By Lauren DiSpirito
When Sen. Joseph McCarthy launched fervent and unsubstantiated accusations of treason against Americans, broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow decided he was not going to stand by idly. The popular CBS newsman exposed the tactics of political intimidation and fear that embodied McCarthy’s sensational public outcries.
The 2005 docudrama “Good Night, and Good Luck” – directed and co-written by George Clooney, who also costars – revisits the 1950s era of anti-communist and isolationist sentiments, providing a rich account of actual events that shaped the role of television and media today.
Murrow battled the muckraking senator and won, reaffirming the American people with his famed line: “We will not walk in fear of one another.”
Being that Clooney’s father was a long-time midwestern TV anchor and that he himself once considered a career in journalism, it should come as no surprise that the writer/actor/director was behind the production of this Oscar-nominated film.
Though originally shot on color stock, the film was released in black and white, providing a luminous finish that perfectly evokes the feel of the 1950s.
Archive footage of McCarthy presiding over the House Un-American Activities Committee fits seamlessly into the drama. (Rumor has it that test audiences, unaware that old news footage was employed, felt the “performer” who “played” McCarthy was overacting.)
As one critic marveled, the “picture is so rich and so tactile, you want to reach out and touch it.” Musical interludes, featuring the jazz vocals of Grammy-winner Dianne Reeves, also project a retro feel.
This high-minded film is not just a time capsule of the Cold War era; rather, it offers a civic lesson that remains relevant today. Clooney has cited current events as inspiration for the film, expressing his view that the U.S. government uses “fear to attack civil liberties.”
The implication of Murrow’s message can easily be applied to contemporary times, warning of the danger of allowing the TV industry to become a vehicle used to “distract, delude, amuse and insulate.”
An entertaining as well as socially and politically important film, “Good Night, and Good Luck” will be shown four times on campus in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission to all screenings is $3.50 for students with proper ID and $5 for all others. Dr. Matthew Kerbel, professor of political science at Villanova, will introduce the film and lead a discussion following the Monday evening screening.
For more information, contact the communication department at X9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS Web page: www.culturalfilms.villanova.edu.