Cast & Crew
Robert Downey Jr.
At a banquet on 25 October 1958, members of the Radio and Television News Directors Association honor reporter Edward R. Murrow. The emcee outlines Murrow's many significant achievements, among them, his highly publicized fight with the junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy. Murrow then takes the podium and, knowing that his words are controversial, warns his colleagues that television is becoming a means to distract, delude, amuse and insulate the public from important issues. Five years earlier, on 14 October 1953, Murrow is the host of a prime-time weekly CBS television news documentary series, See It Now . He is assisted by his partner, producer Fred Friendly, and a dedicated team of young reporters consisting of Joe Wershba, Don Hewitt, Palmer Williams, Jesse Zousmer, John Aaron, Charlie Mack and Eddie Scott. The newsroom is bustling with activity in preparation for upcoming broadcasts. Alone in the photocopy room is Joe and his colleague Shirley, whom he has married secretly against company rules regarding nepotism. They are discussing a loyalty oath the studio is pressuring employees to sign, when a co-worker, finding them alone together, cryptically tells the couple that some rules are meant to be broken. Soon after, Murrow, Friendly and the reporters meet to brainstorm potential topics for an upcoming show. After the meeting ends inconclusively, Murrow remains behind to show Friendly a news item from Detroit reporting how Milo Radulovich, a lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve, has been declared a poor security risk based on possibly false accusations that his father and sister are Communists. The lieutenant is being decommissioned without trial on charges contained in a sealed envelope that neither he nor his attorney is allowed to see. Believing that McCarthy, who is leading investigations to smoke out persons who might be involved in Communist activities, is behind Radulovich's dismissal, Friendly sends Joe and Charlie to check out the story. A few days later, the news team views film footage shot by the reporters depicting Milo refusing to denounce his relatives in exchange for his Air Force commission. Despite opposition from two Army colonels and from Sig Mickelson, the head of the CBS news department who worries that the story is biased and will invite retribution from McCarthy, Murrow and Friendly decide to cover it and offer to pay for the episode themselves when Sig fears that the show's sponsor, Alcoa, will back out. On 20 October, the Radulovich story is featured on See It Now . Before the show, Murrow waits at the desk on the crowded soundstage, while Friendly, holding a stopwatch, sits beside him on the floor out of the camera's vision. In their usual manner, they banter in a dry-humored way, but both are anxiously aware of the risk they are taking by airing the story. During the show, Murrow explains Regulation 35-62, which names a person as a security risk, if he is in "close and continual contact" with Communist sympathizers. He explains that Radulovich's loyalty has not been questioned and that "the son should not bear the sins of the father." In conclusion, he reminds the audience that no one knows whether the accusations against Radulovich are based on hearsay or facts. Days later, the CBS late night news host, Don Hollenbeck, is distraught that he is being targeted by McCarthy's cohorts. Soon after, Joe is presented with flimsy evidence that Murrow had previously been on the Soviet payroll. Although Murrow's reputation remains unquestioned by everyone who knows him, William S. Paley, his longtime friend and chairman of CBS, worries that the studio will become McCarthy's target. To protect Murrow, Friendly decides that McCarthy's scare tactics should be featured in an upcoming show. When team members worry about the backlash, Murrow says they must do the show, because "terror is in this room." On 9 March 1954, Paley calls Murrow prior to the show's broadcast to give his blessing. Using film footage of McCarthy and the senator's own quotes, Murrow highlights inadequacies in McCarthy's investigations and eloquently points out that "dissent is not disloyalty," nor is accusation proof, and that conviction must depend on solid evidence and due process. Gallantly, Murrow offers McCarthy the chance for rebuttal in a later show. After the show, reviews are mostly favorable, hailing the piece as a masterpiece of crusading journalism, and statistics disclose that the country is behind Murrow fifteen to one. However, one reviewer loyal to McCarthy accuses See It Now , CBS and Hollenbeck of Communist ties. A few weeks later, Murrow opens See It Now with a brief introduction and then, without comment, presents a film prepared by McCarthy. In his rebuttal, McCarthy does not address any of the issues Murrow had brought up, but spends his airtime making shallow accusations that Murrow is a Communist sympathizer. The following week, Murrow clearly denies the accusations made by McCarthy and concludes that McCarthy's opinion is that anyone who opposes him is a Communist and, further, suggests that mature Americans can engage in conversation with Communists without conversion. In the ensuing weeks, the team is pleased to learn that Radulovich is being reinstated by the Air Force and that the Army is pressuring the Senate to investigate McCarthy. However, their joy is short-lived when Hollenbeck, unable to withstand numerous public accusations that he is disloyal to his country, commits suicide. Sig startles Joe and Shirley by telling them that everyone knows they are married and, after confiding that he must lay off personnel, asks one of them to quit voluntarily. Paley tells Friendly and Murrow that Alcoa has dropped their sponsorship. To make room for the entertainment and game shows that affiliates have been requesting, Paley moves See It Now to an irregular Sunday slot. In the hallway, Murrow and Friendly realize that, like McCarthy, they still have their jobs, but are in less prominent positions. They decide to make the best of it and produce a few episodes on hard-hitting, significant topics. Several years later, at the 1958 banquet, Murrow concludes his speech by pleading that television can occasionally provide educational programs. He says that, "This instrument can teach¿illuminate¿inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box."
Robert Downey Jr.
Robert John Burke
David Paul Christian
Ellis J. Barbacoff
Melissa V. Barnes
Jenny D. Baum
Christopher D. Brearton
Kimberly Felix Burke
P. John Burke
J. A. Byerly
John T. Connor
Louise Del Araujo
Robert Danté Denne
Robert E. Denne
Kenneth T. Deutsch
Edward A. Giron
Melinda Sue Gordon
Barbara A. Hall
Barbara A. Hall
Karen D. Higgins
Mary Jo Lang
Douglas B. Mcclure
Scott A. Morgan
John P. Morris
Diane Hassinger Newman
William Scott Pierson
David D. Scott
Jill L. Smith
Patrick L. Sullivan
John Joseph Thomas
Steve R. Valenzuela
Earl "the Badger" Williams
Matthew W. Williams
Ryan Piers Williams
Best Original Screenplay
A working title of the film was Murrow and Me. Good Night, and Good Luck was released in black and white. Logos and onscreen credits for most of the film's production and distribution companies appear before the title card, which precedes the film's opening sequence. All other credits appear after the film. The first listing of onscreen cast credits ends with "and Diane Reeves," the name of the singer who, with a jazz combo, performs musical interludes of 1950s-era standards that comment indirectly on the action of the film and occasionally continue as soundtrack under brief montages. Some sources erroneously reported the name of the character played by Jeff Daniels as "Ted Church."
The date of each sequence is superimposed over the action at the start of the scene, with the place occasionally added for clarity. The film commences with the beginning of a 1958 speech by broadcast journalist "Edward R. Murrow," portrayed by actor David Strathairn, to the Radio and Television News Directors Association. After the story flashes back to October 14, 1953, a written prologue scrolling over the action states that Americans were concerned about the threat of Communism throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and that Senator Joseph R. McCarthy was leading a campaign to identify Communist party members. The statement ends by stating that few in the press stood up to McCarthy for fear of being targeted.
The phrase, "Good night, and good luck," was the real-life Murrow's signoff on his radio and television programs, a custom he began in his early years as a CBS news correspondent. The career of Murrow (1908-1965), who is still considered the model of integrity and thoughtful broadcast journalism by current newsmen, came to prominence during World War II when, as a CBS radio correspondent, he made a series of broadcasts from England, beginning with another one of his signature phrases, "This is London." The many reporters and producers Murrow mentored during the early days at CBS were referred to as "Murrow's Boys" and went on to become leaders in their field. After the war, among Murrow's many activities was the creation of spoken-word historical albums, called I Can Hear It Now, which was his first venture with producer Fred Friendly (portrayed in the film by director and co-writer George Clooney).
In 1950, Murrow and Friendly co-produced the weekly radio show for CBS, Hear It Now, which they moved to television in 1951 and renamed See It Now. Among the topics covered on the show, in addition to Radulovich and McCarthy, which were shown in Good Night, and Good Luck, were the painter Grandma Moses, J. Robert Oppenheimer and nuclear technology, and the relationship between cigarette smoking and cancer. The series ran until 1955, when, as shown in the film, Alcoa Aluminum withdrew its sponsorship. As mentioned in the film, the show was aired irregularly during its last year. In 1953, Murrow began hosting a second weekly television show, Person to Person, which featured celebrity interviews and was a popular cultural phenomenon.
During the early 1950s, McCarthy (1908-1957), a Republican junior senator from Wisconsin, chaired the Senate Committee on Government Operations and its Subcommittee on Investigations. In search of Communists who had infiltrated the government, as well as other positions in the nation, the committee investigated and questioned a large number of people about their political pasts, most of whom ultimately were proven to be innocent of Communist affiliation. To clear themselves, the witnesses, who often were targeted for minor events in their lives, were expected to name others they knew who had links, however tenuous, to Communist organizations. Anyone protesting the committee's actions risked becoming a target, and a climate of fear developed.
As depicted in the film, one of those highlighted by McCarthy's investigations was first generation Yugoslavian-American, Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Milo Radulovich, who was discharged from the service because his sister and non-English speaking father were accused of being Communist sympathizers. These accusations were based on the family's subscription to the American Slav Congress, a newspaper that had been designated as Communist by the U.S. Attorney General. A month after Murrow featured Radulovich's story in an episode of See It Now and suggested that the son should not be punished for the sins of his father, the Army rescinded Radulovich's discharge. Murrow and his colleagues became a target for McCarthy's inquisition, which led to their decision to strike preemptively by devoting an episode entitled "A Report on Senator Joseph McCarthy." The program was positively received all over the country and one of several incidents that influenced American public opinion against McCarthy and McCarthyism.
According to the official website for Good Night, and Good Luck, the legendary Murrow was a "hero" to the family of George Clooney, whose father Nick was a news-anchor for thirty years. Wanting to do a project about Murrow, Clooney considered writing a television movie about the reporter, which he envisioned as a live broadcast similar to one of his previous projects, Fail Safe, which aired on CBS in 2000. According to the Baseline Studio Systems website, Maysville Pictures was the production company attached to the project when it was in development as a live television movie at CBS for the 1999-2000 season. After CBS turned the project down, Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov (who also portrayed "Don Hewitt" in the film) decided to write their homage to Murrow as a feature film, focusing on a specific period of time instead of creating a traditional biopic.
According to an October 2005 Los Angeles Daily News article, because Clooney and Heslov expected that critics would marginalize any Murrow film for the smallest inaccuracies in the story, they were as scrupulous as possible in their recreation, double-sourcing every event just as a reporter would. Several of Murrow's See It Now telecasts and portions of his banquet speech were reproduced verbatim in the film. In an October 2005 Premiere interview, Clooney stated that he and Heslov interviewed Milo Radulovich and members of Murrow's and Fred Friendly's families. The production notes stated that Radulovich, Joe and Shirley Wershba, and members of Friendly's family were present at the initial read-through of the script, and the Wershbas served as consultants to the film.
Clooney used original 1950s footage of the senator, because, according to the film's production notes, Clooney and Heslov decided that no actor could convincingly play McCarthy without inviting criticism of a biased portrayal. In a November 2005 Sight&Sound interview, Clooney explained, "people would have said we were making him too harsh or too feeble," if an actor had portrayed him. In order to match the original 1950s footage and also to capture the look of early television shows, the rest of the film, although shot in color, was converted to black and white.
The original footage of Radulovich shown on See It Now, which was captured by the real-life reporter Joe Wershba, was intercut with modern footage of Robert Downey, Jr., who played him in the film. Original television commercials advertising Alcoa Aluminum and Kent Cigarettes are included in the film. Also included is footage of Liberace and Gina Lollobrigida from Murrow's actual Person to Person interviews, which are intercut with shots of Strathairn portraying Murrow, who was normally in the studio while the celebrities he interviewed were seen in their homes or other remote locations. Also used in the film is original, restored footage of McCarthy's committee hearings, including portions of an interrogation of Annie Lee Moss and footage showing Joseph Welch, the attorney for the Army, challenge McCarthy with his now famous question, "Have you no sense of decency...?" The latter, which was witnessed by millions of viewers, was originally aired on the ABC and DuMont networks on June 9, 1954 during the Army-McCarthy Hearings (which ran from 22 April-17 June 1954).
Although, according to an October 2005 Los Angeles Daily News article, Clooney originally considered playing the part of Murrow himself, he decided that his own wise-cracking, playboy image would tarnish his portrayal of the legendary figure, who "always looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders." Instead, the role was filled by Strathairn, who many reviewers lauded for being able to capture the essence of Murrow rather than merely imitate him. As noted in the Citybeat and other reviews, ensemble scenes set in the studio offices were portrayed "realistically chaotic" by brisk, overlapping dialogue, which the actors often improvised. Many of the characters in the film are never introduced by name, although press notes distributed at screenings included short biographies of the characters' real-life counterparts. The official website for Good Night, and Good Luck presented the biographies, as well as supplementary background information detailing events in the story that are not explained during the film.
The production notes reported that Murrow's cramped See It Now set was authentically replicated. An authentic piece of 1950s ambience, as noted in several reviews, was the highly visible presence of the smoke of cigarettes, which the actors continuously inhaled. Murrow, who was rarely seen on air without a cigarette, died of lung cancer in 1965. Another atmospheric element of the film was the jazz combo featuring Dianne Reeves performing for a musical variety show, Shower of Stars (an actual monthly musical variety show on CBS between 1954 and 1958), on a soundstage down the hall from Murrow's.
During a conversation early in the film, Murrow and Fred mention "the Alsop Brothers" and "Block." Joseph and Stewart Alsop were political journalists for the New York Herald Tribune, Saturday Evening Post, and Newsweek. Herbert Block, was a Washington Post editorial cartoonist who, in his now famous cartoon published in 1950, coined the phrase "McCarthyism," a term that became synonymous with political "witch-hunts" and anti-Communist hysteria. The cartoon depicted four Republicans trying to force a balky elephant (the traditional symbol of their political party) onto a stack of buckets containing tar, which were labeled "McCarthyism."
According to modern sources, Murrow's 1958 speech damaged his long friendship with CBS chairman William S. Paley (1901-1990), and in 1961 he resigned from CBS to head the United States Information Agency. Friendly was promoted to head of the CBS News Division in 1964, but resigned in 1966, after the network decided to air a rerun of the comedy, I Love Lucy, instead of broadcasting live coverage of the Senate's hearings on the country's involvement in Vietnam. Don Hewitt, and Joe and Shirley Wershba, the latter portrayed by Patricia Clarkson in the film, became producers of the groundbreaking CBS news magazine program, 60 Minutes, a decade later.
According to Clooney's website, the budget for Good Night, and Good Luck was $7.5 million and the cast and crew worked for "scale" wages. A contemporary website added to the cast Joseph Dowd (Reporter), Katharine Phillips Moser (Jesse Zousmer's wife) and Bruna Raynaud (Sig Mickelson's wife).
Good Night, and Good Luck had its premiere as the opening film at the September 2005 Venice Film Festival, where it won five of the six awards for which it was nominated. The picture also was the closing film for the London Film Festival on November 3, 2005. In addition to being named one of AFI's ten Movies of the Year for 2005, Good Night, and Good Luck received acknowledgments from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for Best Cinematography and from the National Board of Review for Best Picture. The film received Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Male Lead and Best Cinematography.
Good Night, and Good Luck was nominated for six Academy Awards, for Best Picture, Directing, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction and Actor (Strathairn). The film also received Golden Globe nominations, for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama and Best Screenplay-Motion Picture. Other nominations include Best Production from the Producers Guild of America, Best Original Screenplay from the Writers Guild of America, and Best Director from the Directors Guild of America. The Screen Actors Guild nominated Strathairn for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role and the ensemble for Outstanding Acting by a Cast. The Broadcast Film Critics Association awarded the picture their Freedom Award and nominated the film for Best Picture, Best Actor (Strathairn), Best Acting Ensemble, Best Director and Best Writer.
Winner of the 2005 award for Best Cinematography by the Boston Society of Film Critics (BSFC).
Winner of the 2005 award for Best Cinematography by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA).
Winner of the 2005 award for Best Film by the National Board of Review (NBR).
Winner of the 2005 award for Best Screenplay by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle (SFFCC).
Winner of two 2005 Satellite Awards including Best Original Screenplay and Best Art Direction/Production Design by the International Press Academy (IPA).
Limited Release in United States October 7, 2005
Released in United States Fall October 7, 2005
Released in United States on Video March 14, 2006
Released in United States 2005
Shown at London Film Festival (Closing Night) October 19-November 3, 2005.
Shown at New York Film Festival (Opening Night) September 22 - October 9, 2005.
Shown at Venice International Film Festival (Competition) August 31-September 10, 2005.
Originally in development as a live TV Movie at CBS with Maysville Pictures attached as production company for the 1999-2000 season. Rolled over until 2003-2004 season with Section 8 (aka Maysville Productions) until CBS dropped out of project.
Project shot in black-and-white in order to use original on-air footage with Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
Limited Release in United States October 7, 2005
Released in United States Fall October 7, 2005
Released in United States on Video March 14, 2006
Released in United States 2005 (Shown at London Film Festival (Closing Night) October 19-November 3, 2005.)
Voted one of the 10 best films of 2005 by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Released in United States 2005 (Shown at New York Film Festival (Opening Night) September 22 - October 9, 2005.)
Released in United States 2005 (Shown at Venice International Film Festival (Competition) August 31-September 10, 2005.)