The Beginning or the End (1947)

112 mins | Drama | 7 March 1947

Director:

Norman Taurog

Writer:

Frank Wead

Producer:

Samuel Marx

Cinematographer:

Ray June

Editor:

George Boemler

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Hans Peters

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The opening credits of the viewed film were preceded by a mock newsreel, in which Hume Cronyn, Brian Donlevy and other actors, portraying their characters from the film, are seen burying a time capsule commemorating the discovery of atomic power. The onscreen credits contain the following written statement: "With acknowledgment to Mr. Tony Owen for his cooperation." Many of the individuals depicted in the film were well-known government figures and scientists who were directly or indirectly involved in the production of the atomic bomb during World War II. Among those portrayed were Harry S. Truman, president of the United States at the time of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan; Major General Leslie R. Groves, head of the atomic bomb project; J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the team of scientists who developed the bomb; and Secretary of War Henry Stimson. According to a pre-production HR news item, M-G-M consulted with Groves, Oppenheimer and Truman during the preparation of the film. Major Charles Sweeney, the pilot of the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, was commissioned by M-G-M to serve as a military technical advisor.
       HR news items in Dec 1945 and Jan 1946 indicate that M-G-M, Paramount and Twentieth Century-Fox were engaged in a race to be the first studio to produce a motion picture about the atomic bomb. M-G-M gave the picture top priority, and had story writer Robert Considine rush pages of his treatment, as he completed them, to the studio script writers. A Mar 1946 HR news item noted that producer Hal Wallis, who was preparing a $1,500,000 atomic picture entitled Top Secret for ... More Less

The opening credits of the viewed film were preceded by a mock newsreel, in which Hume Cronyn, Brian Donlevy and other actors, portraying their characters from the film, are seen burying a time capsule commemorating the discovery of atomic power. The onscreen credits contain the following written statement: "With acknowledgment to Mr. Tony Owen for his cooperation." Many of the individuals depicted in the film were well-known government figures and scientists who were directly or indirectly involved in the production of the atomic bomb during World War II. Among those portrayed were Harry S. Truman, president of the United States at the time of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan; Major General Leslie R. Groves, head of the atomic bomb project; J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the team of scientists who developed the bomb; and Secretary of War Henry Stimson. According to a pre-production HR news item, M-G-M consulted with Groves, Oppenheimer and Truman during the preparation of the film. Major Charles Sweeney, the pilot of the airplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, was commissioned by M-G-M to serve as a military technical advisor.
       HR news items in Dec 1945 and Jan 1946 indicate that M-G-M, Paramount and Twentieth Century-Fox were engaged in a race to be the first studio to produce a motion picture about the atomic bomb. M-G-M gave the picture top priority, and had story writer Robert Considine rush pages of his treatment, as he completed them, to the studio script writers. A Mar 1946 HR news item noted that producer Hal Wallis, who was preparing a $1,500,000 atomic picture entitled Top Secret for Paramount, agreed to cancel his film, merge his story property with M-G-M's and serve as an advisor on the M-G-M picture. Wallis, the first to enter the atomic picture race. negotiated an initial payment plus a substantial gross percentage of the picture's profits in exchange for his story material and research.
       A Dec 1945 HR news item noted that M-G-M stars Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Van Johnson were "being groomed for roles" in the film. According to various HR news items in Jun 1946, a controversy erupted when former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt objected to the casting of Lionel Barrymore as Franklin D. Roosevelt, alleging that the actor had made disparaging remarks about the late president. Production on the film had already begun when the studio decided to hold up Barrymore's scenes until Mrs. Roosevelt had the opportunity to respond to a letter from Barrymore, in which he explained his political statements. Though Barrymore claimed that his remarks were misinterpreted, the Roosevelt family continued to disapprove of the casting and M-G-M replaced him with Godfrey Tearle. A Dec 1945 HR news item noted that M-G-M consulted with Archbishop Francis J. Spellman of New York, who offered a special Mass on the the island of Tinian for American crew members who were assigned to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
       Although contemporary sources indicate that Leon Ames and Agnes Moorehead were cast, they did not appear in the released film. A pre-production HR news item reported that actor Redmond Doms had been set for a role, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. The film marked the motion picture debut of Guy Williams, who played the title character in the Walt Disney television series Zorro (1957-1959), as well as "Professor John Robinson" in the series Lost in Space (1965-1968). According to a Jul 1946 HR news item, nine of the men who portrayed crew members of the "Enola Gay" were actual World War II veterans. Contemporary sources note that some filming took place in Fort Worth, TX; Los Alamos, NM; Oak Ridge, TN; and at various university campuses. An Oct 1946 HR news item indicates that the release of the film, originally set for Oct 1946, was postponed as a result of M-G-M studio head Louis B. Mayer's decision to add to the film actual footage of the bombing of Hiroshima. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 Mar 1947.
---
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1947.
---
Film Daily
19 Feb 47
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 45
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jan 46
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jan 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 46
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
9 May 46
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
13 May 46
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 46
p. 4, 18
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 46
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 46
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 46
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 46
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 46
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 46
p. 4, 16
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 46
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 46
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 46
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 47
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 47
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Feb 1947.
---
New York Times
21 Feb 47
p. 15.
Variety
19 Feb 47
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Connie Weiler
Jon Gilbreath
Earl Hodgins
Harry T. Wensel
Wedgewood Nowell
Will Van Vleck
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
MUSIC
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Mont eff
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Scientific tech adv
Scientific tech adv-- Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Scientific tech adv--Los Alamos, New Mexico
Scientific tech adv--Los Alamos, New Mexico
Military tech adv--Manhattan project
Special consultant
Casting
Tech adv
Military adv
DETAILS
Release Date:
7 March 1947
Premiere Information:
Washington, D.C. premiere: 19 February 1947
Production Date:
29 April--25 July 1946
retakes began 9 August 1946
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
21 January 1947
Copyright Number:
LP832
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
112
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11900
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Speaking from his laboratory, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist and one of the world's leading atomic scientists, praises the discovery of atomic energy, buts also warns of the many dangers posed by the discovery. To illustrate his concerns about the future of atomic science, Oppenheimer outlines the history of the study of the atom, beginning his account in the early days of World War II: As Germany races to build the first atomic weapon, many American scientists are busy studying the use of the atom as a source of energy. One such scientist is Matt Cochran, a Columbia University researcher working under the guidance of Dr. Enrico Fermi and Dr. Marré. Matt's research leads to an important discovery that confirms Marré and Fermi's theory that splitting uranium atoms produces energy. When Matt raises his concern that atom splitting will be used to make highly destructive weapons, Fermi tries to allay his fears by reassuring him that the United States government is interested primarily in energy uses for the atom. Following the success of early atom-splitting experiments, Matt and some of his colleagues decide to take their discovery to world-famous scholar Dr. Albert Einstein, who, in turn, interests President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the new findings. With Roosevelt's cooperation, researchers at universities all over the United States begin studying the atom. In 1941, following America's entrance into the war, Roosevelt authorizes a project to develop an atomic bomb, despite a predicted cost of up to two billion dollars. Work on the bomb begins in December 1942, at the University of Chicago, with help from leading scientists Dr. Chisholm, Dr. John Wyatt and Dr. C. D. ... +


Speaking from his laboratory, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist and one of the world's leading atomic scientists, praises the discovery of atomic energy, buts also warns of the many dangers posed by the discovery. To illustrate his concerns about the future of atomic science, Oppenheimer outlines the history of the study of the atom, beginning his account in the early days of World War II: As Germany races to build the first atomic weapon, many American scientists are busy studying the use of the atom as a source of energy. One such scientist is Matt Cochran, a Columbia University researcher working under the guidance of Dr. Enrico Fermi and Dr. Marré. Matt's research leads to an important discovery that confirms Marré and Fermi's theory that splitting uranium atoms produces energy. When Matt raises his concern that atom splitting will be used to make highly destructive weapons, Fermi tries to allay his fears by reassuring him that the United States government is interested primarily in energy uses for the atom. Following the success of early atom-splitting experiments, Matt and some of his colleagues decide to take their discovery to world-famous scholar Dr. Albert Einstein, who, in turn, interests President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the new findings. With Roosevelt's cooperation, researchers at universities all over the United States begin studying the atom. In 1941, following America's entrance into the war, Roosevelt authorizes a project to develop an atomic bomb, despite a predicted cost of up to two billion dollars. Work on the bomb begins in December 1942, at the University of Chicago, with help from leading scientists Dr. Chisholm, Dr. John Wyatt and Dr. C. D. Howe. These scientists are later joined by Col. Jeff Nixon, who has been assigned to act as an official observer for the Army. Though the initial atomic experiments are successful, Matt begins to question the ethics of the project, and shares his concerns with his new wife Anne. Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Gen. Leslie R. Groves is placed in charge of bringing the scientific, industrial and defense communities together to build the atomic bomb, and Jeff is assigned to work for him. In 1945, following the death of Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman becomes President of the United States and vows to continue the atomic project. A short time later, Oppenheimer, who is now head of operations at the bomb's Assembly Center in Los Alamos, New Mexico, receives the first delivery of uranium-235, a necessary component of atomic bomb production. The uranium is used to build the first atomic bomb, which is eventually tested successfully in the New Mexico desert. In July 1945, after Truman gives an order to use the atomic bomb to force Japan to surrender, Jeff and Matt are assigned to accompany the crew transporting the bomb to the South Pacific. While preparations are made to drop the bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, tragedy strikes when Matt accidentally comes into contact with radioactive material and dies. The next day, on 6 August 1945, Jeff and others board the "Enola Gay," the airplane carrying the atomic bomb, and watch in silence as the bomb is dropped over Hiroshima. After the mission, Jeff returns home and tells Anne the sad news of Matt's death. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.