By Greg Mitchell
Just a short post here to announce my new book coming this July, The Beginning or the End: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. If that title’s not enough, there’s a brief write-up below from the catalog that will have to do for now (much more to come, including excerpts).
This story has been over 30 years in the making. I’ve just made a few final changes, including at last digging into J. Robert Oppenheimer’s FBI file at the Library of Congress, and a couple of bound galleys have gone out for “blurbs.” Here’s the first blurb, from the fine best-selling author Gary Krist, and that summary below that. See you again soon.
“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, Empire of Sin, The Mirage Factory
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 dramatization 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). And all the while, the FBI was surveiling Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard and other scientists for “Communist” connections.
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 favor 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 author of a dozen books, including ‘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?’ Mitchell has edited several national magazines, including Editor & Publisher, and he recently coproduced the acclaimed documentary ‘Following the Ninth.’ He lives in the New York City area.