, “I met [Hoover] on a number of occasions, and he was always easy to talk to because he knew about so much. He just kinda put people at their ease.”
During the production of The FBI Story, though, Hoover didn’t put director Mervyn LeRoy at ease.
He said, “First off, Hoover went through the script with a fine-tooth comb, took out everything he didn’t like and insisted other scenes be added. He also chose every member of the cast–not just Jimmy Stewart, but everybody, as well as the crew. Even I had to be approved.”
In fact, when it was determined that an extra was unsatisfactory, he was removed and the scene had to be reshot. Additionally, two FBI agents were on the set at all times overseeing production.
When the film was finally finished, LeRoy showed it to Hoover in order to get his approval – even showing it to him before Jack Warner saw it.
LeRoy said, “It was so terrifying. I was wet with perspiration all over. I was really worried when he didn’t laugh at the humorous bits. But when it was over he said, ‘That’s one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen.’ I almost cried with relief.”
While the pressure may not have always helped, Stewart saw the benefit of the FBI’s help. He said, “You couldn’t make the picture without Mr. Hoover’s assistance. It wouldn’t have had the authenticity we were aiming for.”
The end of the film even includes the below acknowledgement to the FBI for their assistance.