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Network

Network – 1976
Television will never be the same!

Director
Sidney Lumet

Writer
Paddy Chayefsky

Producers
Fred C. Caruso associate producer (as Fred Caruso)
Howard Gottfried producer

Cast
Faye Dunaway – Diana Christensen
William Holden – Max Schumacher
Peter Finch – Howard Beale
Robert Duvall – Frank Hackett
Wesley Addy – Nelson Chaney
Ned Beatty – Arthur Jensen
Arthur Burghardt – Great Ahmed Kahn
Bill Burrows – TV Director
John Carpenter – George Bosch
Jordan Charney – Harry Hunter
Kathy Cronkite – Mary Ann Gifford
Ed Crowley – Joe Donnelly
Jerome Dempsey – Walter C. Amundsen
Conchata Ferrell – Barbara Schlesinger
Gene Gross – Milton K. Steinman
Stanley Grover – Jack Snowden
Cindy Grover – Caroline Schumacher
Darryl Hickman – Bill Herron
Mitchell Jason – Arthur Zangwill
Paul Jenkins – TV Stage Manager
Ken Kercheval – Merrill Grant
Kenneth Kimmins – Associate Producer
Lynn Klugman – TV Production Assistant
Carolyn Krigbaum – Max’s Secretary
Zane Lasky – Audio Man
Michael Lipton – Tommy Pellegrino
Michael Lombard – Willie Stein
Pirie MacDonald – Herb Thackeray
Russ Petranto – TV Associate Director
Bernard Pollock – Lou
Roy Poole – Sam Haywood
William Prince – Edward George Ruddy
Sasha von Scherler – Helen Miggs
Lane Smith – Robert McDonough
Ted Sorel – Giannini (as Theodore Sorel)
Beatrice Straight – Louise Schumacher
Fred Stuthman – Mosaic Figure
Cameron Thomas – TV Technical Director
Marlene Warfield – Laureen Hobbs
Lydia Wilen – Hunter’s Secretary
Lee Richardson – Narrator (voice)
John Chancellor – Himself (news anchorman) (archive footage) (uncredited)
Walter Cronkite – Himself (news anchorman) (archive footage) (uncredited)
Andrew Duncan – Agent (uncredited)
Todd Everett – Reporter (uncredited)
Betty Ford – Herself (beside her husband) (archive footage) (uncredited)
Gerald Ford – Himself (speech on assassination attempts) (archive footage) (uncredited)
Lance Henriksen – Network lawyer at Khan’s place (uncredited)
Howard K. Smith – Himself (news anchorman) (archive footage) (uncredited)
David Susskind – Himself (conducts interview) (archive footage) (uncredited)
Ahmed Yamani – Himself (at OPEC conference) (archive footage) (uncredited)

Plot:
In 1975 terrorist violence is the stuff of network nightly news programming and the corporate structure of the UBS television network is changing. Meanwhile, Howard Beale, the aging UBS news anchor, has lost his once strong ratings share and so the network fires him. Beale reacts in an unexpected way. We then see how this affects the fortunes of Beale, his coworkers (Max Schumacher and Diana Christensen), and the network.

¬∑ A fourth network is struggling for ratings and turns it’s News division over to the entertainment division. As one of the ramifications of this move the news Anchor is fired. He goes on the air with a wonderfully daffy rant and rave session culminating in his insisting that people go to the windows and yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.” His ravings make him an Icon as the need to sell begins to overwhelm everyone touched by the network.
Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is an ageing TV anchorman for UBS who is fired, effective in two weeks, after his ratings have been steadily deteriorating. He reacts to this by sensationally announcing on live television his intention to commit suicide on air. In doing so, Beale becomes a major TV icon and one of the most valuable assets to the Communications Corporation of America (CCA), the company that is gradually taking control of UBS. As a result he is given his own show as `the mad prophet of the air-waves’. He appears live on television every week-day evening to tell the real truth to the people of America. The programme is a huge success but Beale uses his power to make startling revelations about CCA, leaving the company executives with a serious problem.

Review by Bill Slocum
Down The Tube
“Network” has a wonderful opening, when newscaster Howard Beale is told he has been fired by his boss and best friend, Max Schumacher. We catch Max in mid-sentence, as he tells Howard a story about his early career with the punchline: “You have your whole life ahead of you.” Afterward, Howard suggests killing himself on-air. Why not, replies Max? You’d get a fifty share, easy. So of course Howard goes on air the next evening saying exactly that.

I wish I loved the rest of the movie as much as I do that opening. “Network” is a brilliant film more in concept than in execution.

What people know best about “Network” is Peter Finch as Beale. As the film progresses, he becomes “the mad prophet of the airwaves,” shrieking various profundities for the sake of salvaging the ratings of his fourth-place network, UBS. Wearing a raincoat and pajamas, he tells his audience to not just get mad, but mad as hell. “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore,” he tells his audience to yell out the windows, and many do, to the satisfaction of programmer Diane Christensen (Faye Dunaway), who grabs the show and makes it her own.

Holden and Finch are brilliant as tired newsmen who throw up their hands at the machinations of their fellow men, in part because they take their roles with a certain grain of salt. “I was married for 33 years to shrill, shrieking fraud,” Beale announces on the air at one point, as if his audience would view his failed marriage as an example of their own sad existence. Finch really straddles the line between satire and drama, while Max’s drunken musings about “the death hour,” his own face a deathlike shroud, is startling in its delivery, never mind his comment after about Disney.

Less successful are Robert Duvall as a “hatchet-man” for UBS’s parent corporation and Ned Beatty as the head of that parent corporation, both of whom are way too shrill even for the excessive roles they are assigned. Dunaway is a fine actress who won an Oscar for her performance here, but I can’t decide whether she’s part of the problem or not. When Christensen goes to visit Hackett early in the film, urging Beale be kept on the air, Dunaway is alternately annoying and brilliant when she makes her case. Half the time she gives a breast-clenching display of actorliness, half the time she is subtle and believable, like when Duvall demands whether she is serious about putting the mad Beale back on the air and she simply nods yes.

Ultimately, screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky is the problem. He had the concept, a lovely one, but his execution is verbose and excessive. He makes Jonathan Swift seem light. “A strip Savonarola inveighing against the hypocrisies of our times that will just go through the roof!” Who talks like that? Not any television executive, not even on PBS.

Beale’s subsequent success as a television prophet defies believability. People who claim Chayefsky saw television’s future kid themselves. Even Bill O’Reilly doesn’t attack religious belief or else claim he is “imbued,” the way Beale does. The way he is embraced by his audience cries out “plot convenience” as does the relationship between Max and Diane, especially near the end when Max dresses down Diane for her television stereotyping of their relationship. It’s annoyingly convenient how Holden’s character gets to have his roll in the hay with Dunaway’s Christensen, then take the high moral road. Frankly, Max became a lot less palatable embarking on his affair not once but twice, and after Diane did him out of his job, too. I think Beatrice Straight as Max’s wife won her Oscar simply because so many of the Academy voters choked on Max’s holier-than-thou hubris, and appreciated the fact someone in the movie gave it back to him.

But did Straight have to use terms like “emeritus years” and “dotage”? The problem isn’t that Chayefsky talked like that, but that he made his characters do likewise.
“Network” is satire that is neither funny nor believable, featuring characters neither human nor empathetic, and dialogue that seems pulled from a thesaurus. No wonder it won so many awards. People who voted for it must have felt like they earned I.Q. points from doing so. Smart isn’t always as smart sounds.

Network (1976)

Review by Wayne Malin

Scary,
TV news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is being fired off the UBS network after 11 years on the air. He basically cracks on camera and starts swearing and ranting. He’s obviously having a breakdown and his best friend and news director Max Schumacher (William Holden) wants to commit him. But the ratings are huge and network execs Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) and Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) will do anything to keep him on the air–despite his sanity.

Paddy Chayefsky’s attack on the TV industry seemed like a wild black comedy/fantasy back in 1976. Chayefskey was warning us what TV was becoming and doing to society. Over 25 years later virtually everything he shows us has actually happened–it’s very scary to realize how correct he was. Also there’s assured direction by Sidney Lumet (one incredible shot shows Finch raving on TV in the foreground and Duvall in the background) and an incredible cast.

William Holden gives one of his best performances ever–you see his pain and confusion as he tries to deal with the insanity all around him. Dunaway (won an Oscar for this) chews the scenery again and again as a network exec who will do anything for big ratings. Duvall and Ned Beatty explode (and yell a LOT) as execs. Beatrice Straight (also Oscar winning) gives a fantastic 5 minute performance as Holden’s wife (she won a Best Supporting Actress for being on screen FIVE MINUTES???) . And Finch (his last role–he died before he was awarded the Oscar) goes barreling out of control beautifully.

The dialogue is great–people don’t talk that way but who cares when the script is this good? Great direction, script, acting in a movie years ahead of its time. Spellbinding from start to finish. A definite must-see.

Try to see it uncut (TCM–bless their hearts–shows it that way). The edited for TV versions are horrible.

Network (1976)

Review by Zetes

Doesn’t fully fulfill its promising premise,

An interesting, ambitious, and somewhat entertaining satire of television, but one that pretty much fails for a number of reasons. It’s difficult to believe almost everything that happens in it. Not one of the characters rings true. William Holden is as boring in 1976 as he was in 1955, and his clich√© relationship with Faye Dunnaway is not at all believable, and not even that interesting. Their scenes together go on forever, and Holden’s character carries the trite and obvious metaphor of Dunnaway as television personified, and their relationship as soap opera far further than necessary. Dunnaway herself puts an amazing amount of energy into her performance, and she didn’t not deserve the Oscar she won, if you’ll excuse my double negative. But her character really is only the metaphor that Holden attributes her, so what ground can she win with that? Beatrice Straight gives a performance that’s most famous for being the shortest that ever won an Oscar, only three minutes. I didn’t know who Beatrice Straight was, but it’s obvious when she starts giving her big speech, so showy that she induced me to roll my eyes as many times as inches tall her Oscar is; that must be a record, too. Robert Duvall fares the best among the major cast members, although he hasn’t much of a character either.

Peter Finch’s performance is interesting, but his ranting gets old quick. While Howard Beale’s first couple of ravings would undoubtedly raise people’s interest (the `I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore’ scene is as great as it is famous), but I doubt the television show that is developed for him, which apparently airs five days a week and runs for many months before the film ends, would ever attract an audience of any kind, except maybe a small bit who have a taste for public access television, which is what it seems like. I think people, especially the kind of disenfranchised, cynical people to whom Beale’s show is supposed to appeal, would be much more critical and suspicious of a man who does his show opposite a psychic and in front of stained glass window.

People always refer to Network as `prophetic,’ and then claim their proof is stuff like Jerry Springer, Hard Copy and reality television. As much as some of us may hate those kinds of television shows, only the deranged or stupid would ever believe that When Animals Attack is harmful to anybody other than those who are being attacked by animals. Does anybody really believe that anyone would ever air programs like The Ecumenical Liberation League or whatever that was? Some of the scenes focusing on this new show which the network is developing seem to want to be comedy, although the film is too heavy-seeming to ever succeed in being comic. Anyhow, in the world of reality, in which Holden’s character keeps trying to convince Dunnaway and the film’s audience that the story is really happening, the network’s lawyers would have stopped them immediately. I will say that the film is prescient in only one way: Ned Beatty, who appears for one scene, has the most intriguing part, where he says, among other things:

“It is the international system of currency which determines the vitality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature! And you will atone! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little 21 inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.”

It comes out of right field in the film – well, kind of. The almighty dollar is the driving force of the film, and, the film realizes correctly, the world. But what Network does not understand is how television works to propagate this system, or perhaps how it would. It’s too busy finding its subject, television, overtly evil when it misses the ways it can be more subtly evil. Not that I think all TV is evil or anything. Personally, I watch a lot of television and enjoy it immensely. I don’t think it is particularly wicked, and I actually think that there’s a lot of great art to be found on television (yes I do!). However, most of the evil I do see comes from the news. I wasn’t around in 1976, so I can’t say whether or not the news was as suspicious and creepy back then, but, if Network really had been prophetic, it would have at least got some of the satire right. 7/10.

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