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The Beginning or the End

How Hollywood - And America - Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Greg Mitchell

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The New Press
07 July 2020
Film, TV & Radio; Film theory & criticism; Individual film directors, film-makers; History of the Americas; 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000; Propaganda
The shocking and significant story of how the White House and Pentagon scuttled an epic Hollywood production Soon after atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, MGM set out to make a movie studio chief Louis B. Mayer called 'the most important story' he would ever film: a big budget dramatisation of the Manhattan Project and the invention and use of the revolutionary new weapon. Over at Paramount, Hal B. Wallis was ramping up his own film version. His screenwriter: the novelist Ayn Rand, who saw in physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer the model for a character she was sketching for Atlas Shrugged. Greg Mitchell's The Beginning or the End chronicles the first efforts of American media and culture to process the Atomic Age. A movie that began as a cautionary tale inspired by atomic scientists aiming to warn the world against a nuclear arms race would be drained of all impact due to revisions and retakes ordered by President Truman and the military for reasons of propaganda, politics, and petty human vanity (this was Hollywood). Mitchell has found his way into the lofty rooms, from Washington to California, where it happened, unearthing hundreds of letters and dozens of scripts that show how wise intentions were compromised in favour of defending the use of the bomb and the imperatives of postwar politics. As in his acclaimed Cold War true-life thriller The Tunnels, he exposes how our implacable American myth-making mechanisms distort our history. 'Greg Mitchell is the best kind of historian, a true storyteller.' - Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus 'MGM's little-seen 1947 docudrama about the creation of the atomic bomb' The Beginning or the End' provides the unlikely but fascinating subject for this rich look at the early nuclear age.' -Publishers Weekly 'Excellent research and rich dialogue give Mitchell's book a novelistic flair as he recounts the battles between MGM and the military over actor choices, deletions, revisions, and retakes concerning fact vs. fiction.' - Kirkus Reviews 'This intriguing, behind-the-scenes look at a disjointed creative partnership is sure to be of interest to readers of history and cinema.' - Library Journal
By:   Greg Mitchell
Imprint:   The New Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 140mm,  Spine: 25mm
Weight:   476g
ISBN:   9781620975732
ISBN 10:   1620975734
Pages:   272
Publication Date:   07 July 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Greg Mitchell's books include The Tunnels; The Campaign of the Century, winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize and finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady, a New York Times Notable Book; So Wrong for So Long; and, with Robert Jay Lifton, Hiroshima in America and Who Owns Death? He lives in the New York City area.

Reviews for The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood - And America - Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Praise for The Beginning or the End It can safely be said that when it comes to collisions between art and politics, art usually gets maimed and as Greg Mitchell's quietly amusing book shows, [this film] was no exception. --The Wall Street Journal A great new book that you're going to want to read. The book conjures up a compelling cast of characters who got caught in the Cold War propaganda machine. --Will Bunch, Philadelphia Inquirer It is a deceptively breezy book that reveals its depths and its profound questions only slowly in the reader's mind, and one of these is how easily the powerful can sell the country a narrative. . . . A vivid examination of where we are now. --Charles P. Pierce, Esquire This is an obvious 'must buy'--especially if you are interested in WW2, cinema, or modern American history. --Rod Lurie, director of The Outpost MGM's little-seen 1947 docudrama about the creation of the atomic bomb' The Beginning or the End' provides the unlikely but fascinating subject for this rich look at the early nuclear age. . . . While the film bombed at the box office' Mitchell's rich account of its making and larger implications should draw both history buffs and those concerned with the continuing issues around nuclear weapons. --Publishers Weekly [Greg Mitchell] uses his sharp investigative reporting skills to unearth this detailed, behind-the-scenes story about Hollywood's first movie on the atomic bomb. . . . Excellent research and rich dialogue give Mitchell's book a novelistic flair as he recounts the battles between MGM and the military over actor choices, deletions, revisions, and retakes concerning fact vs. fiction. --Kirkus Reviews This intriguing, behind-the-scenes look at a disjointed creative partnership is sure to be of interest to readers of history and cinema. --Library Journal This captivating look at the making of a 1947 docudrama about the U.S. decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan shows how far Hollywood would go to get the public waving the American flag. --Shelf Awareness Fascinating but also, weirdly, enjoyable to read. --Harry Shearer Greg Mitchell's The Beginning or the End is an engrossing, wry, and always lively look behind the scenes of a historic Hollywood flop. But it's also much more than that: a deeply serious, meticulously researched account of how the movie industry--and the American public in general--embraced a comforting myth to justify one of the most controversial decisions in history. This is a first-rate piece of work by one of our most accomplished nonfiction storytellers. --Gary Krist, author of Empire of Sin and The Mirage Factory A story of dishy Hollywood doings but with atomic bombs and a screenplay by Ayn Rand--what more could a reader ask for? --Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award A fascinating and brilliantly researched account of how Hollywood and Washington grappled with how to portray and profit from the new nuclear age. Another great read and expose from Mitchell. --Alex Kershaw, bestselling author of The Liberator and Avenue of Spies A fascinating, sharp-eyed study of Hiroshima's cinematic aftershocks. Mitchell expertly chronicles the gradual transformation of a gigantic, and still-radiating, moral catastrophe. --Nicholson Baker, author of Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, and Double Fold, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award From the nation's top secret to the silver screen: Mitchell tells an unforgettable tale about a forgotten film and the tug-of-war between scientists' the White House and the Pentagon over the Hollywood version of the bombing of Hiroshima. --Peter Biskind, best-selling author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls Seriously, this is a great book. --Kurt Eichenwald, author of The Informant and Conspiracy of Fools


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