GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK., 10th Anniversary Screening
7 p.m. Thursday, February 19, 2015
53 Wall Street Auditorium
Introduction and Film Notes by Brian Meacham

Directed by George Clooney (2005) 93 mins
Written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov
Cinematography by Robert Elswit
Released by Warner Independent Pictures
Starring David Strathairn, George Clooney, Frank Langella, Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey, Jr., Jeff Daniels, and Dianne Reeves

"For this film, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK., I felt that the words were much more important. So I wanted the words to be the star, the silence to be the star. That meant the camera had to almost not exist at all. So the development for me as a director was in trying not to do what I had done before. This time I had to try and do exactly the opposite. I had to “sit” quietly, both in the musical score and the sound, and in the camera moves and editing. Part of it was simply Murrow writing really beautiful lines and David Strathairn, looking at the camera for a four and half minute speech, giving a great performance. In a way, you get credit for things you really had nothing to do with." —George Clooney

Growing up the son of a news anchor, George Clooney looked upon Edward R. Murrow as a family hero. He and coproducer Grant Heslov weighed a number of potential projects about the legendary newsman, but chose to write their own story, narrowing their focus to the period of time in the early 1950s when Murrow went head-to-head with Senator Joseph McCarthy over the senator’s anti-communist witch hunts. The film gives huge chunks of screen time to Strathairn reciting Murrow’s speeches, a daring move for a mainstream feature film. But the power of Murrow’s words is matched by the mastery of Straithairn’s performance. From mimicry of Murrow’s voice to the signature “Murrow look” to his cigarette-handling skills, Straithairn completely inhabits the role.

When it came to casting Senator McCarthy, Grant Heslov said, “We realized that whomever we got to play McCarthy, no matter how good they were, nobody was going to believe it…” So instead, they let the senator play himself, and the producers licensed 20 minutes of footage from the CBS News Archive, from speeches to McCarthy’s Senate hearings to segments from two of Murrow’s television programs, SEE IT NOW and PERSON TO PERSON. The footage was used on television monitors in the CBS News control room, as well as scenes showing the crew reviewing raw footage in the projection room. Since the televised hearing footage was in black and white, the producers decided to match the look in the rest of the film, and designed the film for release in black and white. The film was not shot in black and white, though: in order to maximize the tonal range, limit the graininess of the resulting image, and take advantage of long zoom lenses that worked best with color film stock, cinematographer Robert Elswit shot the film on Kodak color negative film, then used software to create a black and white digital intermediate, which was finally printed to black and white film stock.

The film was made on a tight budget, limited space, and a quick six-week shooting schedule. Set designer James Bissell designed all of the sets to fit on one soundstage, including a rotating elevator, so that each time the door opened, the elevator car had turned 90°, revealing a new floor located next to the previous one on the set. In addition, the same hallway could be decorated multiple times to stand in for various floors in the CBS building. In one scene, an elevator door opens to reveal the CBS Records office. Once the door is closed, the CBS Records wall was quickly removed by the crew, and when door reopened, a “new floor” was revealed, utilizing the same space.

DID YOU KNOW: During the making of the film, art director Christa Munro learned that Fox was dismantling the set for Sgt. Sipowicz's apartment from NYPD BLUE. The Sipowicz bedroom and bathroom became the apartment of the Wershbas (Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey, Jr.) and his kitchen and living room became the home of Don Hollenbeck (Ray Wise).

Presented in the Treasures from the Yale Film Archive series with support from Paul L. Joskow '70 M.Phil., '72 Ph.D. Printed Film Notes are distributed to the audience before each Treasures screening.

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Monday, April 10, 2023 - 2:07pm