Film / Good Night, and Good Luck.

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Good Night, and Good Luck is a 2005 black and white film directed by George Clooney and written by Clooney and Grant Heslov. It stars Clooney, David Strathairn, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey, Jr., Patricia Clarkson, Frank Langella, and Senator Joseph McCarthy.

It is a dramatization of the conflict between Senator Joseph McCarthy and broadcaster Edward R. Murrow during the height of The Fifties Red Scare in the United States. Notably, no actor actually portrays McCarthy, instead relying entirely on archival footage, giving it an edge of historical accuracy. The themes of the movie focus on the responsibility of television, not just the news, to go beyond just entertainment, and inform and voice dissent.

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

This film provides examples of:

  • Armor-Piercing Question: Murrow's boss Bill Paley asks why Murrow didn't correct McCarthy when he said Alger Hiss was convicted of treason. "You didn't want to be seen defending Hiss," Paley notes.
  • And Mission Control Rejoiced: The control room bursts into spontaneous applause after Murrow finishes his daring piece about Milo Radulovich.
  • Bookends: The famous award speech where Murrow lambasts the association members not to waste TV's potential.
  • Catch Phrase: The title was Murrow's, both in Real Life and the film. Also counts as a Title Drop.
  • Da Editor: Paley is a soft-spoken version. At one point he calls up Murrow just before broadcast and invites him to a Knicks game with dry humor, but he tries to pull back Murrow harder after the McCarthy pieces imperil sponsorship. When he puts "See It Now" in the Sunday death slot, he says he's fighting the affiliates, sponsors, and politicians and is sick of getting a stomachache every time Murrow takes on controversy.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Apparently, a number of them worked for CBS.
  • Defiant to the End: After "See It Now" is effectively canceled, Friendly suggests to Murrow that their first program in the new timeslot should be about the downfall of television, and they agree to go down swinging.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film was shot in color on a greyscale set and then color-corrected in post-production.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The entirety of a Kent cigarette commercial is shown before one of Murrow's "Person to Person" segments.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Joe and Shirley's suspicious furtive behavior resembles Communists trying to avoid the blacklist. Nah, they're just married when the network has a policy against married partners working there.
  • Driven to Suicide: Don Hollenbeck kills himself by running his gas oven after repeated accusations of being a Communist sympathizer.
  • Everyone Can See It: Joe and Shirley's marriage. The director tells them that everybody knows about it when asking them to resign ahead of planned layoffs. Except for Murrow, apparently, when Fred says everyone new and he claims "I didn't know."note 
  • Everybody Smokes: Murrow's producer Fred W. Friendly didn't smoke in Real Life, and died at 82. Andy Rooney, not present despite working at CBS News in Murrow's era, never smoked and died in 2011 at 92. They were the exception, though, with Rooney long outliving most of his '50s colleagues at CBS.
  • The Fifties: Focusing more on the dark effects of the Red Scare rather than picket fences and bobby socks.
  • Friday Night Death Slot: invoked Paley won't cancel "See It Now" outright, probably because it would (accurately) be seen as a response to Murrow's reporting on McCarthy. Instead, he moves the show to a weekly format and puts it in an hour-long Sunday afternoon timeslot, which will kill its ratings and allow him to cancel it for that reason after the hubbub has died down.
  • Genre Savvy: A McCarthy minion slips Joe some dirt on Murrow's supposed Communist connections in order to threaten them. Joe tells him he needs to watch more spy films because you're not supposed to hand envelopes full of secret information to people in crowded lobbies.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: When arguing about editorializing with the news director, Murrow says that some stories simply do not have two equal and valid viewpoints that deserve equal time.
  • Historical Beauty Update: George Clooney as Fred Friendly. To a lesser extent, David Straitharn as Murrow, though Murrow himself was far from a bad looking guy.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Averted, though the film was accused of this. Murrow and the studio didn't stand up for the Air Force officer accused of treason and go against McCarthy out of the goodness of their hearts-they needed an angle, and no one else seemed to be covering the treason case. In addition, Murrow's Author Tract on television about fiction being one of the downfalls of the modern age in the opening wasn't treated as uplifting, or moving, or the message of the film.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Guess.
  • Historical In-Joke: The interview with Liberace was an attempt to try to make his Transparent Closet Camp Gay personality just Camp Straight. No one, least of all Murrow, was fooled. There's a reason he hated those "Person to Person" segments.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Murrow and co. (and by extension, the filmmakers) are very careful in their attacks on McCarthy, using footage of the man and his own words to demonstrate just how ridiculous he is.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Murrow.
  • Karma Houdini: When McCarthy is censured, Murrow and Friendly point out that he still gets to keep his Senate seat.
  • Mood Whiplash: The triumphal news that McCarthy is himself being investigated by the Senate is cut off when Friendly receives news that Don Hollenbeck has committed suicide.
  • Open Secret: Everyone in the office knows about Joe and Shirley's Secret Relationship anyway, they just don't mention it. Eventually, they're effectively fired when the studio begins layoffs-they're told that, if one of them quits, they'll save a few jobs. They do so.
  • Poe's Law: Some audiences complained that "the actor playing Joseph McCarthy" was "too over-the-top". The film used actual archived footage of the real McCarthy.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Murrow and Friendly were vindicated, but at the cost of network support.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic/Your Costume Needs Work: Some of the film's detractors complained that the actor playing Senator McCarthy hammed the role up too much, when the movie used actual film of him.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Murrow's punishment by Paley was to have his show lengthened and put in a weekly (instead of daily) format in a deadly time slot. It quickly died.
  • Red Scare
  • Retraux: Filmed in black and white to enhance the period feeling. And because the only usable footage of McCarthy is in black-and-white.
  • Secret Relationship: Joe and Shirley Wershba can't reveal their marriage or they will be fired.
  • Shown Their Work: George Clooney grew up in his father's television news set, so the news scenes are precisely accurate, down to the crewman under the newsdesk tugging at Murrow's pant leg to let him know the camera was on.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: Conservative columnist O'Brien's reaction to Hollenbeck's suicide is to write another column calling him a pinko.
  • Stock Footage: All scenes involving McCarthy are actually him speaking in the Senate. As noted above, many people weren't aware of this.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Joe and Shirley have recently married in spite of CBS's prohibition on married couples in the office. Shirley jokes that she's probably the only wife who reminds her husband to take off his ring before going to work.

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