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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 '50s 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:

  • 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 knew 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 '50s: This film takes place during the decade, 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 time slot, 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 Strathairn as Murrow, though Murrow himself was far from a bad-looking guy.
  • Historical Domain Character: Joseph McCarthy, the infamous Senator and central figure of the Red Scare of The '50s, is the main historical figure that the plot centers around. The journalists who fought against his allegations of secret communists in the American government and society are the focus of the plot.
  • Historical Figures in Archival Media: All scenes involving McCarthy are actually stock footage of him speaking in the Senate.
  • 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.
    • It is subverted, however, if one knows what happened to McCarthy afterwards. While he did keep his seat, he never got the public attention and support he initially had, and his fellow Senators avoided him like the plague (even fellow Republicans). This, plus the exacerbation of his drinking problem, led to his health declining and eventually his death in 1957.
  • Kick the Dog: O'Brien's pro-McCarthy column is not kind to Don Hollenbeck throughout the film, but what's truly jarring is that he doubles down after Hollenbeck commits suicide.
  • 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.
  • Only in It for the Money: It's clear that Morrow utterly despises the "Person-to-Person" segments he is forced to do to as part of his contract. He doesn't even bother to learn his lines. His reasoning for it as "It pays the bills."
  • 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.
  • Quitting to Get Married: Gender-flipped and retroactively applied. Joe and Shirley Wershba are Happily Married despite CBS company policy prohibiting married coworkers. Their marriage is an Open Secret in the office, but near the end of the film their boss is told to lay off two employees, and gives them the opportunity to have one or both of them quit to save somebody else's job. Joe takes the offer; he had the stronger resume and became one of the founders of 60 Minutes.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: If you were to ask anyone to name a part of the movie they didn't like, chances are they'd mention the guy playing Senator McCarthy and his over the top acting. No one played McCarthy in the film; all footage of him is archival.
  • 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: Senator Joseph McCarthy himself, one of the greatest symbols of all the worst parts of this era, is the Greater-Scope Villain of this film.
  • 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 on his father's television news set, so the news scenes are precisely accurate, down to the crewman under the news desk 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.
  • 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.