For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie is “Network.”
Network was a 1976 American satirical black comedy-drama film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet. The film starred Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch and Robert Duvall and features Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, and Beatrice Straight.
When Howard Beale (Peter Finch), the dean of newscasters at the United Broadcasting System, is forced to retire, network executive Max Schumacher (William Holden), Howard’s best friend, must deliver the bad news. Beale is none to happy about being put out to pasture. He can’t stomach the idea of losing his 25-year post as anchorman simply because of age, so in his next broadcast he announces to the viewers that he’s going to commit suicide live on air on his final program. But instead, he launches into an angry televised rant, which turns out to be a huge ratings boost for the UBS network. This stunt allows ambitious producer Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) to develop even more outrageous programming, a concept that she takes to unsettling extremes.
The movie caused a sensation in 1976. Possibly one of the most impactful lines of dialogue in any movie is when Beale yells out, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore.” That line not only got audiences in the film yelling out of their windows, but captured the anger and imagination of Americans who repeated it for decades.
In another memorable scene in the movie, and one that was uncannily prescient of the television news business today, was when Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen, the chairman of the conglomerate that owned the UBS television network, rages at Beale, for thwarting an acquisition by the Saudis. “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and you will atone,” Jensen roars at Beale. “You get up on your little 21-inch screen and howl about America and democracy…. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale…. The world is a business.”
I can’t tell you more about the storyline without spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it or wish to watch it again, but it’s a movie that is well worth watching.
“Network” was not only a commercial success, but it won numerous awards, including four Oscars: Best Screenplay, Best Actor for Finch and Actress for Dunaway. And Beatrice Straight, for her portrayal of Schumacher’s put-upon and cheated on wife, Louise, won the Best Supporting Actor statue that to date was awarded to the character with the least amount of screen time in Academy history. While Lumet didn’t get an Oscar, he did earn a Best Director Golden Globe.