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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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins. See more awards »
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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  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


At the time this film was made, Michael Tucker and Richard Dysart were well-known for their roles in L.A. Law (1986). See more »


Near the first of the film, where General Groves is observing some of the chemistry and physics put on the blackboard by Enrico Fermi, an error is shown with Fermi making several entries, two to be culminating: ten to the 23rd power, only supposedly Fermi makes an error and shows in the second equation put up in rapid succession, "10 to the 24th." This was done seemingly by the filmmakers so General Groves could then point out that he had been following the mathematics and as a show of his prowess, he announces that he did not see "How in the second equation the formula shows ten to the 24th." This then permits his speech about having ten years of postgraduate education which he believes is equivalent to two PhD's. The mathematical equation Fermi is citing is the factor of Avogadro's Law relating to the mass of a gas which is 6.023 X 10 to the 23rd. This is a factor taught in Chemistry 101. See more »


[reacting to the Trinity test]
J. Robert Oppenheimer: You know the Bhagavad-Gita? "I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds."
Kenneth Bainbridge: Yeah. Now we're all sons of bitches.
See more »

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User Reviews

I did not think I would like this, but I did
1 October 2011 | by (Boulder, CO) – See all my reviews

I am usually suspicious of docudramas, but from the books I have read and the documentaries I have seen on the topic of the making of the atomic bomb, I would say that this movie does not veer too far from the truth. There is very little of "certain events have been changed for dramatic effect." In reading histories you often get bogged down in details and do not have clear visual images of the people or environments, and documentaries usually try to piece together fragments of interviews and archival footage. I found that this movie was able to supply a coherent narrative while presenting the major players and events. No fancy cinematic effects, just straightforward story telling. It's a major undertaking to tell this story and this is a quality production.

I thought the choice of actors was quite good. Brian Dennehy makes a good general Groves and Michael Tucker is almost a dead ringer for Leo Szilard. Of course there is only one Oppenheimer, but I thought David Strathairn does a good impersonation. They kind of went overboard on Einstein's hair, that wig must have weighed several pounds.

It probably helps to have a little background on the topic before seeing this, since there are a lot of players. The whole effort had a cast of thousands, and this movie has a cast of several dozen. One thing I thought could have been better was an easier identification of the initial appearances of various people, maybe even subtitles. For example, Patrick Breen is listed as playing Richard Feynman, but I missed catching his appearance even though I was looking for him.

I thought the movie was particularly good in presenting the back-room discussions about the decision to drop the bombs. That will be debated for all time I am sure, but you come away from this thinking that it was a mistake. In that you would be in agreement with Generals Eisenhower and Marshall as well as Truman's Chief of Staff Admiral Leahy. Were over 200,000 people sacrificed in order to make a statement to the Russians or to prevent their taking a part of Japan? How many U.S. lives were saved by the bombings? Once there was the bomb, was it inevitable that it be used? Could not a demonstration have been scheduled? And so on.

For a complete history the book, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb," by Richard Rhodes is good. I found the 1981 documentary, "The Day After Trinity," to be excellent. It has archival footage, but most importantly it has interviews with many of the major players.

I think this movie makes a sincere attempt to tell the story, within the limitations of a normal movie run-time, of one of the defining events in the history of mankind.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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