Monday, July 13, 2015

Movie Review - The FBI Story

In my movie reviews, I give my brief thoughts on what I watched. Sometimes I will expound on those thoughts, but more often than not, I will just give a brief opinion. You can read plot descriptions on Internet Movie Database or on Amazon.

The FBI Story, starring Jimmy Stewart and Vera Miles. 1959.

The FBI Story was not Stewart's first police/detective story. Nor was it his first film with a title taking the form of “The (Noun) Story.” Some other examples of those films include The Philadelphia Story, The Glenn Miller Story, and The Stratton Story.

In The FBI Story, we follow the life of Agent Chip Hardesty, who is portrayed by Stewart. The film is constructed under the premise that Hardesty is giving a lecture about the history of the bureau, his life, and his relationship with his family. It is a relationship that has seen better days.

There are several references to It’s a Wonderful Life and other Capra films, as well as at least one reference to Stewart’s real life.

Some of the parallels to It’s a Wonderful Life include when the Chip and Lucy Hardesty (Vera Miles) get married and it rains on their honeymoon. It also rained on the day of George and Mary’s wedding, which we first learn as they are leaving to go on their honeymoon.

Later on, Lucy tells Chip she is going to have a baby. When Chip acts dumbfounded and surprised, just as George Bailey did, Lucy responds to Chip’s flabbergasted question of what the child will be by responding in Mary-like fashion, “I presume it will be a baby.”

The Hardesty family has a difficult life with Chip working long hours and constantly placing his life in danger for the safety of others. The time away from his family begins to wear on Chip, as well. One night, he reaches his breaking point and re-words George Bailey’s angry and frightened lambasting of their home, saying, “This is a real wonderful place to raise a family. I’m getting out!” Eventually Chip is reunited with his children, and just as the reunion occurred in It’s a Wonderful Life, Hardesty is reunited with the children at the staircase, where the children proceed to climb on and cling to him.

Furthermore, Hardesty’s best friend and agent is named Sam, sharing a name with George Bailey’s best friend. Also during the film, the Hardesty family receives a telegram informing them of their son’s death. This is reminiscent of a young George Bailey reading a telegram sent to Mr. Gower informing him of his son’s death.

In real life, one of Jimmy and Gloria Stewart's sons, Ron McLean, was killed in action in Vietnam.

In what may be a further nod to Frank Capra’s films, The FBI Story includes inspirational footage of the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument from over the shoulder of Lincoln in his memorial, as well as footage of the Iwo Jima memorial. This is reminiscent of what we saw during the sightseeing scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and in the Why We Fight series.

One final, seemingly blatant reference to It’s a Wonderful Life must be mentioned here, as its placement at the end of the film appears to have been intentional. After giving his lecture to the class, one student approaches Hardesty and says, “From the different cases and what you said about your family, I think you’ve led a very interesting life.” Hardesty replies, “Well, I kind of hope so. It’s the only one I had.”

3.5 out of 5 stars


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