Beginning or the End The (1947)
Directed by Norman Taurog (Boys Town (1938)) it features Brian Donlevy as Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves Robert Walker as Colonel Nixon Tom Drake as Matt Cochran Beverly Tyler as Anne Cochran Audrey Totter as Jean O’Leary Hume Cronyn as Dr. Robert Oppenheimer Joseph Calleia as Enrico Fermi Richard Haydn (Max Detweiler in The Sound of Music (1965)) as Dr. Chisolm John Litel as K. T. Keller Henry O’Neill as General Farrell Hurd Hatfield (Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)) as Dr. Wyatt and Godfrey Tearle as FDR.
The movie opens with a mock newsreel featuring all the principles in the Redwood National Forest placing “this film” in a time capsule to be opened in 500 years. The ominous message is “if anyone’s still around by then given what we’ve invented”. The film is about the development of the Atomic Bomb and its use on Hiroshima Japan at the end of World War II. Though the newsreel is clearly not the real thing (the characters from the movie in lieu of the real persons are introduced) I don’t know if this film was actually preserved in this manner or not. It’s also hard to tell how much of the true story was fictionalized for dramatic purposes particularly that of Matt Cochran (Drake) and his wife (Tyler). However the film is intriguing and does provide a lot of background information about the enormity of the task and its cost which was undertaken. The story is very compelling and getting to know the people involved in the Manhattan district (as it’s called in this film in lieu of the Manhattan Project) is fascinating as well.
It begins in the beginning as told by Oppenheimer (Cronyn) with scientists including Cochran working with radioactive elements. Upon discovering and producing the basic uranium elements they use Einstein (Ludwig Stössel) to give their work the credibility required to convince President Roosevelt (Tearle) to authorize a blank check for their project cost estimated at $2 billion. It is extremely secret and it involves scientists from our Allies around the world (including Calleia Haydn & Hatfield – who speaks not one word of dialogue). It is coordinated by the military (Donlevy Walker and their secretary Totter) and requires technology from industry (including Litel). Lots of flashing lights equipment is shown when they attempt & succeed in creating U-235 (or 237 I can’t remember) after which some of the scientists withdraw because they aren’t interested in being part of a weapon’s project. Entire cities like Oakridge TN had to be created out of nothing while other city’s populations had to be relocated so that their natural resources could be used. The film gives the viewer the basics on how the bomb will work the dangers of radiation and the genuine fear of the unknown before the first test at Los Alamos. After that’s success it tells of Truman’s decision and then moves to the tactical the deployment of the weapon by the Air Force (O’Neill). We see the Enola Gay and her crew drop the bomb the mushroom cloud and scenes of the entire city burning. However it does end on a noble hopeful note as it relates the responsibilities we now have and the belief that man can be trusted to use this newfound knowledge well.