Skip to comments.Murrow vs. McCarthy
Posted on 12/06/2005 1:47:03 PM PST by smoothsailing
December 06, 2005, 3:05 p.m.
Murrow vs. McCarthy
Here is a coincidence of extra-parochial interest.
Hollywood releases a movie featuring (the late, lamented) Edward R. Murrow and (the late, unlamented) Senator Joe McCarthy. It is called Good Night, and Good Luck, and it portrays a famous broadcast denouncing McCarthy, shown in March 1954, on the eve of the Army-McCarthy hearings.
Murrow concluded his half-hour blast by inviting McCarthy to take the half-hour slot the following week to reply to Murrow's charges.
McCarthy's office advised CBS that the senator had decided to turn his half hour over to William Buckley to reply to Murrow. The film depicts this scene. William Paley, CBS boss, is leaving the office with Fred Friendly, Murrow's producer. "They want to give the time to William Buckley," Paley says. "I'm opposed." Friendly agrees.
A few weeks have gone by since the film was released. In Stamford, Connecticut, on Saturday, Buckley is seen at a movie house watching Good Night, and Good Luck. "Are you going to comment on it?" a fellow viewer asks at the film's close. Buckley says, "I don't think so. I've written two books about McCarthy."
But the next day there are large headlines in the Stamford Advocate, which is co-sponsoring an evening this very evening, Tuesday, December 6 featuring an award to Buckley by the distinguished Ferguson Library of Stamford, the first-ever Ferguson Award. It was 51 years ago that McCarthy named Buckley as best-equipped to answer Murrow, and now tonight!! he can do so in the heart of Stamford, Connecticut.
The Ferguson Library is an intensively active culture center presided over by a librarian determined to exhaust every advance in modern technology to elevate the literacy of the community. Ernest DiMattia has of course books and periodicals, but also films and computers and multicolored simultaneous translators the Ferguson Library is the most concentrated aggregation of cultural hypodermics this side of the next world's fair.
The evening is not designed to elicit my views on Edward R. Murrow's views on Joe McCarthy, but the Stamford Advocate is a newspaper, and perhaps will look me in the face before the evening is over and say: Well. What would you have said, in March 1954, if the cameras had rolled and you were talking back to Edward R. Murrow?
If that happens, I'll probably say what is correct, namely that my own study of McCarthy ended with his activity in September 1953, that his fight with the Army, which was what the fracas was about in 1954 which got him censured, and which loosed Edward R. Murrow was something else, that McCarthy had thrown restraint to one side, that he was deep in booze in those days and did some flatly inexcusable things, for instance his attack on General Ralph Zwicker.
But, if pressed, I'd have recalled that the current movie makes a heroine out of Annie Lee Moss, the black code clerk allegedly mistaken by McCarthy for another Annie Lee Moss, who was indeed a member of the Communist Party. Never mind, what mattered in the current production was melodrama, and orderly thought bars chiasmic effects: McCarthy smeared the opposition/The opposition smeared McCarthy.
Murrow accomplished this mostly by camera manipulation. When he died, in 1965, I reflected on the point in National Review. Murrow had uniquely the skill to wrest the highest dramatic content out of any situation. There were the bad boys and the good boys; and he was the good boys' best boy on TV. But more than just that, he did develop a form, he and Fred Friendly, that hadn't been fully developed theretofore. It went like this: PAN ON FULL FACE OF SENATOR MCCARTHY. He is perspiring and weaving a little in front of a microphone, preparing to speak. No music. Total silence. Then the Senator lets out a long burp. SHIFT TO ED MURROW. "Ladies and gentlemen, this evening we'll take a look at Senator McCarthy . . ."
That half-hour on McCarthy was Murrow's most important show. All the obituary writers mentioned it, and the great courage it took to attack Senator McCarthy which certainly indicated that this is a nation whose people are courageous, since everybody was doing it, or at least everybody who counts. Everybody moral. And Edward R. Murow was the most moral man on television, because he had the guts to show up Senator McCarthy for what he was.
The lonely demurral came from the television critic for The New Yorker. He made the point that there wasn't anybody in the world you couldn't demolish by doing to him what Murrow did to McCarthy. If there were five million feet of film on St. Francis of Assisi, you could probably find a shot of him running away naked from his father's house (he did), and Ed Murrow could prove he was an exhibitionist and a poseur (he affected to talk to the birds!).
I don't know what I'd have said on CBS, if cleared by management to come on. At this remove, one has only passing thoughts.
Interesting .. I had not heard of Buckley's involvement (or near involvement). I wonder what his books on McCarthy are like.
Not surprisingly, "Good Night and Good Luck" was a complete bomb at the theaters. Nobody except for a dwindling number of aging lefties really cares about that stuff anymore.
Murrow...Liberal...Media person...Communist sympathizer who couldn't figure out how to get on the payroll without attracting attention...loved by liberals...loved by Communists...loved by Hollywood...
McCarthy...youngest judge to serve in his state, left that and served in the US Marines in WWII with distinction, got in there against the advice of everyone, thought it was a bad idea for America's avowed enemies to have access to our government jobs or military jobs...sacrificed his reputation, his sobriety and eventually his life in an effort to expose the problem of Communists in the government...hated by liberals...hated by communists...hated by Hollywood...
Okay. I'm going with McCarthy.
Nothing damages a liberal's crusade like truth.
"Not surprisingly, "Good Night and Good Luck" was a complete bomb at the theaters. Nobody except for a dwindling number of aging lefties really cares about that stuff anymore."
It was really low budget though ($7 million) ...it still made 200% profit before advertising costs.
Clooney drops another bomb. He should stick to vampire movies where his particular type of acting/directing skill can really shine...
$21M after nine weeks.
Doesn't really sound like a DVD movie either, so they'll probably lose money on this one.
McCarthy was far and away his own worst enemy, and the bad name some of his tactics gave anti-communism have been a huge cross to bear for conservatives. I think conservatism and the country would have been much better off if he'd never existed.
WELL SAID! Cut right to the chase!
With a passion. They hated him then, the way liberals hate George W. Bush now.
Thanks for that link.
It was heavily promoted, I'd suspect those advertising costs took a big cut of the before-advertising profits.
Sacrificed his sobriety? WTF?? Was he trying to fight Communists by drinking them under the table?
"It was heavily promoted, I'd suspect those advertising costs took a big cut of the before-advertising profits."
Between my channel selection and my Tivo I must have missed the commercials - I mainly just saw "news stories" about the film.
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