In the early 1950's, the threat of Communism created an air of paranoia in the United States and exploiting those fears was Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. However, CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow and his producer Fred W. Friendly decided to take a stand and challenge McCarthy and expose him for the fear monger he was. However, their actions took a great personal toll on both men, but they stood by their convictions and helped to bring down one of the most controversial senators in American history.Written by
Brian Washington <Sargebri@att.net>
Most of the text of Edward R. Murrow's speech bookending the movie is taken word-for-word from the actual keynote address he delivered to the 1958 RTNDA convention. The actual conclusion to the speech, after Murrow's line about television, used strictly for entertainment rather than education, being nothing more than wires and lights in a box, went as follows: "There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance, and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful. Stonewall Jackson, who knew something about the use of weapons, is reported to have said, 'When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.' The trouble with television, is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival." See more »
Bill Paley says to Murrow: "I'm taking your program from a half an hour to an hour." In fact, the program went from an hour to a half hour. See more »
In 1935, Ed Murrow began his career with CBS. When World War II broke out, it was his voice that brought the Battle of Britain home to us, through his "This Is London" radio series. He started with us all, many of us here tonight, when television was in its infancy, with the news documentary show, "See It Now." He threw stones at giants. Segregation, exploitation of migrant workers, apartheid, J. Edgar Hoover, not the least of which, his historical fight with Senator McCarthy. He ...
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Even the rating band at the tail of the film is in black and white. See more »
Strathairn and documentary footage produce a winner
This film was a real treat, with Strathairn's dead-on performance as legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow a sure bet for at least an Oscar nomination. Perhaps the best decision by writer-director George Clooney was to cast no one in the role of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Instead, Clooney uses actual footage of McCarthy in the HUAC hearings and press conferences. Movies based on actual historical events often sensationalize events, but the extensive use of documentary footage brings home the reality of this movie's story line.
In addition to Strathairn's best performance to date, the entire cast delivers, from Clooney himself as Murrow's producer Fred Friendly, to Frank Langella as CBS chairman William Paley, to Ray Wise as the insecure anchorman Don Hollenbeck. If there is a weak point in the cast, it is Jeff Daniels, who was given little to do in the role of news director Sig Mickelson and did little with it.
As most people today are acquainted with the 1950s through black-and-white images, the decision to film in black-and-white also feels appropriate, and helps the documentary footage to blend in seamlessly with the filmed actors. The only real failing of the movie is the lack of real drama. Throughout, Murrow and the gang are seen to have the upper hand, although they sweat about the potential consequences of every action. The slice of history, the ideas presented concerning the proper role of news media, and the terrific performances all more than make up for this, however, and I strongly recommend this film to those who lived through the McCarthy era and to those, such as myself, who only have witnessed it in the rear view mirror.
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