The Atomic City (1952)

85 mins | Drama | June 1952

Director:

Jerry Hopper

Writer:

Sydney Boehm

Producer:

Joseph Sistrom

Cinematographer:

Charles Lang Jr.

Editor:

Archie Marshek

Production Designers:

Hal Pereira, Al Roelofs

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Los Alamos and Los Alamos Story . In Jun 1952, the picture opened in Los Angeles area theaters under the title 19 Elevado St. , except for one theater, which screened it as The Atomic City . According to a 4 Jun 1952 DV item, Paramount used the title 19 Elevado St. in hopes that it would "generate grosses in keeping with the film's critical acclaim as a 'sleeper.'" On the East Coast, the film was released only as The Atomic City , and was copyrighted under that title. The film opens with voice-over narration and includes footage showing the daily operations of the Los Alamos, NM atomic energy plant. A title card announces that the faces of the plant's personnel have been "masked for security reasons." According to a Jul 1951 HR news item, Paramount was the first Hollywood studio to receive permission from the Atomic Energy Commission to film inside the plant.
       The Atomic City marked Jerry Hopper's debut as a feature film director. Hopper previously had worked as an editor and had made training films for the U.S. Army during the war. Joe Esquibel, Russ Conway and Beverly Washburn were announced in HR as cast members, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Although a HR news item announced that Lydia Clarke, actor Charlton Heston's wife, was making her screen debut in the picture, she had previously appeared in a bit role in Julius Caesar , a 1950 16mm release made in ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Los Alamos and Los Alamos Story . In Jun 1952, the picture opened in Los Angeles area theaters under the title 19 Elevado St. , except for one theater, which screened it as The Atomic City . According to a 4 Jun 1952 DV item, Paramount used the title 19 Elevado St. in hopes that it would "generate grosses in keeping with the film's critical acclaim as a 'sleeper.'" On the East Coast, the film was released only as The Atomic City , and was copyrighted under that title. The film opens with voice-over narration and includes footage showing the daily operations of the Los Alamos, NM atomic energy plant. A title card announces that the faces of the plant's personnel have been "masked for security reasons." According to a Jul 1951 HR news item, Paramount was the first Hollywood studio to receive permission from the Atomic Energy Commission to film inside the plant.
       The Atomic City marked Jerry Hopper's debut as a feature film director. Hopper previously had worked as an editor and had made training films for the U.S. Army during the war. Joe Esquibel, Russ Conway and Beverly Washburn were announced in HR as cast members, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Although a HR news item announced that Lydia Clarke, actor Charlton Heston's wife, was making her screen debut in the picture, she had previously appeared in a bit role in Julius Caesar , a 1950 16mm release made in the summer of 1949, starring Heston (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ). In addition to Los Alamos, location shooting took place in Santa Fe, NM, the nearby Puye Indian pueblo ruins, and at various sites in and around downtown Los Angeles. For his work on the film, Sydney Boehm received an Academy Award nomination in the Writing (Story and Screenplay) category. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Apr 1952.
---
Daily Variety
8 Apr 52
p. 3.
Daily Variety
4 Jun 1952.
---
Daily Variety
12 Oct 1952.
---
Film Daily
11 Apr 52
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 51
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Oct 51
p. 3, 5.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Oct 51
p. 6, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 51
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Feb 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 52
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
13 Jun 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Apr 52
p. 1314.
New York Times
1 May 52
p. 35.
New York Times
2 May 52
p. 21.
Time
12 May 1952.
---
Variety
9 Apr 52
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Thomas Browne Henry
Bill Meader
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
19 Elevado St.
Los Alamos
Los Alamos Story
Release Date:
June 1952
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 1 May 1952
Los Angeles opening: 12 June 1952
Production Date:
11 October--mid November 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
1 May 1952
Copyright Number:
LP1794
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15738
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At the Los Alamos, New Mexico, atomic energy plant and housing complex, where security is extremely tight, a new television set is delivered to the family of scientist Dr. Frank Addison. While installing the set, the delivery man, Pattiz, chats with Frank's young son Tommy, who reveals that his father is a physicist. Excited about his class's field trip to the Fiesta Day carnival in Santa Fe, Tommy then dashes off to school. During the carnival, a drawing is held for a free bicycle, and Tommy's ticket is selected. When Tommy fails to respond, his teacher, Ellen Haskell, becomes concerned and begins searching for him. At the Addisons', meanwhile, Frank returns home early, disturbed over a work-place accident that sent a co-worker to the hospital. Frank's wife Martha is also distressed about life in Los Alamos, noting that Tommy had earlier used the phrase "if I grow up" instead of "when I grow up." Frank tries to reassure her, but is interrupted by the arrival of a telegram, announcing that Tommy has been kidnapped and directing the Addisons to attend the Fiesta Day dance that night to obtain "details." Just then, Ellen telephones to report Tommy missing, and Frank tersely informs her that he picked his son up before the drawing and forgot to tell her. Later, at the dance, the Addisons wait nervously at a table, while Ellen complains to her boyfriend, undercover FBI agent Russ Farley, about Frank's thoughtlessness. Finally, Martha discovers a second telegram under her plate, and she and Frank race home to read it. The kidnappers direct Martha to go to a cathedral the following morning, alone. ... +


At the Los Alamos, New Mexico, atomic energy plant and housing complex, where security is extremely tight, a new television set is delivered to the family of scientist Dr. Frank Addison. While installing the set, the delivery man, Pattiz, chats with Frank's young son Tommy, who reveals that his father is a physicist. Excited about his class's field trip to the Fiesta Day carnival in Santa Fe, Tommy then dashes off to school. During the carnival, a drawing is held for a free bicycle, and Tommy's ticket is selected. When Tommy fails to respond, his teacher, Ellen Haskell, becomes concerned and begins searching for him. At the Addisons', meanwhile, Frank returns home early, disturbed over a work-place accident that sent a co-worker to the hospital. Frank's wife Martha is also distressed about life in Los Alamos, noting that Tommy had earlier used the phrase "if I grow up" instead of "when I grow up." Frank tries to reassure her, but is interrupted by the arrival of a telegram, announcing that Tommy has been kidnapped and directing the Addisons to attend the Fiesta Day dance that night to obtain "details." Just then, Ellen telephones to report Tommy missing, and Frank tersely informs her that he picked his son up before the drawing and forgot to tell her. Later, at the dance, the Addisons wait nervously at a table, while Ellen complains to her boyfriend, undercover FBI agent Russ Farley, about Frank's thoughtlessness. Finally, Martha discovers a second telegram under her plate, and she and Frank race home to read it. The kidnappers direct Martha to go to a cathedral the following morning, alone. Although Frank wants to notify the police, Martha convinces him not to, hoping they can meet the kidnappers' demands on their own. The next morning, in a phone booth outside the cathedral, Martha is called by Emil Jablons, one of the kidnappers, who gives her instructions for Frank and tricks her into thinking that Tommy is on the phone. Back at home, Martha relays the kidnappers' demands to Frank, who reluctantly agrees to comply. The next day, Frank requests a classified file from his office, but before he can leave with it, he is stopped by Russ and Inspector Harold Mann of the FBI. Russ explains that Frank's anxious demeanor at the dance made him suspicious, and when he checked on Frank's story about picking up Tommy, he discovered that Frank had not left the plant. Thus trapped, Frank reveals that the file contains information about an old, failed experiment and would require at least two days to decipher. After Frank convinces Mann to give the kidnappers the data, reasoning that it will buy them some time, agents are sent to the Los Angeles hotel to which Frank has been instructed to mail the file. The file is picked up by petty thief David Rogers, who is then tailed by a number of agents to a baseball game. There, Mann orders a television crew to make a kinescope of Rogers. In the parking lot after the game, Rogers' car explodes when he turns on the ignition, and Mann deduces that the thief must have passed the file to someone at the ballpark. Later, Mann shows the kinescope footage to Frank and a group of undercover agents, and two people identify a hot dog vendor as Communist Party member Donald Clark. Clark is brought in for questioning, but refuses to talk. Frank, however, beats Clark into revealing where he took the file, and the location, 19 Elevado Street, is raided. The agents deduce that the kidnappers recently abandoned the apartment, having worked out Frank's formula on a blackboard, and Martha cries hysterically when she hears a tape recording of Tommy and realizes that her earlier phone conversation with her son was faked. At the Puye Indian ruins in the New Mexico desert, meanwhile, Jablons and fellow kidnappers Robert Kalnick and Arnie Molter, who have disguised themselves as park rangers, are keeping Tommy captive inside one of the cliffside dwellings. After Jablons gets rid of the Fentons, a family of tourists, kidnapper Dr. Peter Rassett, a Communist-sympathizing physicist, races up to report that Frank's formula is a phony. Rassett orders that Tommy be killed and the operation dismantled. Unknown to them, Tommy has climbed out the ruin's chimney and is running away. The kidnappers soon spot the boy and give chase, and Tommy dashes into a cave and slips into a crevice, away from the adults' grasp. In a Santa Fe bicycle shop, meanwhile, the Fentons' son discovers that he has the winning ticket from the Fiesta Day drawing and asks for his prize. An agent who has been watching the shop asks the boy where he got the ticket, and after the child reveals that he found it near the Puye ruins, the FBI sends a helicopter to scour the area. The spies are spotted among the ruins, and with Frank and Martha in tow, the FBI quickly surrounds them. Faced with capture, Rassett shoots his cohorts, then is arrested. Tommy, meanwhile, escapes out the other side of the cave but finds himself dangling on a steep cliffside. As his strength is about to give out, Tommy is rescued by an agent and reunites with his relieved parents. +

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.