I Was a Communist for the FBI begins as a serial in the Saturday Evening Post. It tells the story of Matt Cvetic, a paid informant for the FBI. Cvetic had been approached by Agents of the FBI, Pittsburgh Field Office, in 1941 and recruited to secretly join the Communist Party of the United States. Once he had gained entry into the Party and earned the trust of the leadership, Cvetic was able to report to the FBI a great deal of information concerning the inner workings of the Party, as well as their motives and intentions. However Cvetic's supposed loyalty to the Party earns him scorn from his family and friends. He doesn't dare to tell anyone the truth- for fear that the Party will deal with his disloyalty mercilessly and with ultimate finality. For the nine years he is affiliated with the FBI, Cvetic "walks alone."
Cvetic's story finally became public in 1949, when he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC.) His testimony would lead to the conviction of several leaders of the Communist Party and Soviet Agents for conspiracy. The story would be retold by reporter Pete Martin and published in serially in the July 15, 22, and 29, 1950 issues of the Saturday Evening Post under the provocative title "I Was a Communist for the F.B.I." The Post story of Cvetic as an "undercover agent of the F.B.I." was very well received during an era that would be referred to as "the second Red Scare."
Movie rights to the Post story were purchased by Warner Brothers. The movie version of the Cvetic story would be released May 5, 1951. Many of the big studios were making anti-Soviet propaganda films at the time. Although it was a highly fictionalized account of Cvetic's life and service, the film would be nominated for an Academy Award in the category of "Best Documentary."
I was a Communist for the F.B.I. would come to the radio in spring of 1952 as a syndicated program produced by the Frederick W. Ziv Company. Ziv was probably not trying to produce a propaganda vehicle for political reasons,but he had no shame in using the prevailing national attitudes when producing a hit show. The Ziv Company had a formula for success--develop appealing programming, use the best writers, back the project with the finest talent in actors,and roll out the product with plenty of hype, promotion, and star-power. A Frederick W. Ziv project was usually profitable for everyone involved. I was a Communist for the F.B.I. radio show had a weekly budget of $12,000, very high for a radio production of that era.
The old time radio show is a tense spy thriller. With the heavy strains of the orchestra (composed by David Rose), the heavy footsteps (provided by the sound effects department), and the sinister Eastern European accents of the bad guys, the audience knows that our hero (played by Hollywood actor Dana Andrews) is in a tight spot every week. Only by his wits, luck, and faith in true American Ideals will our hero be able to fool the Commie No-Goodniks that will laughingly put a bullet in his skull if they believe he is less than the loyal party man he portrays. There is no-one except his F.B.I. handlers that Cvetic can turn to, and of course, the Party men are all too slick in avoiding them. He can't turn to his family; they may betray him by accident. We are reminded of the constant danger as Dana Andrews ominously intones the shows tagline - "I Walk Alone."