Dianne Reeves: Movie Date
The first time Dianne Reeves made a small splash on the big screen was in 1991, playing a smoky jazz chanteuse in Guilty by Suspicion, an underappreciated dissection of the political witch hunt that swept through Hollywood in the late '40s. Now, more than a dozen years later, Reeves gets her second chance in the movies. The role? A smoky jazz chanteuse in a film about the 1950s Communist witch hunt. (Sound familiar?)
The black-and-white flick, Good Night, And Good Luck, features a showdown between pioneering radio and TV journalist Edward R. Murrow (superbly portrayed by David Strathairn) and Senator Joseph McCarthy (seen only in archival footage). The movie is the brainchild of George Clooney, who dons four hats-as producer, director, screenwriter and costar (he plays Murrow's longtime pal and CBS producer Fred Friendly). So determined to authentically capture the era that he had the prop department make up replica 1953 newspapers for each day of shooting, Clooney wanted every detail to be correct. Though Murrow's TV series, See It Now (which ended each week with the famous signoff "good night, and good luck"), focused almost exclusively on investigative news stories, CBS's Manhattan facilities also included a full-time, in-house orchestra and singer-and Clooney wanted a bona-fide vocalist for that role. A call went out to Reeves, who was preparing for a concert in Napa Valley. "I got out my little video cam," she recalls with a laugh, "we did 'How High the Moon,' sent [Clooney] the tape and that's how I ended up in the movie."
Backed by her regular pianist Peter Martin, drummer Jeff Hamilton, bassists Robert Hurst and Christoph Luty and saxophonist Matt Catingub, Reeves is seen or heard performing 14 tunes in the film; Concord released the soundtrack. Reeves says all the songs were "done with strict respect to the period." Some, like a cover of Nat "King" Cole's massive '53 hit "Pretend" and a sizzling "Pick Yourself Up" that captures the then-fervent mambo craze, simply help cement the film's historic accuracy. Others relate, with cheeky cleverness, to specific plot points. "For instance," Reeves says, "when McCarthy goes after Murrow and Murrow retaliates, we do 'I've Got My Eyes on You.'"
Elsewhere, Murrow's escalating frustration with McCarthy's harmful shenanigans is punctuated by "You're Driving Me Crazy," while the Dinah Washington ditty "TV Is the Thing" serves as a jaunty reminder of television's escalating power to influence public opinion. The one original tune on the soundtrack, heard over the closing credits, is the hauntingly beautiful "Who's Minding the Store?" cowritten by Rosemary Clooney's longtime manager Allen Sviridoff. Though Reeves shares only a one-line exchange with Clooney in the film, she gained eminent respect for him as a director. "Having grown up around his aunt," she reasons, "he tells stories like musicians do. He always knew exactly what he wanted and really knew how to relate to me as a singer. It was like I understood what he said before he even said it. He made it all so easy."