|Good Night, and Good Luck|
|Directed by||George Clooney|
|Produced by||Grant Heslov|
|Written by||George Clooney
Robert Downey, Jr.
|Editing by||Stephen Mirrione|
|Distributed by||United States:
Warner Independent Pictures
|Release date(s)||United States:
October 7, 2005
February 17, 2006
|Running time||93 minutes|
Good Night, and Good Luck is a 2005 film directed by George Clooney. The film was written by Clooney and Grant Heslov and portrays the conflict between veteran radio and television journalist Edward R. Murrow and U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, especially relating to the anti-Communist Senator's actions with the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
The movie, although released in black and white, was filmed on color film stock but on a grayscale set, and was later color corrected to black and white during post-production. It focuses on the theme of media responsibility, and also addresses what occurs when the media offer a voice of dissent against the government. The movie takes its title from the line with which Murrow routinely closed his broadcasts.
The film was nominated for six Academy Awards.
Good Night, and Good Luck takes place during the early days of television broadcast journalism in the 1950s. Edward R. Murrow and his dedicated staff—headed by his co-producer Fred Friendly and reporter Joseph Wershba in the CBS newsroom—defy corporate and sponsorship pressures, and discredit the tactics used by Joseph McCarthy during his crusade to root out Communist elements within the government.
Murrow first defends Milo Radulovich, who was facing separation from the U.S. Air Force because of his sister's political leanings and because his father subscribed to a Serbian newspaper. A very public feud develops when McCarthy responds by accusing Murrow of being a communist. Murrow is accused of having been a member of the leftist union Industrial Workers of the World, which Murrow claimed was false.
In this climate of fear and reprisal, the CBS crew carries on and their tenacity ultimately strikes a historic blow against McCarthy. Historical footage also shows the questioning of Annie Lee Moss, a Pentagon communication worker accused of being a communist based on her name appearing on a list seen by an FBI infiltrator of the American Communist Party. The film's subplots feature Wershba and his wife, recently married staffers, having to hide their marriage to save their jobs at CBS; and the suicide of Don Hollenbeck, who was accused of being a Communist.
The film is framed by performance of the speech given by Murrow to the Radio and Television News Directors Association in 1958, in which Murrow harshly admonishes his audience not to squander the potential of television to inform and educate the public.
In September 2005, Clooney explained his interest in the story to an audience at the New York Film Festival: "I thought it was a good time to raise the idea of using fear to stifle political debate." Having majored in journalism in college, Clooney was well-versed in the subject matter. His father, Nick Clooney, was a television journalist for many years, appearing as an anchorman in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Buffalo, New York. The elder Clooney also ran for congress in 2004.
George Clooney was paid $1 each for writing, directing, and acting in Good Night, and Good Luck, which cost $7.5 million to make. Due to an injury he received on the set of Syriana a few months earlier, Clooney couldn't pass the tests to be insured. He then proposed to mortgage his own house in order to make the film. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and former eBay president Jeff Skoll invested money in the project as executive producers. The film ultimately grossed more than $54m worldwide.
The CBS offices and studios seen in the movie were all sets on a soundstage. To accomplish a pair of scenes showing characters going up an elevator, different "floors" of the building were laid out on the same level. The "elevator" was actually built on a large turntable at the intersection of the two floor sets, and rotated once the doors were closed. When the doors reopened, the actors appeared to be in a different location.
Clooney and producer Grant Heslov decided to use only archival footage of Joseph McCarthy in his depiction. As all of that footage was black-and-white, that determined the color scheme of the film. A young Robert Kennedy is also shown in the movie during McCarthy's hearing sessions. He was then a staff member on the Senate subcommittee chaired by McCarthy.
A small jazz combo starring jazz singer Dianne Reeves was hired to record the soundtrack to the movie. This combo (Peter Martin, Christoph Luty, Jeff Hamilton and Matt Catingub) was featured in the movie in several scenes; for example, in one scene the newsmen pass a studio where she is recording with the rest of the band. The CD is Dianne Reeves's second featuring jazz standards, and it won the Grammy Award in 2005 for best jazz vocal performance.
The film received generally glowing reviews. It was named "Best Reviewed Film of 2005 in Limited Release" by Rotten Tomatoes, where it achieved a 94% positive review rating. The movie received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Director, and Actor.
Libertarian Jack Shafer, a columnist for the online magazine Slate, accused the film of continuing what he characterizes as the hagiography of Murrow. Roger Ebert, in his Chicago Sun-Times review, contends that "the movie is not really about the abuses of McCarthy, but about the process by which Murrow and his team eventually brought about his downfall (some would say his self-destruction). It is like a morality play, from which we learn how journalists should behave. It shows Murrow as fearless, but not flawless."
One complaint about the movie among test audiences was their belief that the actor playing McCarthy was too over the top, not realizing that the film used actual archive footage of McCarthy himself.