Good Night, and Good Luck

Good Night, and Good Luck Study Guide

In 1946, a former tail gunner during World War II was elected to represent Wisconsin in the United States Senate. His methods would become infamous in American history, known today as "McCarthyism." In a strikingly short period of time. Sen. Joseph McCarthy managed to lift himself from relative isolation and become a deeply feared public figure. His aggressive attacks on Communism struck fear into the hearts of many, as he began to ruin the careers and lives of public figures and civilians alike for any perceived allegiance to Communist ideologies. George Clooney’s 2005 Good Night, and Good Luck is the story of two television newscasters who put their careers and reputations on the line in order to challenge McCarthy's brute authority. As it turned out, the payoff was even higher than expected.

The film details how the most respected journalist in America in 1954—Edward R. Murrow—and CBS producer Fred Friendly crafted a series of episodes of Murrow’s popular show See it Now that exposed many Americans to McCarthy's deceptive, dishonest, and bullying tactics. Part of the reason McCarthy was able to wield such a wide influence was because most Americans were only seeing his side of the story. Good Night, and Good Luck is a film about the necessity of a free media to report the truth, provoke criticism and discussion, and educate the public. Although Murrow was not the first journalist to take on McCarthy and the Senator’s star was already sinking under the weight of his own lies, the popularity of Murrow’s show was instrumental in tanking McCarthy's career. George Clooney's film dramatizes this historical moment.

The title of the film comes from Edward R. Murrow’s signature sign-off slogan that he used to close his broadcasts. To lend a sense of historical authenticity to a film in which all archival footage was in black and white, director Clooney made the decision to make the film itself black and white. Good Night, and Good Luck was nominated for six Academy Awards, though it failed to win any of its categories, which included Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor.