20 user 5 critic

The Beginning or the End (1947)

The research, development, and deployment of the first atomic bomb, as well as the bombing of Hiroshima, are detailed in this docudrama.


Norman Taurog


Bob Considine (story) (as Robert Considine), Frank Wead


Learn more

More Like This 

Drama | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

An airline executive refuses to believe that pilot error by his friend caused a fatal crash, and persists in looking for another reason.

Director: Ralph Nelson
Stars: Glenn Ford, Nancy Kwan, Rod Taylor
The Westerner (1940)
Drama | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Judge Roy Bean, a self-appointed hanging judge in Vinegarroon, Texas, befriends saddle tramp Cole Harden, who opposes Bean's policy against homesteaders.

Director: William Wyler
Stars: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Doris Davenport
Drama | Film-Noir | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

A Coast Guardsman suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress becomes involved with a beautiful and enigmatic seductress married to a blind painter.

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Joan Bennett, Robert Ryan, Charles Bickford
Impact (1949)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A unfaithful wife plots with her lover to kill her husband, but the lover is accidentally killed instead. The husband stays in hiding, and lets his wife be charged with conspiracy.

Director: Arthur Lubin
Stars: Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn
War | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

British flying aces in World War I contend with the harsh realities of war.

Director: Edmund Goulding
Stars: Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, David Niven
Al Capone (1959)
Biography | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A chronicle of the rise and fall of Chicago crime boss Al Capone during the Prohibition era.

Director: Richard Wilson
Stars: Rod Steiger, Martin Balsam, Fay Spain
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

A deranged man kidnaps the nubile daughter of a police captain.

Director: Frank Tuttle
Stars: Edmond O'Brien, Brian Donlevy, Natalie Wood
Certificate: Passed Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

After socialite Lynn Llewwllen receives an anonymous threat, he is poisoned at his uncle's casino, and although he recovers, his wife is murdered by the same killer.

Director: Edwin L. Marin
Stars: Paul Lukas, Alison Skipworth, Donald Cook
Comedy | Crime | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

When Prohibition ends, a beer baron sees the writing on the wall, quits the rackets, and tries to break into California society.

Director: Roy Del Ruth
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Mary Astor, Helen Vinson
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A mild-mannered school-teacher in a Nazi-occupied town during W.W.II finds himself being torn between collaboration and resistance.

Director: Jean Renoir
Stars: Charles Laughton, Maureen O'Hara, George Sanders
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

When assassin Philip Raven shoots a blackmailer and his beautiful female companion dead, he is paid off in marked bills by his treasonous employer who is working with foreign spies.

Director: Frank Tuttle
Stars: Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Robert Preston
Certificate: Passed Action | Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

An American tanker's sunk by a German U-boat and the survivors spend 11 days at sea on a raft. Their next assignment; bound for Murmansk through the sub-stalked N. Atlantic.

Directors: Lloyd Bacon, Byron Haskin, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Alan Hale


Cast overview, first billed only:
Brian Donlevy ... Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves
Robert Walker ... Col. Jeff Nixon
Tom Drake ... Matt Cochran
Beverly Tyler ... Anne Cochran
Audrey Totter ... Jean O'Leary
Hume Cronyn ... Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer
Hurd Hatfield ... Dr. John Wyatt
Joseph Calleia ... Dr. Enrico Fermi
Godfrey Tearle ... President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Victor Francen ... Dr. Marré
Richard Haydn ... Dr. Chisholm
Jonathan Hale ... Dr. Vannevar Bush
John Litel ... K.T. Keller
Henry O'Neill ... Gen. Thomas F. Farrell
Warner Anderson ... Capt. William S. Parsons U.S.N.


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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


ONE KISS...And Then The Unknown! See more »


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

19 February 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Beginning or the End See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The idea from this film originated with actress Donna Reed and her high school science teacher Edward R. Thomkins, who was a chemist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. See more »


The planes on the Hiroshima mission did not encounter any anti-aircraft fire as depicted in the film. See more »


End Title Card: To the people of the 25th Century: The was THE BEGINNING. Only you, and those who have lived between us and you, can know THE END.
See more »


Referenced in Forecast (1945) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Important Window into the Atomic Age
28 April 2008 | by dougdoepkeSee all my reviews

Americans were almost as shocked by the emergence of the terrible new atomic weapon as anyone. Naturally as the surprise wore off the public became curious about the bomb's backstory since the development was one of the most closely guarded secrets of the war. This MGM production was one of the first to bring that secret history into neighborhood theatres.

Of course, being Hollywood and concerned with box office, liberties were taken as the credit crawl states. Nonetheless, the account seems a reasonable one from tentative beginnings to worrisome testing to final delivery. The movie gives some attention to the moral reservations involved, but these are over-ruled by the belief that if we don't get the bomb first, the Nazis will.

The film was made during that brief interval between the end of the World War and the onset of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. As a result, the script is freed from political constraints that would have colored the account had it been made, say, five years later. Thus there's a hopeful air that the new technology will be used for peaceful purposes now that war has become "unthinkable".

Perhaps the film's chief value lies in just that sort of comparison between the onset of the nuclear age and present day. In fact, war was not made obsolete by nuclear technology, but limits were placed on how far the combatants should go in pursuing their aims. Even so, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 came apparently within a hair's breadth of a nuclear outbreak, while civil defense drills of the 1950's emphasized surviving a nuclear exchange. Clearly, the Cold War had not fulfilled the hopes expressed in the film.

Note also the welcoming line accorded the moguls from America's major industries, e.g. General Electric, who were being recruited to help with the project. Cynics might regard the coming together of big government and private industry as the symbolic beginning of the now notorious "military-industrial complex" that dominates so much of the contemporary economy. Note also how easily government seizes property and relocates its owners to other locales. Here the seizure is portrayed in a cooperative and problem-free manner for understandable reasons. The subtext, however, clearly implies the growth of government in the name of national security.

The film itself understandably plays up a human interest angle by inserting the two young men, Walker and Drake, and their girls at various points. Actually, the screenplay does this pretty skillfully without interrupting the flow, that might otherwise become a distraction. My one complaint is the final scene which really is spread on with an unnecessary ladle, replete with heavenly choir, etc. It's clear that the producers wanted the audience to exit on a decidedly reassuring note following the distressing scenes of a nuclear-devastated Hiroshima and the onset of a threatening new age.

Too bad that the film has become so obscure. Critics largely dismissed the film because of its sentimental side, especially the last scene. However, as an historical artifact, the movie may outrank the value of any other of that year. On the whole, the screenplay puts difficult events in a positive light, but by no means does it overlook the moral dilemmas that arise at key points. In short, it's no whitewash of the complex decisions taken.All in all, whatever one's views on the ethical issues, the film provides an important snapshot of how the nuclear age was first presented to an anxious audience in a popular forum. And in that important sense, the strip of film amounts to more than just another movie.

32 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 20 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Recently Viewed