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.
- Book Ends: 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.
- Deadpan Snarker: Apparently, a number of them worked for CBS.
- Driven to Suicide: Don Hollenbeck.
- 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.
- 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 aboutfi ction 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.
- 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.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: 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.
- Red Scare
- Retraux / Deliberately Monochrome: 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.
- Open Secret: Everyone in the office knows 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.
- Stock Footage: All scenes involving McCarthy are actually him speaking in the Senate. As noted above, many people weren't aware of this.