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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

A MOMENT OF REFLECTION: In the newsroom, Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), with an ever-present cigarette in his hand, reflects on the content of an upcoming broadcast.

Good Night, and Good Luck: Edward R. Murrow's Role in Demise of McCarthyism Revisited

Movie Review by Kam Williams

To this day, some still consider Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) to be the most distinguished figure in the history of American journalism. Hailing from Polecat Creek, North Carolina, the legendary broadcaster started out as a radio reporter soon after joining the fledgling CBS Network in the mid-thirties.

As head of its European bureau, he covered critical events unfolding overseas prior to and during World War II. Exhibiting calmness and courage, he daily narrated riveting, eyewitness descriptions of the arrival of the Nazis in Austria in 1938. Later, he broadcast live accounts of the German air raids from rooftops in London during the Battle of Britain.

In the fifties, with the advent of television, Murrow made a smooth transition to the emerging medium, adapting Hear It Now, his radio program, into a television show, See It Now (1951-1958). His characteristic directness, tempered with restraint, resonated with television audiences across the country.

He had continued success with Person to Person (1953-1961), a series which featured a celebrity chat format. However, Murrow is best remembered for his hard hitting, investigative work and the courage he displayed in standing up to the witch hunt being conducted by anti-Communist crusader Joe McCarthy between 1947 and 1954.

McCarthy, the junior Senator from Wisconsin, was a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which held hearings that resulted in the censorship and blacklisting of anyone with the slightest ties to communism —the so-called Red Menace.

The pivotal role played by Edward R. Murrow in the demise of McCarthyism is the subject of Good Night, and Good Luck, set in 1953-54 and shot in black-and-white by writer/director George Clooney who also appears as the high ranking CBS executive Fred W. Friendly. David Strathairn stars as Murrow, while McCarthy (who died of alcoholism in 1957) plays himself, via the magic of computer technology.

The cast includes Frank Langella as CBS founder William Paley, Grant Heslov as his colleague, Don Hewitt. Oscar-nominees Robert Downey, Jr. (Chaplin) and Patricia Clarkson (Pieces of April) play Joe and Shirley Wershba, employees who had to hide their marital status due to the company's policy against hiring married couples. Jeff Daniels appears as Sig Mickelson, and jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves does a phenomenal job of performing some of Rosemary Clooney's songs, using the original arrangements and accompanied by Ms. Clooney's band.

Good Night, and Good Luck effectively recreates the paranoia which had permeated the U.S. during the Cold War by transporting its audience back a half-century, imperceptibly weaving old newsreels in with painstakingly-recreated tableaus. Though the chain-smoking Murrow emerges as the hero, he is upstaged by the technical wizardry which has him sharing scenes with newsreels of cultural icons such as Robert F. Kennedy and Roy Cohn, both of whom served on the HUAC as young attorneys.

Excellent (4 stars). Rating: PG for mature themes and brief profanity. Running time: 93 minutes. Studio: Warner Independent Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.



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