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Day One (1989)

TV Movie  |   |  Drama, History  |  5 March 1989 (USA)
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Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard leaves Europe, eventually arriving in the United States. With the help of Einstein, he persuades the government to build an atomic bomb. The project is given... See full summary »



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Title: Day One (TV Movie 1989)

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins. See more awards »
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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:
Michael Tucker ...
Dr. Arthur Compton
Anne Twomey ...
Ron Frazier ...
Bernie McInerney
John Pielmeier ...


Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard leaves Europe, eventually arriving in the United States. With the help of Einstein, he persuades the government to build an atomic bomb. The project is given to no-nonsense Gen. Leslie Groves who selects physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer to head the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico, where the bomb is built. As World War II draws to a close, Szilard has second thoughts about atomic weapons, and policy makers debate how and when to use the bomb. Written by Allen Brown <>

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Drama | History






Release Date:

5 March 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A nap  »

Filming Locations:

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Show detailed on  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Hume Cronyn, who plays James F. Byrnes in this film, previously played Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer in The Beginning or the End (1947). See more »


A recording was being listened to of Dr. Leo Szilard in Chicago at Los Alamos by General Groves. The wide plastic reels are reel-to-reel audio. Tape recordings were a product of BASF and other wartime German developers but tapes and did not exist prior to the technology being brought here as captured alien property in 1946. Prior to this in the United States, technology was so far behind, recordings were made on wire or the usual acetate disk. See more »


[University of Chicago December 2 1942 - the first controlled chain reaction in an atomic pile]
Leo Szilard: This day will go down in history as a black mark against mankind.
See more »

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User Reviews

Truthful movie about the nuclear war.
30 June 2012 | by (Spain) – See all my reviews

TV Movie about the creation and use of the atomic bomb in World war II, that is impeccably well researched, detailed, inteligently made and graced by an All-Star collection of secondary actors.

Unlike many north American movies and docs, Day One avoids patriotism (in fact it tilts against the use of the bomb) or the temptation of proposing Oppenheimer as a martir. Instead, Oppenheimer's real life ambiguity is represented perfectly. He doesn't want to betray a friend that was investigated for communism but he does it. He thinks about using the bomb as a demonstration at some point but turns into the opposite side: arguing that it may fail or give the Japanese a chance to prepare for an eventual attack. History will never fully understand the person that was Oppenheimer.

Another key figure is Leslie Groves. He's a perfectly efficient militar who runs every possible detail of what happens in Los Alamos. He's the force behind the making of the bomb and he makes it sure that it will be used. Brian Dennehy portrays Groves' old fashioned strenght, intelligence and single-mindness perfectly.

The third most important person here is Szilard, a physicist whose ideas were key for the development of the bomb but who turned against it's use against Japan (or any other nation) asking President Truman not to deploy the bomb over Japan. He's perfectly captured by Michael Tucker who even resembles the real Szilard. Szilard proposed a demonstration (deploy the bomb without killing anyone to show it's power) that was rejected.

The movie poses the debate: Should the US of the time be accountable for the use of the bomb?

I myself see arguments for both sides:

On one hand, the atomic bomb had to happen. It was a natural conclussion of the ever inspiring scientific and physic discoveries at the start of last century. Also, throwing it as a demonstration would have indeed been risky if it failed. The Japanese military was scattered and divided at the time, and it's difficult to negotiate with a bubble of voices. Civilians (kids and women) are killed with other weapons too. They were in Dresden for example. The bomb ended the war.

On the other hand the bomb had cost too much money not to use it. They wanted to know what was it's devastation power. They didn't try a serious effort to negotiate a surrender with Japan. They picked cities where the devastation could be bigger. The Japanese were weak at the time, they may have been defeated by other medium.

The movie also offers some curiosities as Kyoto not being one of the bombed cities due to the fact that one military authoriy respected it's traditions and Arts too much and the division between the Navy wanting to give fair play to the Japanese (with at least some hours-long warning) and the Army just wanting to bomb the hell ouf it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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