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The Beginning or the End (1947)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, History | 19 February 1947 (USA)
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:
Matt Cochran
Anne Cochran
Jean O'Leary
Dr. John Wyatt
Godfrey Tearle ...
Dr. Marre
Dr. Chisholm
K.T. Keller
Gen. Thomas F. Farrell
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
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Did You Know?


This film was first telecast in Los Angeles Friday 1 March 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by Philadelphia Wednesday 1 May 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6) and by New York City Saturday 19 October 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2); in San Francisco it was first telecast 12 September 1958 on KGO (Channel 7). See more »


The B-29 shown as the Enola Gay taxiing before takeoff has, incorrectly, it's defensive armament of machine guns. The B-29 as the Enola Gay shown taking off and flying the rest of the mission correctly does not. See more »


Edited into Out of this World Super Shock Show (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

bombs away
18 May 2008 | by (Pinemar, Argentina) – See all my reviews

The idea for this film was brought to the studio(MGM) by Donna Reed, whose high school science teacher had written to her about the secret WW11atomic bomb research project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Later, Donna and her husband, Tony Owen, received a $50,000 finders fee for this contribution. Always a contentious project, cooperation came from the army, including General Groves, manager of the Manhattan Project and from top scientists including J. Robert Oppenheimer, at Berkeley, and Albert Einstein, at Princeton. President Truman knew about the film and met with the producer. The script went through a lengthy development with columnist/screenwriter Bob Considine, and Clark Gable was originally in mind for the Robert Walker part. The Tom Drake scene, scattering a "going-critical mass" with his unprotected hand, is based on an actual incident, and the scientist who did it at the Chicago research lab (and possibly saved a good section of the city), died as a result.

Not successful at the box office, the studio rationalized the picture was too soon after the war and too realistic: audiences were not able to assimilate a story about nuclear energy in the late '40s, they were terrified of the bomb, of radiation fallout; pictures of Hiroshima were still in the news..

The film walks a fine line between fact and fiction (it received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary), but how effective was softening a docu-drama with a fictionalized love story?. The atomic "pile" was constructed on a sound stage, and the shots of the B-29 formation seem an appropriate metaphor for the film's subtext, the power of the nascent military/industrial relationship... moving forcefully ahead into the unknown.

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