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The Beginning or the End (1947)

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


Norman Taurog


Robert Considine (story), Frank Wead


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Brian Donlevy ... Major General Leslie R. Groves
Robert Walker ... Colonel Jeff Nixon
Tom Drake ... Matt Cochran
Beverly Tyler ... Anne Cochran
Audrey Totter ... Jean O'Leary
Hume Cronyn ... Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer
Hurd Hatfield ... Dr. John Wyatt
Joseph Calleia ... Dr. Enrico Fermi
Godfrey Tearle Godfrey Tearle ... President Roosevelt
Victor Francen ... Dr. Marré
Richard Haydn ... Dr. Chisholm
Jonathan Hale ... Dr. Vannevar Bush
John Litel ... K.T. Keller
Henry O'Neill ... General Thomas F. Farrell
Warner Anderson ... Captain William S. Parsons U.S.N.


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


ONE KISS...And Then The Unknown! See more »


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

19 February 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alku vai loppu See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film was first telecast in Los Angeles Friday 1 March 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), followed by Seattle 2 April 1957 on KING (Channel 5), by Cincinnati 21 April 1957 on WXIX (Channel 19) (Newport KY), by Philadelphia 1 May 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), by Portland OR 4 May 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), by Altoona PA 17 May 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), by Chicago 28 May 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), by Norfolk VA 22 August 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3), by Minneapolis 10 October 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9) and by New York City 19 October 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2); in San Francisco it was first telecast 12 September 1958 on KGO (Channel 7). See more »


The three bombers of the Hiroshima strike group are shown taking off in broad daylight when they actually took off in the middle of the night - around 03:00 local time. See more »


Colonel Jeff Nixon: [as the "Enola Gay" is approaching Hiroshima, 0815 in the morning] 250,000 people down there are starting their day. City about the size of Dallas, Texas. In about one second it'll be wiped off the map. They'll never know what hit them.
Captain William S. Parsons U.S.N.: We've been dropping warning leaflets on them for ten days now. That's ten days more warning than they gave us at Pearl Harbor.
See more »


Referenced in Forecast (1945) See more »

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User Reviews

The Best Kept Secret
2 January 2012 | by bkoganbingSee 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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