The FBI and the Movies: A History of the Bureau on Screen and Behind the Scenes in Hollywood

Front Cover
McFarland & Company, 2007 - Performing Arts - 276 pages
0 Reviews
On June 29, 1908, U.S. Attorney General Charles Bonaparte ordered the creation of a special force within the Department of Justice. Consisting of 28 agents and eight former Treasury Department investigators, it was designed to stop interstate crimes yet had no power to arrest perpetrators or carry firearms. Named the Bureau of Investigation, the agency was soon bogged down with its own inherent problems, becoming an object of corruption and contempt--until May 19, 1924. On that date, President Calvin Coolidge appointed J. Edgar Hoover to replace the corrupt director. Hard-working with a no-nonsense attitude, Hoover immediately set about reorganizing the bureau, setting a standard that he expected his agents to follow. Hoover, impressed by Hollywood's manner of maintaining an image and manipulating the media, began to use some of these tricks to clean up his agency's image. Thanks in part to his efforts, movies of the 1930s shifted from glorifying outlaws and gangsters to glorifying lawmakers--and who better to play that role than Hoover's new, improved FBI?
From crime-busting heroes to enemies of free speech, this volume examines the evolution of Hollywood's portrait of the FBI over the last 75 years. The book looks in-depth at how Hollywood's creative rewriting of history enhanced the FBI's reputation and discusses the historical events that shaped the bureau off-screen, including the various figures who tell the real FBI story--the gangsters, the politicians, the journalists, the communists. The main body of the work examines the filmmakers, actors, technicians, writers and producers who were responsible for FBI films, following the FBI from the birth of a cultural icon in the 1930s, through the spy-busting war years and the threat of the Red Menace, and, finally, to death of Hoover and the scandals of the 1960s. Studio correspondence and once confidential FBI memos are also included.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Part I
CrimefightersIcons of the FBI Film

19 other sections not shown

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

BOB HERZBERG was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1956. He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School and went on to take a variety of jobs, from truck driver to warehouse manager to salesman. He always wanted to act in plays and do comedy and soon started performing in community theaters and colleges around New York. By the 1990s, Bob had performed standup comedy, improv, and murder mystery/dinner theater at clubs in both N.Y. and Hollywood. Around the same time, he wrote and co-starred in The Melnicks series on local TV, which aired on both coasts. In 2006, he started writing western novels and mysteries. He is a member of Western Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and the Dramatists' Guild. In the past six years he has had four non-fiction books published: Shooting Scripts, From Pulp Western to Film, which is about western authors and the films made from their works; The FBI & the Movies, which focuses on films with FBI characters and the Bureau's influence on these productions; Savages & Saints: the Changing Image of American Indian in Westerns, which details the Indian Wars and the films made about them; and The Left Side of the Screen which focuses on Communists and Liberals in Hollywood during the years 1929-2009. In 2008, he appeared on TV-Land's Myths & Scandals in a sequence about the FBI; in 2013, he appeared as a commentator on the 20th anniversary Blu-ray edition of The Fugitive. Bob's latest, Revolutionary Mexico on Film, 1914-2014, will be released in 2015. He's happily married to the lovely actress/poet Colleen Hayden. One day they hope to live out west.

Bibliographic information