BSP Episode 219: Good Night, and Good Luck
4th in this series of four Modern Black & White movies
Warner Independent Pictures
Edward R. Murrow
Initial comments by the hosts:
For an independent film, the hosts agreed that it didn’t have the look or the feel of an independent film. Darrell liked the movie and thought it had a nice feel to it. Even though it’s a serious subject, he thought that you could really sit back and enjoy the film. Jill agreed and thought it was tight and finely crafted and had excellent acting and an interesting subject matter. She liked that the story was confined and George Clooney didn’t try to make it a complete biography on Edward R. Murrow. Tony agreed and thought they made some interesting choices on the stories that were about the people in the newsroom as side stories, but they weren’t necessarily directly tied to McCarthy or Murrow. He thought it was a subtle way of bringing out those extra stories.
One of the underlying themes of the movie was how much CBS Corp. was so deeply in bed with all of its advertisers and in fear of trying to keep their advertisers to keep their programs on the air. Darrell found it interesting how relevant the story still is. How you can remove the word “communism” and replace it with “terrorists” and still have the same story today. Also, the point still stands that news is driven by entertainment value and advertising dollars. Jill liked the speech “bookends” of how the story was set up, how it kept your focus. The hosts also liked the jazz singer, Jill likened her to the Greek chorus who explains the story but this also gave the viewer time to process the information you’d been given between the scenes.
In discussing acting, they all loved David Strathairn’s portrayal of Edward R. Murrow. Darrell thought he had Murrow’s voice and mannerisms down cold. They liked that every clip of Joseph McCarthy was the actual footage of McCarthy from that time. Also, some of the video used in the monitors was actually Murrow, as well. Darrell found Murrow to be a cold, unsympathetic man, but Jill disagreed and found that to be passion about doing the right thing and telling the truth. She liked the use of facial expressions, silence, fading to black (to the point of making it uncomfortable for the viewers), to convey his conflicted emotions and his struggles. Tony thought that as much as Murrow seemed aloof, he also seemed disconnected. He didn’t seem to know a lot about the things happening directly around him because he was so focused on what he was doing. The hosts also singled out the performances of Robert Downey, Jr. as Joe Wershba and Frank Langella as William Paley.
Jill believed they did a nice job at incorporating archival film footage into the movie and made it look seamless. Tony learned, through this movie, some of the underhanded tactics that McCarthy used to get information. He also gained a respect for journalism during that time. Journalism today is completely different, the integrity is lost, and no one can (or would) do today what Murrow did then.
In discussing the use of actual McCarthy footage (instead of using an actor to portray him), Clooney said that 20% of the people who saw a test of the movie didn’t know who McCarthy was and wanted to know who was the actor portraying him. Clooney also thought that no matter which actor played McCarthy, he would be played as a jerk. Instead, if you’re watching the actual footage of McCarthy, you can see how some people could have understood and took his side. Clooney wanted this movie to be a conversation starter. It also shows the “other side” in which McCarthy had a good idea in that there was something to be afraid of with communists infiltrating the government, but he took it to a level of zealotry that became a problem.
As Jill mentioned this speech earlier in the podcast, the text of Edward R. Murrow’s speech bookending the movie was taken word-for-word from the actual keynote address he delivered to the 1958 RTNDA (Radio-Television News Directors Association) convention. The actual conclusion to the speech, after Murrow’s line about television, used strictly for entertainment rather than education, being nothing more than wires and lights in a box, went as follows: “There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful. Stonewall Jackson, who knew something about the use of weapons, is reported to have said, ‘When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.’ The trouble with television is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival.”
The film was shot on color film on a grayscale set, then color-corrected in post.
The entire set was built on one floor. The elevator interior was built on a turntable, so it could be rotated to a new “floor” during unbroken shots.
The American Film Institute named Good Night, and Good Luck as one of the Top Ten Movies of 2005.
It was also nominated for six Oscars at the 2006 Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (George Clooney), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (David Strathairn), Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography.
Your Producers for this episode were:
This episode was recorded: 2/15/2012