Whether it's Barbie or Oppenheimer, it seems that almost all of Hollywood is starring in a big new release this weekend.


One of the biggest names to feature in the cast of Christopher Nolan's historical epic is of course Emily Blunt, who stars alongside Cillian Murphy as the title character's wife, Katherine 'Kitty' Oppenheimer.

She joins the likes of Florence Pugh, Matt Damon, Sir Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek and Robert Downey Jr, all of whom take on key supporting roles in the blockbuster.

The biopic thriller tells the story of J Robert Oppenheimer, the so-called father of the atomic bomb. But who was his wife Kitty and when did she marry Oppenheimer?

Read on for everything you need to know.

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Early Life

J. Robert Oppenheimer's Wife "Kitty"
J. Robert Oppenheimer's Wife "Kitty" CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Born Katherine Puening on 8th August 1910 in Recklinghausen, Germany, Kitty and her family – who were from a noble background, meaning she often received letters as a child addressed to ‘Her Highness, Katherine’ – moved to America when she was two years old.

Kitty entered university a few times in the early 1930s, but dropped out and married her first husband Frank Ramseyer in 1932. However, the marriage did not last, and Kitty received an annulment from the state of Wisconsin just a year later.

Her second marriage was to a young Communist named Joe Dallet in 1934. The couple moved to France, and Dallet joined the Communist forces fighting in the Spanish Civil War. He was sadly killed in combat three years after they tied the knot, which spurred Kitty to return to the United States and pursue a degree in botany at the University of Pennsylvania, which she completed in 1939.

She met Oppenheimer that same year – while inconveniently married to her third husband, a British doctor named Richard Harrison! Their love overcame the obstacle, though, and Kitty divorced her husband and married J Robert Oppenheimer on 1st November 1940.

The couple lived in the Californian city of Pasadena, before moving to Los Alamos in New Mexico for the Manhattan Project.

Life in Los Alamos

Christopher Denham as Klaus Fuchs, Seth Neddermeyer is Devon Bostick, Emily Blunt is Kitty Oppenheimer, Gustaf Skarsgård is Hans Bethe, and Josh Peck is Kenneth Bainbridge in OPPENHEIMER.
Emily Blunt stars in Oppenheimer. Universal Pictures

After Oppenheimer was appointed scientific director in Los Alamos, Kitty worked briefly as a lab technician there under the supervision of Dr Louis Hempelmann but quit after a year.

As a trained botanist, Kitty felt her professional life was stagnant professionally at Los Alamos, and instead, she thrived socially. She often hosted cocktail parties for small groups of women to provide a distraction from the high-pressure environment of Los Alamos.

Kitty was also an important confidante for her husband, as Oppenheimer trusted his wife completely and frequently sought her advice on a host of issues facing the Manhattan Project. Kitty and her husband relied on each other for a solid foundation in the chaotic years of the Project and in their newfound celebrity in the years to come.

The couple also had two children, named Peter and Toni. Toni, the younger child, was born in Los Alamos in a seven-room hospital that had been dubbed ‘RFD’, for ‘rural free delivery’, due to the high number of births that occurred within the Project’s first few years.

Kitty’s own fiery personality was tested by raising her two children in the unique setting of Los Alamos, before the family moved to Princeton, New Jersey, following the war.

Later Years

J. Robert Oppenheimer's wife, Katherine, stands next to daughter, Katherine, and overlooks an atrium where son, Peter, points something of interest out.
J. Robert Oppenheimer's wife, Katherine, stands next to her daughter, Katherine, and overlooks an atrium where her son, Peter, points something of interest out. CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

In the Oppenheimer security hearing in 1954, Kitty’s chequered past became an important consideration. She had been questioned and monitored by security personnel at Los Alamos and was the most obvious link between her husband and Communism.

Both Robert and Kitty Oppenheimer affirmed their loyalty to the United States in testimony to the Atomic Energy Commission, but in the end, Oppenheimer was forced to forfeit his security clearance, effectively ending his career in government.

Robert and Kitty leaned on each other after the trial, as Robert maintained his academic life at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and from 1954, the Oppenheimer family spent a few months every year on the island of St John in the Virgin Islands.

After a decade of relative peace, Robert developed throat cancer and passed away in early 1967 at the age of 62. Kitty held a private ceremony for her husband, and spread his ashes in the sea outside of their home in St John, an area known today as ‘Oppenheimer Beach’.

Emily Blunt leaning on a fence next to Christopher Nolan, while talking to Cillian Murphy.
Emily Blunt stars alongside Cillian Murphy in Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer. Universal Pictures

Following the death of her husband, Kitty decided to move in with long-time family friend Robert Serber, and the two planned a round-the-world sailing trip in 1972.

However, shortly after embarking on the expedition in October of that year, Kitty became seriously ill and passed away in Panama City, Panama, due to a pulmonary embolism.

Read More

Oppenheimer is now showing in UK cinemas. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

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Oppenheimer opens in UK cinemas on Friday 21st July.

Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.