Indecent exposure

Whenever Hollywood has tackled the subject of Joseph McCarthy and the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee, the results have tended to be fatuous if not downright embarrassing. George Clooney breaks through the barrier in Good Night, and Good Luck, a compelling portrayal of the last days of McCarthy’s influence.

Clooney, who directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay (with Grant Heslov), gets at McCarthy sideways by focusing on Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn, perfectly cast), the somber, stentorian commentator and interviewer who embodied CBS News in the 1950s. The movie—whose title comes from Murrow’s famous sign-off phrase—is about the decision by Murrow and producer Fred Friendly (played by Clooney himself) to take a stand against McCarthy’s wobbly, wild-shot accusations and the hysteria and paranoia that his pronouncements fueled.

 

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