Jump to content

Good Night and Good Luck

Recommended Posts

Saw this yesterday - probably only the second B&W film I've seen in a cinema, and as the first was "Sin City" this was a real treat. Man I wish I'd been alive in the forties! think even if I hadn't have been able to follow what was going on in the film I would have enjoyed it just for it's look, and it's images.

And I found the build up to the two major broadcasts incredibly tense - wonderful stuff. Going into it I wasn't sure how long it was and given that shortly after the opening scene we hopped back 5 years and only went forward a year, I was hoping as it was about to end that we were only halfway through. It's not often you wish yourself into a 3 hour film.

A couple of things you might be able to help me with

1 - Does anyone have Murrow's opening quote here? It was fascinating - the kind of thing I'd like to read and think about and then repeat. The closing quote is on IMDb, but the opener isn't

2 - What was with Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr.? I could only think it was to do with how other people were hiding things then, and that era was repressive in other ways, or perhaps that murrow's team was comprimised / lucky, etc. Where did Jeff Daniels go during the middle of the film?

Oh, and by the way

Back to the film, has anyone seen the per screen take on this. I saw it in a good sized theater that was full. Squid and Whale was in a smaller theater, and I heard it was also full.

I saw it at 2:30 in the afternoon, during the week, in a country that never had McCarthyism, and has less enthusiasm for cinema than your, and the theatre was surprisingly full. There's few other places taht are showing it at the moment.


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 96
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

BTW I don't really think much of the Slate article, but thankfully it did provide me with this:

What didn't you like about the Slate piece? I thought it was a pretty persuasive and factually-based article, myself. I'm not quite as enamored with the film ever since I read it, though I still like the black-and-white style and the acting.

Edited by Jeff

-"I... drink... your... milkshake! I drink it up!"

Daniel Plainview, There Will Be Blood

Link to post
Share on other sites


As it is, Hollywood's new reputation for "serious" "challenging" "works" seems merely the dinner-theatre production of the usual self-reinforcing Democrat-media bubble. A film-maker makes a film about a courageous pressman and the pressmen hail him as a courageous film-maker for doing so. . . .

"I'm an old-time liberal and I don't apologize for it," Clooney told Newsweek.

Good for him. And certainly, regardless of how liberal he is, he's "old-time". I don't mean in the sense that he has the gloss of an old-time movie star, the nearest our age comes to the sheen of Cary Grant in a Stanley Donen picture, but that his politics is blessedly undisturbed by any developments on the global scene since circa 1974. . . . In Good Night And Good Luck, he's produced a film set in the McCarthy era that could have been made in the Jimmy Carter era. That's to say, it takes into account absolutely nothing that has come to light in the last quarter-century -- not least the relevant KGB files on Soviet penetration of America. . . .

Or is it that Clooney doesn't care either way? That what matters is the "meta-narrative" -- the journalist as hero, "speaking truth to power", no matter if the journalist is wrong and wields more power than most politicians. Even if one discounts the awkward fact that these days CBS News is better known for speaking twaddle to power -- over the fake National Guard memos to which Dan Rather remains so attached -- the reality is that the idea of the big media crusader simply doesn't resonate with any section of the American public other than the big media themselves. Indeed, if you wanted to create a film designed to elicit rave reviews from the critics, you could hardly do better than a McCarthy era story built around a Watergate-style heroic reporter, unless you made the reporter gay. The media seem to have fallen for it, with the splendid exception of Armand White in The New York Press who said Clooney was far more hagiographic of his subject than Mel Gibson was in The Passion Of The Christ.

This is the Platonic reductio of political art. Say what you like about those Hollywood guys in the Thirties but they were serious about their leftism. Say what you like about those Hollywood guys in the Seventies but they were serious about their outrage at what was done to the lefties in the McCarthy era -- though they might have been better directing their anger at the movie-industry muscle that enforced the blacklist. By comparison, Clooney's is no more than a pose -- he's acting at activism, new Hollywood mimicking old Hollywood's robust defense of even older Hollywood. He's more taken by the idea of "speaking truth to power" than the footling question of whether the truth he's speaking to power is actually true.

That's why Hollywood prefers to make "controversial" films about controversies that are settled, rousing itself to fight battles long won. . . .

What talk radio did to network news and the Internet is doing to monopoly newspapers, someone will eventually do to the big studios, and one day we may wind up with a Hollywood in which, as Clooney might say, nothing is getting shot. In the meantime, Danish cartoonists are in hiding for their lives but George Clooney will be televised around the world picking up an award for his bravery.

Mark Steyn, National Review, February 13

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

FWIW, the DVD is out next Tuesday. It has a new tagline- "they took on the government with nothing but the truth". Hmmmmmmmmmm. *rubs chin*

I don't see that. Or at least it doesn't appear on the cover art or anything. In fact under plot summary it says that the "tagline" is "we will not walk in fear of one another."

BTW, my admiration for this film still remains.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut


Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

I really liked this film. It was focused on the there and then, not the here and now. Still, I thought there were several instances that they referenced the "now". The few scenes that come to mind are:

When Murrow and Friendly are discussing whether they are editorializing or reporting, and again when Murrow and Paley are arguing the same distinction.

When Friendly asks if they were defending constitutional rights or Annie Moss (?). What was the actual goal? The reports seemed to focus on specific individuals and events, but the overall reason was to defend people's rights. That's what I took from it, anyway.

When the married man (Robert Downey Jr, can't remember the character) asks his wife "what if we're wrong"? I thought that was a subtle nod to the facts we know today, that there really were Communist sympathies.

Still, I don't think that was the point of the movie. I think the point was about a man, in a certain, scary time, who stood up and said "this is wrong".

I thought the acting was absolutely fantastic. Strathairn, especially. I always liked him ever since watching League of Their Own and The River Wild. I think he's a great actor.

One thing that struck me was that there were only two scenes (I'm pretty sure) that didn't take place in the CBS offices. The first was the diner scene, and the second was the husband/wife at home scene. I'm not sure why that resonated with me--maybe it gave it more of a documentary feel. The interspersed footage certainly did. And the transition between Straitharn and McCarthy was seamless. It literally took me a few minutes to remember that it WAS McCarthy, not an actor, and it had actually happened. Very cool.

Anyway, I thought it was great.

Subtlety is underrated
Link to post
Share on other sites

nardis wrote:

: I was amazed by the recreation of Murrow's set, and by the feel for the period (right down to the really ugly

: wood panelling in the CBS offices). The costume details seemed very authentic, too . . .

Then again . . .

"Good Night, and Good Luck," the movie about Edward R. Murrow's battle to expose the demagoguery of Joseph R. McCarthy, has received both critical and popular acclaim. But the movie has its fervent detractors - and they aren't people nostalgic for the days of backyard fallout shelters. They are typographers and graphic designers. Their charge: typographical inaccuracy.

It appears that the CBS News sign, prominently displayed in the film's carefully reconstructed New York newsroom, uses the typeface Helvetica. But Helvetica was not designed until 1957, the year McCarthy died. The movie takes place in the early 1950's.

"I thought it was a bit jarring," said Michael Bierut, a graphic designer at Pentagram Studio in New York. "After all, even in 1957, Helvetica was an exotica Swiss import." . . .

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 11 months later...

Oh my. I returned to that New York Times article today when I came across this story on the 50th anniversary of Helvetica, and as I browsed around, I discovered this item from 15 months ago:

I was very happy to be included in a short article in today's
New York Times
(Good Film, Shame About the Helvetica) about designers who notice anachronistic font choices in films, but I was a bit taken aback when I received an email first thing this morning from the art director of
Good Night, And Good Luck
. She pointed out that Helvetica was
used in the film, contrary to what was claimed in the article. She said, rather, that the sign shown in the example frame was set in Akzidenz Grotesk, a face which predated (and in fact was the basis for) Helvetica, and that this choice was based on extensive research of CBS's graphic design during the period depicted in the film. . . .

If what she says is true (and she was very adamant about it), it is very unfortunate that
Good Night, And Good Luck
was chosen as the lead example in the article. Especially since its art director appears to be one of the rare people working in film who cares about getting the type details right.

Update: Thanks to some detective work by Stephen Coles, as reported at
, it has been confirmed that
Good Night, And Good Luck
really does use Akzidenz Grotesk.

Then again, if you check those links in the last paragraph, you will see that the matter might not be so resolved after all:


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 years later...

McCarthyism - From Reality to Metaphor

What struck me most about the film was the legacy of the witch hunt. In the 50?s, Arthur Miller's The Crucible metaphorically skewered McCarthyism by portraying the witch hunts of the late 17th century Salem, MA. And here, 50 years later, Clooney and company are using McCarthyism as an indictment on the removal of civil liberties for purposes of National security. In GN&GL, not hard to imagine the words Homeland Security Council in the place of the Unamerican Activities Council and the word ?terrorist? substituted for the word ?communist.? And regardless of one?s political views on the current administration, it strikes me that where McCarthyism was once the reality behind the metaphor, now it is the metaphor. Who knows, perhaps one day someone will make a film about the Patriot Act that?s actually a not-so-veiled indictment on, say, the presidential administration of 2064.

Yes, Yes, and Yes. And this is why we should all feel ashamed that we forgot to include it for our Best Films of the Decade lists, at least as a potential... Watched it again tonight (another $3 Big Bucks at Big Lots! DVD), and it is still perfect. Between this and the Gong show film, I'd really like to see Clooney direct more often.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 years later...

I took a surprise trip out-of-state this weekend, in a bit of a film panic as I'm somewhat attempting a black and white February and had no access to any of the films I'd arranged for myself to see.

Then I found this.

I hope to blog the film sometime in the next day or so, but just wanted to check in here and say this -- I really believe this film is a masterpiece. It's not the kind that makes you cry, and it's not the kind that pulls huge emotional strings on your heart. But it does everything it sets out to do, and it does them artistically, and it has a wry smile in the midst of an awful lot of space and silence, the tension of which is the most important thing in the film.

I think this is the kind of film which takes a few years to get a little credit. I had it listed at Netflix as a 3/5. I am certain I was thinking at the time that it was a 3-1/2 (Netflix offers no halves), and that I'd come back and adjust the rating because when I rated it, it had been a while since I'd seen it.

I watched it last night, and then the commentary too, and the 15 minute companion piece. I'm convinced this is a looked-over masterpiece, and I can't wait to read this thread and see any arguments against that... I can't wait to get home and do a little writing on it after the weekend.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the simple things that made the commentary (even more) interesting (and quite honestly Clooney himself is just plain fun to listen to, he's hilarious), was about the set design.

Um, excuse me? I think that's the first time I've ever said that.

It had to do with how the elevator worked, and the fact that to film the scene, the elevator wasn't going up and down, but sideways and simply changing the set to make it look like it arrived at a second floor. Simple, right? Then, at another point in the film when the elevator had three stops, they still only used two (sideways again) -- but the second one had a wall in back of it to make it look like another floor. Doors close, someone yanks the wall up, there it is, the third stop. Elevator doors open.

None of this has anything to do with the film (hopefully I'll get there later), as much as it does with Darren's Clooney comment.

I say this also because I remember watching that gong show film years ago, and watching the commentary, and being absolutely amazed at the way some of the shots in that film were pulled off. People running in front of the camera, to the side, running behind the set to come out the other side, to have the set changed while the camera was off it... etc etc.

So. Much. Fun.

I still haven't read this thread. I just got off work, back in town late last night. Will get to it today. smile.png

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...

Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, 2009, pgs. 195, 197-198 -

... First, a disclaimer.  With regard to Good Night, and Good Luck, George Clooney's strident political docudrama, I find myself in a difficult position.  I watched it and liked it.  Then I spent two hours on the Internet and changed my mind.


What remains is still the review I intended, but it is qualified by the obvious fact that liberal films like this are made to please liberals like me.  In terms of historical content, the film is neither honest nor quite true ...


Clooney clearly believes, like Murrow, that his editorializing has truth on its side.  He has a case.  Sometimes there is no "other side of the argument."  Nazis have no right of reply.  Ed Murrow made a bet that what was pinko liberal thinking in 1956 would prove to be a condition of basic humanity fifty years later.  He was wrong.  The basic human rights he defended are once again assailed.  Clooney is angry about that.


This must be why he cuts into his movie Murrow's selectively edited footage of McCarthy's interrogation of Annie Moss, an elderly, uneducated black woman whose Communist connections - McCarthy believed - had led her to seek a job inside the Pentagon.  We see this meek woman verbally bullied and cheated of her right to see the evidence put against her.  We are led to believe she knows nothing of the charges.  One senator tries to help her.  McCarthy leaves the hearing.  Bobby Kennedy sits at the end of the table of senators, failing to come to her aid.


What evil breeds where good men stay silent!  So we are meant to think.  And this is a true liberal principle, as is the principle that no one should be tried without seeing the evidence held against them.  Yet it remains disappointing to go on the Internet, in a shameful state of historical innocence, and discovery that Bobby Kennedy was a good friend of Senator McCarthy and that Annie Moss was, as it happens, a member of the Communist Party.  Clooney could have included gray areas such as this and still have made a fine liberal argument.  It's a sure sign that things are bad when the Left, like the Right, wants its history black and white.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I don't know enough about Zadie Smith, Jeremy. Your excerpt above has me highly intrigued.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 8 months later...

Alex von Tunzelmann @ Guardian gives it a B+ for entertainment and an A- for history, e.g.:


Good Night, and Good Luck was criticised by some on its release for making Murrow into too simplistic a hero. While most historical films simplify things, this one doesn’t completely sanctify its protagonist. After Murrow debates with McCarthy, his boss Bill Paley (Frank Langella) accuses him of not correcting the senator on one point of fact: that the lawyer and State Department official Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury, not treason. Paley suggests Murrow didn’t want to be seen defending a known communist. Joseph McCarthy – who effectively plays himself in the film, appearing in documentary footage – emerges as a straightforward villain, but he made that bed for himself and most historians have let him lie in it. . . .


“We don’t make the news,” says Paley. “We report the news.” As Murrow is drawn into a war with McCarthy, the station frets about its revenue. Good Night, and Good Luck does a fantastically clever job of intercutting real footage of McCarthy and other figures into its drama, mostly to serious effect – though there is a moment of levity when Murrow must interview Liberace. “Have you given much thought to getting married and eventually settling down?” Murrow asks the exceptionally camp but closeted performer. “I want to some day find a perfect mate,” the real Liberace replies in the documentary footage. “In fact I was reading about lovely young Princess Margaret, and she’s looking for her dream man too, and I hope she finds him some day.” Not even subtle. Remarkably, in 1959, Liberace won a lawsuit against the Daily Mirror after it implied he was what was then called a “homosexualist”. . . .


Good Night, and Good Luck cheats history a little by suggesting that Murrow’s show, See it Now, was pushed to a graveyard slot and then cancelled after the McCarthy reports. In real life, the show continued to broadcast in its primetime slot for another season before being rescheduled. The film can, perhaps, be forgiven for merging these events to create a more dramatic ending. . . .

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...