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George Clooney Goes Oscar Hunting with Joe McCarthy
August 22, 2005

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

George Clooney is directing and starring in a flick that will open the 43rd New York Film Festival come September.

The movie is titled "Good Night, and Good Luck," which also happens to be the signature sign-off phrase of the legendary news anchor Edward R. Murrow.

Don't let the hallmark words fool you into thinking that Clooney's flick is a single-focused celebration of the famed broadcaster. It isn't. Rather, it is chiefly a Hollywood hammering of the inexorably demonized Joe McCarthy.

Now, you have to understand that the mere mention of Senator McCarthy's name will silence a Hollywood gathering faster than a Pat Boone T-shirt at a MoveOn rally. With Clooney at the helm, there's no telling how far this ship will drift.

The script of the movie was penned by Clooney and Grant Heslov and reportedly tells the tale of how Murrow and his producer Fred Friendly (played by Clooney) confronted McCarthy.

This is the second time Clooney has sat in the director's chair. The first time he filled the seat was in 2002 when he directed "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," a film about "The Gong Show" host Chuck Barris.

Clooney's studio Web site describes "Good Night, and Good Luck" as the story of how, using the platform provided by his CBS News program "See It Now," "Murrow challenged McCarthy on his claims that hundreds of avowed Communists were working covertly as Soviet spies in the U.S. government..."

Do you suppose Clooney is going to include in his movie any info on the Verona cables, the declassified documents from the Soviet archives that provided evidence which showed some of the so-called victims of McCarthy were, in fact, Soviet spies? Don't hold your blacklist breath.

Clooney recently revealed that "this incident and time has been a passion of mine." Evidently, he views it as "one of the few times you could point to where broadcast journalism actually changed the world and people's minds."

Clooney has enjoyed a very successful acting run, from his TV days on "ER" to his big screen appearances in "Ocean's Eleven" and its sequel, "Ocean's Twelve," among others. He's made plenty of money and is at a point in his career where the coveted currency, which most clearly determines his standing amoung his peers, is measured in prestige. And, as we all know, prestige in Hollywood arrives courtesy of those little gold mantle adornments.

Buzz about the film being an Academy Award contender has already started. This comes as no surprise since the movie is based on a piece of history, as Oscar vehicles are prone to be.

In addition, artistic restraint was reportedly exercised, with film shooting being limited to black and white, and vintage news footage being employed to depict McCarthy as opposed to using a Hollywood actor. (Apparently, there was no resurrection of Hannibal Lector a la Oliver Stone's "Nixon.")

Clooney says that "there's an opportunity that one in a hundred young kids actually might learn who Murrow is and have some discussion and have some understanding of what and how dangerous a democracy can be if fear is used as a weapon."

Last time I checked the "fear as a weapon" strategy was being used by groups to cast Judge John Roberts as an abortion clinic bomber buddy.

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Copyright © 2005
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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