The American Experience: Season 21, Episode 1

The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer (26 Jan. 2009)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, History
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This biography presents a complex and revealing portrait of one of America's most influential scientists.



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Episode credited cast:
Harold Agnew ...
Jeremy Bernstein ...
Robert Christy ...
Michael Cumpsty ...
Freeman Dyson ...
The Voice of Chairman Gray
Roy J. Glauber ...
David Goldberger ...
Ellen Katz ...
The Stenographer
Priscilla McMillan ...
Richard Rhodes ...
Himself - Narrator
Martin J. Sherwin ...


This biography presents a complex and revealing portrait of one of America's most influential scientists.

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Release Date:

26 January 2009 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


This is David Strathairn's second portrayal of J. Robert Oppenheimer; the first was in the 1989 telefilm Day One (1989). See more »

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User Reviews

27 November 2011 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

J. Robert Oppenheimer is a name most folks today would not recognize--though he is one of the most important figures of the 20th century, as he was the leader of the Manhattan Project. This project was a joint US-British program to create the first atomic bomb. But Oppenheimer was NOT an easy man to understand and this episode of "The American Experience" is a biography of the man. It also has a particular emphasis on when he ran afoul of the US government following WWII. This was partly because of Oppenheimer's associations (he had several communist associates--including his wife who was at least an ex-communist) and partly because of the times--and the government was pathologically concerned with exposing communists within the government. But, as I said, this is not the only focus of the story. Actually, I found the beginning portion the most fascinating--and you really had to marvel at Oppenheimer's amazing early years as he was an incredible prodigy.

Like many "American Experience" episodes, this one consists of narration, actors re-creating scenes of Oppenheimer's life (particularly his trial), interviews and archival photos and film. All in all, it's exceptionally well done and fascinating--something that can be said of just about every film from this exceptional PBS series. Well worth seeing.

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