The Beginning or the End (1947)

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Dave Pitts

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The Beginning or the End (1947)

PostSat Oct 21, 2017 9:10 am

I finally saw this film on TCM, yesterday, and it was better than I anticipated. Maltin's book gives it 3 stars, which is about right. It's the story of the A-bomb, and it is considered to be the first Hollywood film to depict the beginning of the age of nuclear weapons (leaving out Notorious and other films that refer obliquely to atomic fuel.) It's in the genre of docudrama, and has all the usual shibboleths of 40s films -- in particular, it has several dialogue scenes in which the point is stressed that the Japanese have it comin' to 'em. Also, there are two romantic subplots, one for Robert Walker and one for Tom Drake, that are fairly routine and clearly in there only for the box office (which didn't amount to much, in the end; MGM lost a lot on this one.) I liked the pace of the picture and the recreation of the atomic core in the laboratory. Also there's a real grimness to the blast scenes -- both the test blast in the desert and the horrifying blast on Hiroshima.
Wikipedia has a fascinating article on the film -- look it up to see why Lionel Barrymore didn't get cast as FDR (and he'd have been in his own wheelchair, I guess.) What I want to know, and this isn't discussed on imdb or wiki ... does anyone know if the time capsule shown at the start of the picture actually exists? The picture is dedicated to the people of (I think) the 24th Century, and at the start of the film the narrator claims that a print of the picture will be put in a time capsule (which first of all makes you wonder if the preservationists of 500 years from now will be able to cope with centuries of nitrate decomp.) My guess is that it's fictional and simply shown to give the script an extra edge of importance. Anyone know?
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drednm

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Re: The Beginning or the End (1947)

PostSat Oct 21, 2017 9:20 am

Dave Pitts wrote:I finally saw this film on TCM, yesterday, and it was better than I anticipated. Maltin's book gives it 3 stars, which is about right. It's the story of the A-bomb, and it is considered to be the first Hollywood film to depict the beginning of the age of nuclear weapons (leaving out Notorious and other films that refer obliquely to atomic fuel.) It's in the genre of docudrama, and has all the usual shibboleths of 40s films -- in particular, it has several dialogue scenes in which the point is stressed that the Japanese have it comin' to 'em. Also, there are two romantic subplots, one for Robert Walker and one for Tom Drake, that are fairly routine and clearly in there only for the box office (which didn't amount to much, in the end; MGM lost a lot on this one.) I liked the pace of the picture and the recreation of the atomic core in the laboratory. Also there's a real grimness to the blast scenes -- both the test blast in the desert and the horrifying blast on Hiroshima.
Wikipedia has a fascinating article on the film -- look it up to see why Lionel Barrymore didn't get cast as FDR (and he'd have been in his own wheelchair, I guess.) What I want to know, and this isn't discussed on imdb or wiki ... does anyone know if the time capsule shown at the start of the picture actually exists? The picture is dedicated to the people of (I think) the 24th Century, and at the start of the film the narrator claims that a print of the picture will be put in a time capsule (which first of all makes you wonder if the preservationists of 500 years from now will be able to cope with centuries of nitrate decomp.) My guess is that it's fictional and simply shown to give the script an extra edge of importance. Anyone know?


I retired from LANL in 2010 but have not watched this film (which I have stockpiled somewhere). I never heard of any time capsule. I worked as a science writer (in the plutonium facility no less) and ended up managing an education outreach program (in the western Pacific area). I knew a lot of "old-timers" in Los Alamos. The word "fascinating" doesn't begin to cover it. I'll have to give this one a look-see.
Ed Lorusso
Writer/Historian
-------------
http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Lorusso/e/ ... 203&sr=8-1

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