QM’s The FBI vs. J. Edgar’s FBI

One of the more talked about (if not financially successful) movies this fall was the Clint Eastwood-directed J. Edgar, a “biopic” about J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years until his death in 1972. We were particularly interested because we enjoy the Hoover-sanctioned 1965-74 television series produced by Quinn Martin.

The QM FBI is an idealized version of the real life agency, which by various reports spied on civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and performed other less-than-heroic acts. interestingly, producer Martin was initially hesitant to do a series based on the FBI because he and Hoover were different politically.

But the show, produced in association with Warner Bros. (which released Eastwood’s J. Edgar plus the heavily pro-Hoover movie The FBI Story in 1959) proceeded anyway. It would end up being Martin’s longest-running television series, running nine years. In real life, the FBI might be accused of going easy on the Mafia, at least prior to John F. Kennedy becoming president. But on QM’s The FBI, the bureau was vigilant against organized crime, even in episodes LIKE THIS ONE or LIKE THIS ONE, where the mob bosses had names like Mark Vincent or Arnold Toby and avoided the word “Mafia.” And, of course, the QM FBI never failed to catch spies working against U.S. interests.

However, if you catch certain episodes of QM’s FBI, the Hoover influence is unmistakeable. In many episodes, you can spot a photo of Hoover in an FBI office. In EPISODES LIKE THIS ONE, a character comes out of Hoover’s office (we never see the Director, of course) obviously moved to put their scruples aside to aid the cause of law and order. The real-life Hoover’s influence extended to having approval of the casting of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Inspector Lewis Erskine, the lead character of the television series.

Enough of this heavy thinking. Here’s a complete second-season episode of The FBI, along with its original commercials (the Ford Motor Co. logo appears in the main titles). Towards the end, you’ll see a promo for the next episode, the first of a two-part episode called “The Executioners,” in which future James Bond villain Telly Savalas appears as, what else, an organized crime figure. That two-part episode would be released outside of the U.S. AS A MOVIE.

UPDATE: Oops moment in the epilogue. The suspect shoves a guy into the water. But agents Erskine and Rhodes (Stephen Brooks) are so intent on arresting the suspect (J.D. Cannon), they never check back on the innocent guy who got shoved into the water. What if he drowned?

UPDATE II: One connection between this episode of The FBI and Clint Eastwood. The assistant director of the television episode was Robert Daley, who’d serve as producer on a number of films for Eastwood’s Malpaso Productions, including being executive producer of Dirty Harry and producer of Magnum Force.

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