Crime History June 20: FBI rejects Ronald Reagan movie role for leftist ties

By Scott McCabe

On this day, June 20, in 1958, FBI headquarters learned of actor Ronald Reagan’s desire to star in the film “The FBI Story,” but the bureau rejected the idea because of Reagan’s association with alleged Communist front organizations in the 1940s.Image

“The FBI Story” was a bureau-sanctioned account of the history of the G-Men, with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover overseeing the production. Reagan wanted to play the role of Special Agent George Crandall, whose character was killed in the line of duty. Reagan’s request to star in the film came at the height of the Red Scare. The Los Angeles FBI bureau chief reviewed the actor’s files, which showed that Reagan, a former Screen Actors Guild president, had connections to socialist sympathizers more than a decade earlier.

Reagan had since become staunchly anti-Communist and even secretly met with FBI agents to identify Hollywood insiders suspected of carrying the Communist cause.

The Los Angeles chief wasn’t going to touch this case, according to Reagan’s FBI file released decades later. “Sounds as though Reagan would consider this another stamp to block out the past,” the agent wrote. “If it reaches an issue I am just going to say ‘No.'”

The 1959 film starred James Stewart. The George Crandall role was given to Larry Pennell.