A Compassionate Spy
Recruited in 1944 as an 18-year-old Harvard undergraduate to be the youngest physicist on the Manhattan Project to create a bomb before the Germans did, Ted Hall didn’t share his colleagues’ elation after the successful detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb. Increasingly concerned during 1944—with Germany clearly losing the war—that a U.S. post-war monopoly on such a powerful weapon could lead to nuclear catastrophe, he decided beginning that October to start passing key information about the bomb’s construction to the Soviet Union. After the war, at the University of Chicago, he met and married Joan, a fellow student with whom he shared a passion for classical music and socialist causes — and the explosive secret of his espionage. Living under a cloud of suspicion and years of FBI surveillance and intimidation, the pair raised a family while Ted refocused his scientific brilliance on groundbreaking biophysics research. A Compassionate Spy, two-time Oscar®️ nominee Steve James’ nuanced documentary, reveals the twists and turns of this real-life spy story, its profound impact on nuclear history, and the couple’s remarkable love and life together during more than 50 years of marriage.
Director & Writer: Steve James
Producers: Mark Mitten, p.g.a., Dave Lindorff, Steve James
Executive Producers: Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Tim Horsburgh, Gordon Quinn
Editor: Steve James