Good Night, and Good Luck
|Good Night, and Good Luck.|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||George Clooney|
|Produced by||Grant Heslov|
|Edited by||Stephen Mirrione|
|Distributed by||WIP (US)
Summit (through Lionsgate) (UK)
|Box office||$56.5 million|
Good Night, and Good Luck is a 2005 historical drama film directed by George Clooney and starring David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey, Jr., Patricia Clarkson and Jeff Daniels. The movie was written by Clooney and Grant Heslov (both of whom also have acting roles in the film) 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 greyscale set, and was 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 from government policy. The movie takes its title (which ends with a period or full stop) from the line with which Murrow routinely signed off his broadcasts.
Set in 1953, during the early days of television broadcast journalism. Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) and his dedicated staff — headed by his co-producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney) and reporter Joseph Wershba (Robert Downey, Jr.) 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 is facing separation from the U.S. Air Force because of his sister's political leanings and because his father is subscribed to a Serbian newspaper. Murrow makes a show on McCarthy attacking him. 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 Joseph and Shirley Wershba, recently married staffers, having to hide their marriage to save their jobs at CBS as well as the suicide of Don Hollenbeck (Ray Wise) who had been accused in print 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, so that it does not become only "wires and lights in a box".
- David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow, journalist and host of the CBS television program See It Now
- George Clooney as Fred W. Friendly, coproducer with Murrow of See It Now
- Robert Downey, Jr. as Joseph Wershba, writer, editor, and correspondent for CBS News
- Patricia Clarkson as Shirley Wershba
- Frank Langella as William Paley, chief executive of CBS
- Jeff Daniels as Sig Mickelson, Director of CBS News
- Tate Donovan as Jesse Zousmer
- Ray Wise as Don Hollenbeck, journalist for CBS News; accused in the press of being a "pinko".
- Alex Borstein as Natalie
- Thomas McCarthy as Palmer Williams
- Rose Abdoo as Mili Lerner
- Reed Diamond as John Aaron
- Matt Ross as Eddie Scott
- Grant Heslov as Don Hewitt, director of See It Now
- Joseph McCarthy (archive footage) as Himself
- Liberace (archive footage) as Himself
- Roy Cohn (archive footage) as Himself
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, Salt Lake City, Utah, Los Angeles, California, 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 mortgaged his own house in Los Angeles 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. In doing so, the movie exercised a bit of dramatic license—the CBS executive offices at the time were located at 485 Madison Avenue. CBS News was located in an office building just north of Grand Central Terminal (demolished and now the site of the Met Life Building); and the See It Now studio was located in Grand Central Terminal itself, above the waiting room. For dramatic effect, all three areas were depicted as being in the same building.
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 (including "How High the Moon", "I've Got My Eyes on You", "Too Close For Comfort", "Straighten Up and Fly Right" and "One for My Baby"), and it won the Grammy Award in 2006 for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
The soundtrack to Good Night, and Good Luck. was released on September 27, 2005.
|1.||"Straighten Up and Fly Right"||Dianne Reeves||2:44|
|2.||"I've Got My Eyes on You"||Dianne Reeves||2:06|
|3.||"Gotta Be This or That"||Dianne Reeves||3:16|
|4.||"Too Close for Comfort"||Dianne Reeves||3:50|
|5.||"How High the Moon"||Dianne Reeves||2:22|
|6.||"Who's Minding the Store?"||Dianne Reeves||4:31|
|7.||"You're Driving Me Crazy"||Dianne Reeves||1:57|
|10.||"TV Is the Thing This Year"||Dianne Reeves||1:43|
|11.||"Pick Yourself Up"||Dianne Reeves||2:38|
|12.||"When I Fall in Love"||Dianne Reeves||3:52|
|13.||"Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall"||Dianne Reeves||4:08|
|14.||"There'll Be Another Spring"||Dianne Reeves||4:43|
|15.||"One for My Baby"||Dianne Reeves||3:50|
The film was critically acclaimed upon release. It was named "Best Reviewed Film of 2005 in Limited Release" by Rotten Tomatoes, where it achieved a 93% positive review rating, based on reviews from 216 critics. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Director (Clooney), and Actor (Strathairn).
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." Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton from the ABC show At The Movies each gave the film five stars, making Good Night, and Good Luck the only other film besides Brokeback Mountain to receive such a score from the hosts in 2005. Both described the film as "beautiful" but also praised Clooney for the film's importance. Margaret commented that "[The film] is so important, because it's about things that are really vital today, like the responsibility of the press and examining the press' role in forming opinion." David noted "Though [the film] is in black-and-white, there's nothing monochromatic about Clooney's passion for his subject or the importance of his message."
Libertarian Jack Shafer, a columnist for the online magazine Slate, accused the film of continuing what he characterizes as the hagiography of Murrow. Clooney's film gives the impression that Murrow brought down McCarthy single-handedly, while in reality the mainstream media, many Democrats and some of McCarthy's Republican peers were condemning him before Murrow. Furthermore, Shafer writes, evidence obtained via the declassified Venona espionage program confirmed that many Soviet agents and sympathizers were in fact in positions of influence in the U.S. Government, a fact the film entirely overlooks: "Clooney and company ignore the material that might argue against their simple-minded thesis about Murrow, the era, and the press to produce an after-school special".
One complaint about the film 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.
Awards and nominations
The film was nominated for six Academy Awards at the 2006 Academy Awards, for six BAFTAs at the 2005 BAFTA Awards, and four Golden Globes at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards. The American Film Institute named Good Night, and Good Luck. as one of the Top Ten Movies of 2005.
- The Numbers: Good Night and Good Luck. Linked 2013-08-12
- Edward R. Murrow Speech, 1958 (excerpts), Radio Television Digital News Association RTDNA.org
- Brooks, Brian. IndieWire, "Clooney Speaks Out About Journalism and Filmmaking As NYFF Opens." Retrieved: April 24, 2007.
- Friedman, Roger. Fox News.com, "Clooney Bets House on New Film," September 27, 2005. Retrieved: December 30, 2007.
- "Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) - Box Office Mojo".
- "Broadcasting Yearbook 1952", page 448
- Kuralt, Charles, "A Life On The Road", 1991
- Schwartz, David, via Les Burkhardt, "Studio Originations for CBS New York based shows", Retired CBS Engineers Association website, December 2–3, 2001. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
- Brooks, Brian. IndieWire, ibid.
- Good Night, and Good Luck. Soundtrack AllMusic. Retrieved February 27, 2014
- Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, "Good Night, and Good Luck." Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved: April 23, 2007.
- "Movie reviews, 2005". ABC: At the Movies. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
- "Good Night, and Good Luck (review)". ABC: At the Movies. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
- Shafer, Jack. Slate.com., "Edward R. Movie—Good Night, and Good Luck and bad history." Retrieved: March 1, 2006.
- "When television took a stand", Telegraph, October 5, 2005
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