The movie I Was A Communist for the F.B.I., it seems, was on television a LOT when I was a kid. And I’d usually watched it.

We only had two TV stations. One was the CBS affiliate, Channel 12, WNBF-TV at the time, which also carried some ABC shows. The other was the NBC affiliate, Channel 40, WINR-TV. And one or both of them would play this 1951 melodrama regularly, to fill their weekend afternoon programming.

From the Wikipedia:

“The story follows [Pittsburgh steelworker Matt] Cvetic, who infiltrated a local Communist Party cell for nine years and reported back to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on their activities.

“The film and [1952-1953] radio show are, in part, artifacts of the McCarthy era, as well as a time capsule of American society during the Second Red Scare. The purpose of both is partly to warn people about the threat of Communist subversion of American society. The tone of the show is ultra-patriotic…”

From Rotten Tomatoes:

“The real Matt Cvetic was a borderline alcoholic with a nasty disposition (he once allegedly beat his sister-in-law so badly she required hospitalization). But Cvetic was also a fervent anti-communist, and so, for a brief period in the early 1950s, he was a folk hero. I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. is the semi-true story of how Cvetic (played by Frank Lovejoy) renounced his friends and family and embraced the Red cause–on behalf of the F.B.I., for whom he was a volunteer undercover agent.”

It was a film so important to the Hollywood film collective that “it was nominated for the 1952 Academy Awards in the Best Documentary Feature category, though it’s about as much a documentary as On the Waterfront.” It rightly lost to Kon-Tiki.

Oddly, I think the movie had the opposite effect on me than it was supposed to. I haven’t watched it again. But YOU can here.

For ABC Wednesday.

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