Homicide detective Mike Conovan investigates the shooting of fellow detective Monigan...who apparrently was moonlighting as guard for a bookie. He finds that all the bookies in town are ... See full summary »
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
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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