Mary's Library

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fred Friendly

Somebody told me a George Clooney anecdote the other day. Cloony was sitting at the same table as my interlocutor at a celebration of some sort when a well-known figure walked into the room.

“Look,” said Clooney, “There’s Clem Cadiddlehopper. I’ve met him. I wonder if he remembers me.”

In his movie, “Good Night and Good Luck,” Clooney plays Fred Friendly, an understated character with the modesty the actor himself demonstrates in this possibly-apocryphal anecdote. The film is primarily about Edward R Murrow (one of Washington State University’s more distinguished alums) and the courage he and his producer, Friendly, exhibited by taking on Senator Joseph Macarthy on Murrow’s TV show, “See It Now.”

Friendly wrote an “occupational memoir” about those early days of television called Due to Circumstances Beyond Our Control . . . (©1967,) which arrived at our house yesterday. It may be a 40-year old book, but the story it tells of the struggle to make television something more than an “idiot box” continues.

For those too young to remember test patterns and the National Anthem when the networks signed off for the night, "circumstances beyond our control" was what appeared on the TV screen when the broadcast was interrupted by "technical difficulties."


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