Good Night, and Good Luck

Good Night, and Good Luck Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Darkness (Motif)

After every news segment, there is a moment in which we see the light that has been illuminating Murrow go out. For a moment, Murrow sits in darkness in a kind of suspension following whatever he reported on. Depending on the segment, the suspension can reveal different emotional timbres. For instance, after the interview with Liberace, the darkness shows us that Murrow doesn't care much for doing interviews with celebrities, and we see his disappointment as he sits in the darkness. Following his segments on Milo Radulovich and McCarthy, the moment in darkness represents the fact that Murrow and the others do not know how the segment went or if it was a success. Murrow is literally and figuratively "in the dark" about the program.

Overlapping Voices and Footage (Motif)

Throughout the film, scenes and footage bleed into one another and transitions have a loose and fluid quality rather than an abrupt one. On one level, this weaves together the history and the dramatization in seamless ways, conflating the past and the present. Additionally, it shows the multifariousness and simultaneity of the atmosphere in a news station—a lot of things are happening at once. It also highlights the dramatic and political tension at the core of the film. At times, we listen as McCarthy trials play over the top of the newsman who get drowned out by his voice. The symbolism here is that McCarthy drowned out the voices of the American people during his HUAC investigations. By layering different footage, the film shows the ways that certain voices were getting drowned out at this time, and the ways that Murrow fought back against this phenomena.

Tapping Foot (Symbol)

Murrow is able to stay even and calm in his emotions during most situations, but before the McCarthy show we see him tapping his foot beneath his desk. His tapping foot symbolizes his nervousness and the fact that this segment is the one that really counts and that could irrevocably compromise his career if it goes wrong. This story that is about to happen with the junior senator is one of the biggest he's ever had to go toe to toe with and his tapping foot shows this.

Black and White (Motif)

The film is shot in black and white, which is both an aesthetic choice used to orient the viewer in the 1950s, when television footage was all in black and white, and a way of suggesting symbolically that during the HUAC trials most Americans believed that all issues were solved with black and white logic. The grays in the issues were overlooked and McCarthy was able to sway the American public using his anti-communist agenda, which preyed on people's sense of right and wrong. Murrow's strength was his ability to help the public look at issues with a more nuanced perspective, to see the grey in a situation. The black and white of the film helps to highlight this fact.

Jazz (Motif)

At various points in the film, jazz overtakes the soundtrack and we see the jazz singer Dianne Reeves singing, either in a recording studio or at the bar where the journalists are hanging out. The jazz often underscores the emotional tone of the scene. While the journalists are very serious and snappy in their dialogue, often hiding their emotions under the surface, the jazz music in the soundtrack serves to explicate their moods and feelings. When they go out to the bar to celebrate their success, a more festive and playful song underscores their experience. When Don Hollenbeck commits suicide, a melancholic, more reflective song plays. Jazz is a vehicle for expressing emotion in Good Night, and Good Luck.