This docudrama about Edward R. Murrow and the beginning of the battle between journalism and McCarthyism is absolutely fantastic. I really like the fact most everybody smoked. Too many pictures are trying to gloss over that part of our history.
This movie also covers a period a bit before my time. People were still talking about that time when I was a little kid, but it was officially over before I was born. What many thinking viewers will find surprising is just how much the McCarthy era mirrored Trump. It’s like McCarthy was a role model for Trump when McCarthy shouldn’t be a role model for anyone.
Realism and History
I love the fact they shot this in black & white. What everyone should find impressive is the “how television worked back then” aspect of this film. It’s difficult to tell from this still, but George Clooney’s character sat on the floor with headset, script, and other things. He spoke softly to Edward when he needed to communicate something that could not be done with a leg tap.
Yes, they communicated via leg tap.
Big name stars lined up to play little bitty roles in this film because it was that important of a film. Robert Downey Jr. played one half of a married couple who worked for the network.
This is a great story line many might miss. She used to have to remind him to take his wedding ring off before he left for work. Post WWII many companies had a “single family member” policy. This persisted into the 1980s and possibly beyond. I know when my manager at Airfone married a woman from another area of the company they got called into HR and told one of them would have to leave.
What you may think is brutal was actually prudent policy for shaky startup companies. Make no mistake. Early 1950 television was still a shaky start-up industry. Many stations signed off at midnight up until the 1980s. There wasn’t enough audience or content. Most stations didn’t start broadcasting again until 8am. Some rural local network outlets would start much earlier with local weather and grain markets because they served mostly farming communities.
Why Only Four Stars?
The only place where this fell short was in not going far enough.
They focused on the Edward R. Murrow story. The point in time when journalism actually began. Prior to this they were just talking heads droning facts. They included a fantastic real speech where he defined for the television audience what journalism was, it’s duties and its boundaries. That story they got down in spades.
Where it came up short was they didn’t tell today’s young audience enough of the McCarthyism story. Like Donald J. Trump, McCarthy thought whatever came out of his mouth should be reported as fact by all forms of press. Like Donald J. Trump, McCarthy focused on tearing down the media. Unlike Trump, McCarthy was actually getting people banned from working in the industry.
Read my review of Trumbo for a star studded movie about the victims of McCarthyism.
I faulted this movie for its assumption that today’s young audience would already know and understand what McCarthyism was and how closely it mirrored Donald J. Trump and the present. Other than that this is a truly enjoyable film to watch.