A huge movie poster for “The FBI Story” hangs on a wall in a hallway at the FBI Academy in Quantico. The movie came out in 1959 and Jimmy Stewart autographed the poster in 1989. My son and I saw the poster during a field trip to Quantico with the FBI Knoxville Citizens Academy Alumni Association in 2010.
Last week, I read a press release from the Knox County Public Library about an event on Sunday. They were having a free screening of “The FBI Story” because an early scene is set at the old Knoxville Library. Local historian Jack Neely spoke before the screening. He pointed out that the Knoxville scenes were filmed on a sound-stage somewhere, not on-location.
The library had set out ginger snaps, warm cider and popcorn. There were two scenes in the movie where boxes of ginger snaps were plainly visible. I thought they must have deliberately chosen to serve ginger snaps at the screening but the woman who provided the treats said it was just a coincidence.
The movie has the feel of a “Dragnet” marathon with a few elements of “The Glenn Miller Story” thrown in for good measure. Stewart’s FBI partner is played by Murray Hamilton, who also played Mayor Larry Vaughn in “Jaws.”
Later I watched the film’s trailer online and saw an erroneous claim that “Warner Bros. filmed it exactly where it happened.” Maybe the New York and Washington scenes were filmed on location, but probably not the Oklahoma or South America scenes and definitely not the Knoxville scenes. In a scene set in 1924, an FBI agent played by Jimmy Stewart proposes to a Knoxville librarian played by Vera Miles. She says no, unless he quits the Bureau. If the library has another screening, they can point out that the FBI’s Knoxville field office opened in 1937.
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