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The Beginning or the End (1947)

Approved  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  19 February 1947 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 346 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 3 critic

The research, development, and deployment of the first atomic bomb, as well as the bombing of Hiroshima, are detailed in this docudrama.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tom Drake ...
Matt Cochran
Anne Cochran
Audrey Totter ...
Jean O'Leary
Dr. John Wyatt
Godfrey Tearle ...
Victor Francen ...
Dr. Marre
Dr. Chisholm
Jonathan Hale ...
K.T. Keller
Henry O'Neill ...
Gen. Thomas F. Farrell
Warner Anderson ...
Capt. William S. Parsons


Docudrama on the development of the first atomic bomb. Told from the perspective of a film recovered from a time capsule several hundred years into the future, the story is narrated by Robert Oppenheimer (Hume Cronyn) and Major General Leslie Groves (Brian Donlevy) beginning with the Nazis stated goal of developing an atomic bomb. Along with Britain and Canada, the U.S. reacts by beginning its own atomic program. The major developments are all presented: Fermi's successful atomic chain reaction; building the huge complex at Oak Ridge, Tenn.; the production of the first supply of plutonium; the testing in the Nevada desert; and finally the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

19 February 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alku vai loppu  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The idea for the film came from atomic scientists and the first scripts raised questions about the use of the new weapon against Japan and all uses of nuclear energy in the future. By the time the Pentagon and the White House got through with it, the movie took a 180-degree turn. President Truman even got the actor playing him in the movie fired - Greg Mitchell author of 'Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki, and the Greatest Movie Never Made'. See more »


The view from the cockpit of the Enola Gay about to take off shows the plane "The Great Artiste" in the background, even though it had already taken off just moments before. See more »


Referenced in Forecast (1945) See more »

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User Reviews

The Best Kept Secret
2 January 2012 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Although the far more realistic Fat Man And Little Boy deals better with this subject, The Beginning Or The End still is a fine interpretation of the events leading up to the bombing of Hiroshima. No really big star names are in this film probably for the better giving it a nice ring of authenticity.

Playing the parts of General Leslie Groves and scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer the partnership of the military and science that created the atomic bomb are Brian Donlevy and Hume Cronyn. Both bear more than a passing resemblance to the real people.

The Manhattan Project, the overall name for the effort to create a super weapon to bring a short end to World War II and get it before the Axis did was probably the best kept secret in all of a human history. I have to say it because it involved the efforts of a few thousand people at the various sites at White Sands, Oak Ridge, UCLA, Chicago and of course Manhattan. My father did his wartime service at Oak Ridge and he was just a regular GI and still had no real idea himself what he was doing there.

Fat Man And Little Boy is far more introspective dealing with the moral decision to use the bomb on a live target. The Beginning Or The End comes down very hard and unquestionably on the rightness of Truman's decision to drop the bomb. Both presidents Roosevelt and Truman are here and played by Geoffrey Tearle and Art Baker respectively.

The peaceful uses of atomic energy are also discussed and trumpeted. Four younger players Robert Walker, Tom Drake, Beverly Tyler, and Audrey Totter represent a quartet of idealistic young people working on the project who talk about a much better world that atomic energy can create. One of them dies in this effort. As for the better world we've reassessed atomic energy in the wake of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. With our dependence on oil however, nuclear energy is once again being reassessed as an alternative.

The Beginning Or The End still holds up well today with Donlevy and Cronyn heading an impeccably cast ensemble.

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