Review: I Was a Communist for the F.B.I.

I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. is a film noir from 1951. This story is based on Matt Cvetic who was an undercover informant for the F.B.I.. Gordon Douglas directs this movie in a docudrama format. I am not a big fan of the docudrama format for noir and still have not seen one that I love.

Frank Lovejoy plays Cvetic in this film with Dorothy Hart playing a teacher and member of the Communist Party.  Cvetic is undercover in Pittsburgh where the Communist Party is trying to disrupt manufacturing. He is suspicious of everybody as he doesn’t always know who is with him and who is against him. This does show him in his family life where his son has a hard time defending him at school and his brother fights with him constantly because he thinks he is a Communist. This part of the story felt pretty real to me. On the other hand, the members of the Communist Party who are portrayed in this film seem to over the top. They are very racist, having issue with Jews as well as Blacks. They seem more like the mob, as they don’t care who gets hurt and use a lot of violence to get their message across. This film is obviously a propaganda film for Anti-Communism and though it maybe based on a true story they definitely made sure the members of the Communist Party had absolutely no redeeming qualities in this film. This film is short and to the point. If we ignore the politics of this film it is a decent noir with some great suspenseful moments. On the other hand it is fun to look at the politics of this film as a time capsule to see just how paranoid of the communist movement America was in the 1950’s, maybe all the way through the 1980’s for that matter.

This is an interesting film. I would not say it is a great film by no means, but can be viewed in a number of different and entertaining ways. It has a different feel to it then most classic film noir, and though our main character is on the verge of being found out at every turn, it isn’t as gritty as most. This is worth viewing for film noir buffs, but if you are new to the genre, I would recommend starting somewhere else. I would also like to hear from you political historians out there and what you felt about the film in that context.

Favorite Tidbit:  Though the Communist Party was fairly large at one time, with reports of up to 200,000 members, by the mid 1950’s the number of members was under 10,000 and 1500 of those where undercover F.B.I. informants.

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