AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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I Was a Communist for the F.B.I.
Director: Gordon Douglas (Dir)
Release Date:   5 May 1951
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 2 May 1951
Production Date:   early Jan--early Mar 1951
Duration (in mins):   82-84
Duration (in reels):   9
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Cast:   Frank Lovejoy (Matt Cvetic)  
    Dorothy Hart (Eve Merrick)  
    Philip Carey (Mason)  
    James Millican (Jim Blandon)  
    Richard Webb (Ken Crowley)  
    Konstantin Shayne (Gerhardt Eisler)  
    Paul Picerni (Joe Cvetic)  
    Roy Roberts (Father Novac)  
    Eddie Norris (Harmon)  
    Ron Hagerthy (Dick Cvetic)  
    Hugh Sanders (Clyde Garson)  
    Hope Kramer (Ruth Cvetic)  
    Frank Gerstle (Tom Cvetic)  
    Russ Conway (Frank Cvetic)  
    Kasia Orzazekski (Mrs. Cvetic)  
    Ann Morrison (Miss Nova)  
    Paul McGuire (McIntyre)  
    Douglas Evans (Chief agent)  
    Janet Barrett (Secretary)  
    Karen Hale (Secretary)  
    Joseph Smith (Thug)  
    Jim O'Gatty (Thug)  
    Frank Marlowe (Worker)  
    Mike Ross (Foreman)  
    Lenita Lane (Principal)  
    Alma Mansfield (Teacher)  
    Ann Kimball (Student)  
    Paula Sowl (Student)  
    Grace Lenard (Wife)  
    Eric Neilsen (Jackie)  
    Roy Engle (Jackie's father)  
    Bill Lester (Brown)  
    John Crawford (McGowan)  
    Ernest Anderson (Black man)  
    Sugarfoot Anderson (Black man)  
    Johnny Bradford (Dobbs)  
    Jimmy Gonzalez (Brennan)  
    David MacMahon (Masonvitch)  
    Charles Horvath (Thug at strike)  
    Phil Tully (Irishman)  
    Barry Sullivan (Worker)  
    Howard Negley (Union chairman)  
    Bobby Gilbert (Picketer)  
    James Adamson (Picketer)  
    Barry Reagan (Officer)  
    Lyle Latell (Cahill)  
    Chuck Coleman (Brakeman)  
    Dick Gordon (Lawyer)  
    William Bailey (Lawyer)  
    Paul Bradley (Lawyer)  
    Robert "Buddy" Shaw (Lawyer)  
    William Forrest (Senator Wood)  
    Bert Moorhouse (Senator Gray)  
    Theresa Harris    
    Charles Sherlock    
    Mary Alan Hokanson    
    Mildred Boyd    
    George Macgrill    
    Gorilla Jones    
    Snub Pollard    

Summary: Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation alert the local FBI chief, Ken Crowley, that a top Communist agent, Gerhardt Eisler, is coming to Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Matt Cvetic, a second-generation Slovenian American, is at a family gathering where everyone except his mother is uncomfortable around him, including his sixteen-year-old son Dick. When Matt must leave in response to a call he receives ordering him to Eisler's hotel suite, his brother Joe accuses him of being a "Red." After he reports by pay phone to Crowley's assistant Mason, Matt arrives at Eisler's luxury hotel room, where an expensive spread, with caviar and champagne, is laid out for the local Communist officials. Jim Blandon, the Pittsburgh party leader, introduces Matt to Eisler, commending Matt for bringing Slovenians into the party and using his position in the personnel office of North American Steel Company to hire party members for key positions. Eisler promotes Matt to the position of chief party organizer for the Pittsburgh district, then orders the group to create discontent in the Pittsburgh workers. The next day, Matt is called to Dick's school, where he learns that Dick has been scrapping with students over the question of Matt's party membership. When Matt privately admits to Dick that he is a member, Dick expresses his shame. That evening at his apartment, Matt writes a letter explaining why he works undercover for the FBI as a Communist party infiltrator, planning to entrust it to the priest, Father Novac, with instructions to give it to Dick should he die. Although weary of the burden of his double life, Matt cannot clear his name without jeopardizing the FBI's work. He hides his displeasure when Eve Merrick, who introduced herself to him that afternoon at the school, shows up to confide that she, too, is a party member. Later, at the Communist headquarters, Blandon tells Matt that Eisler wants them to engineer a strike at the steel mill. As the room has been wired with a hidden microphone by the FBI, Crowley is able to warn Matt later that Eve has orders to shadow him. Matt's mother dies, and after the funeral, Novac returns Matt's letter, as he is being transferred to Rome. Matt, who is accompanied by Eve, puts the letter in his coat, but it falls to the ground when Joe, angered by the presence of Matt's "comrades," slugs him. When Matt later discovers the letter missing, he fears that Eve has it, until he hears a secret FBI recording of her report to Blandon, during which she does not mention it. At the strike, Blandon has thugs physically assault opposing union members, and Eve is disgusted by the violence. Matt realizes that they are being watched by Blandon's informers, so he reprimands her for her disloyalty. Then, after Crowley and Mason promise protection for Eve, Matt reports the incident to Blandon. To keep his cover intact, Matt later confronts Eve about her loyalty in front of the other officials, and she admits her disillusionment and quits. Matt guesses that Blandon has ordered her death and convinces her to leave town. Eve returns his letter, saying how it helped her to repudiate Communism. After Eve leaves with Matt for the train station, Blandon's thugs break into her apartment and stab a mysterious man who is trying to arrest them. Meanwhile, seeing two men follow Eve, Matt boards her train and stops them from killing her. After a fight in which both of the would-be assassins are killed, Eve is sent safely out of town and Matt resumes his cover, as no one alive can incriminate him. However, after the newspapers report the deaths of the two men, Matt is interrogated and beaten by Blandon and Clyde Garson, a visiting Communist leader. Policemen show up fortuitously to arrest Matt for the murder of Jim Broderick, an FBI agent found dead in Eve's apartment. After Matt is taken away, Mason and Crowley, who were behind his rescue, order him to testify against eleven New York Communists and suggest that, until the trial, he is safer behind bars. Later, the district attorney decides that Matt's testimony is unnecessary to convict the defendants, and Blandon springs Matt from jail, after having second thoughts about his suspicions. All of the Pittsburgh Communist leaders are subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. On the day of Matt's appearance, Crowley brings Joe and Dick to hear Matt's testimony, in which Matt states that he has been an undercover FBI agent for nine years. Afterward, Matt is free to resume a normal life with his proud family. 

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Brand Name: A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Gordon Douglas (Dir)
  Al Alleborn (Asst dir)
  Oren Haglund (Asst dir)
Producer: Bryan Foy (Prod)
Writer: Crane Wilbur (Scr)
Photography: Edwin DuPar (Dir of photog)
  Lou Jennings (Cam op)
  Wally Meinardus (Asst cam)
  Bud Graybill (Stills)
  Victor Johnson (Gaffer)
  Claude Swanner (Best boy)
  William Classen (Grip)
Art Direction: Leo K. Kuter (Art dir)
Film Editor: Folmar Blangsted (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Lyle B. Reifsnider (Set dec)
  C. S. Friend (Props)
  Morris Goldman (Asst props)
Costumes: Mina Willowbird (Women's ward)
  Victor Vallejo (Men's ward)
Music: William Lava (Mus score)
Sound: Leslie G. Hewitt (Sd)
Make Up: Gordon Bau (Makeup artist)
  Otis Malcolm (Makeup)
  Ray Foreman (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Jean Baker (Scr supv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text: Based on the article "I Posed as a Communist for the FBI" edited by Pete Martin in The Saturday Evening Post (Jul 1950).
Authors: Pete Martin
  Matt Cvetic

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 16/5/1951 dd/mm/yyyy LP905

PCA NO: 15124
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound System
  b&w:

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Cold War
 
Subjects (Major): Communism
  Investigations
  Patriotism
  Pittsburgh (PA)
  Slovene Americans
  Undercover operations
  United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation
 
Subjects (Minor): African Americans
  Arrests
  Brothers
  Brothers and sisters
  Fathers and sons
  German Americans
  Letters
  Mothers and sons
  Murder
  Priests
  Recordings
  Spies
  Steel workers
  Strikes and lockouts
  Teachers
  Trains
  United States. Congress--House Committee on Un-American Activities

Note: The opening title cards reads: " I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. Based on the experiences of Matt Cvetic as told to Pete Martin and published in The Saturday Evening Post ." Voice-over narration, spoken by Frank Lovejoy as Cvetic, is heard at the beginning of the film. Jan and Feb 1951 HR news items add Don Blackman, Russ Conway and Harlan Warde to the cast. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to a Feb 1951 HR news item, 2,000 extras were hired for the strike sequences.
       Warner Bros. production notes state that some scenes were shot on location at Burbank High School in Burbank, CA, and that the Bunker Hill area of downtown Los Angeles was to be used for exterior neighborhood shots, but was not because the houses were torn down to build the Hollywood Freeway. The set for the final courtroom scene was designed using authentic photographs and drawings of the room in the House of Representatives building where the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) held its hearings. A special trailer for the film, featuring James Millican, was made to target college students, according to a Jan 1951 HR news item. The film, one of the first to deal with HUAC, epitomized Hollywood's response to the threat of Communism, and the title and style of the film was often parodied in later film and television productions. The picture received an Academy Award nomination in the Documentary (Feature) category. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   21 Apr 1951.   
Daily Variety   19 Apr 51   p. 3.
Film Daily   19 Apr 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jan 51   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   10 Jan 51   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jan 51   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jan 51   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Jan 51   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jan 51   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Feb 51   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Feb 51   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Feb 51   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Mar 51   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Apr 51   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   21 Apr 51   p. 809.
New York Times   2 May 51   p. 35.
New York Times   3 May 51   p. 34.
New Yorker   12 May 1951.   
Time   7 May 1951.   
Variety   25 Apr 51   p. 6.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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