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Saturday, July 11, 2020

From Hiroshima to Hollywood

Just a short update on THE BEGINNING OR THE END:  How Hollywood--and America--Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,  published this week by The New Press.  It reveals how Truman and the military sabotaged the first movie epic about the bomb, from MGM--and why this matters today. You can order the book at a special price right now at Amazon or from your favorite indie site. "A fascinating, sharp-eyed study of Hiroshima's cinematic aftershocks," comments Nicholson Baker, author of Human Smoke and other acclaimed books. Rod Lurie, director of the #1 movie in America right now, The Outpost, calls it "an obvious 'must buy'-- especially if you are interested in World War 2, cinema, or modern American history."

Wall Street Journal hailed the book in a review today.  Other reviews have also been terrific.  Here is one from often-tough Kirkus: "Excellent research and rich dialogue give Mitchell’s book a novelistic flair....Reel film meets real history in this scintillating tale."  Major excerpts just appeared at LitHub and Mother Jones with more coming at Daily Beast, American History, Washington Monthly and elsewhere. Again, click to order here.

Here are five "blurbs," from the leading authority on the bomb, Richard Rhodes, and best-selling authors Gary Krist, Peter Biskind, Nicholson Baker, and Alex Kershaw.   The new book, of course,  marks the 75th anniversary of the creation and use of the bomb against Japan.  I will also note that I have just finished writing and directing my first film, based on a previous book, Atomic Cover-Up.  You can contact me atgregmitch34 (at) gmail (dot) com.

"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,  best-selling 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,  The Making of the Atomic Bomb, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book 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

"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 exposé from Mitchell." --Alex Kershaw, best-selling author of The Liberator and Avenue of Spies


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, and Double Fold, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award


"Mitchell shows how this desire to control the narrative around the atomic attacks fed into the U.S.’s continued insistence on its right to launch a nuclear first strike. 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

"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

"Excellent research and rich dialogue give Mitchell’s book a novelistic flair....Reel film meets real history in this scintillating tale."--Kirkus Reviews 

"Seriously, this is a great book." --  Kurt Eichenwald, author of The Informant and Conspiracy of Fools 

"Fascinating but also, weirdly, enjoyable to read." -- Harry Shearer 

"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

"A book that features both J. Robert Oppenheimer AND Donna Reed has to be good."-- Dan Barry

From the publisher's catalog:

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 surveillng 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 best kind of historian, a true storyteller."
Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author  of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

 "Greg Mitchell has been a leading chronicler for many years of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and American behavior toward them."
  Robert Jay Lifton, author of Death in Life (winner of the National Book Award).

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