Network (1976 film)
Network is a 1976 American satirical film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, about a fictional television network, UBS, and its struggle with poor ratings. The film stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall and features Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, and Beatrice Straight.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sidney Lumet|
|Produced by||Howard Gottfried
Fred C. Caruso
|Written by||Paddy Chayefsky|
|Narrated by||Lee Richardson|
|Music by||Elliot Lawrence|
|Edited by||Alan Heim|
(USA & Canada)
In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2002, it was inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame as a film that has "set an enduring standard for American entertainment". In 2005, the two Writers Guilds of America voted Chayefsky's script one of the 10 greatest screenplays in the history of cinema. In 2007, the film was 64th among the 100 greatest American films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI had given it ten years earlier.
Howard Beale, the longtime anchor of the Union Broadcasting System's UBS Evening News, learns from friend and news division president Max Schumacher that he has just two more weeks on the air because of declining ratings. The two get drunk and lament the state of their industry. The following night, Beale announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday's broadcast. UBS fires him after this incident, but Schumacher intervenes so that Beale can have a dignified farewell. Beale promises he will apologize for his outburst, but once on the air, he launches back into a rant claiming that life is "bullshit." Beale's outburst causes the newscast's ratings to spike, and much to Schumacher's dismay, the upper echelons of UBS decide to exploit Beale's antics rather than pull him off the air. When Beale's ratings seem to have topped out, Diana Christensen, who heads the network's programming department, approaches Schumacher and offers to help him "develop" the news show. He says no to the professional offer, but she also makes a personal offer and the two begin an affair.
Christensen, seeking just one hit show, cuts a deal with a band of radical terrorists for a new docudrama series called The Mao Tse-Tung Hour for the upcoming fall season. When Schumacher decides to end Beale's "angry man" format, Christensen convinces her boss, Frank Hackett, to slot the evening news show under the entertainment programming division so she can develop it. Hackett agrees, bullying the UBS executives to consent and fire Schumacher. In one impassioned diatribe, Beale galvanizes the nation, persuading his viewers to shout out of their windows "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Soon afterward, Beale is hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show, top-billed as "the mad prophet of the airwaves". Ultimately, the show becomes the most highly rated program on television, and Beale finds new celebrity preaching his angry message in front of a live studio audience that, on cue, chants Beale's signature catchphrase en masse: "We're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore." At first, Max and Diana's romance withers as the show flourishes, but in the flush of high ratings, the two ultimately find their way back together, and Schumacher leaves his wife of over 25 years for Christensen.
When Beale discovers that Communications Corporation of America (CCA), the conglomerate that owns UBS, will be bought out by an even larger Saudi Arabian conglomerate, he launches an on-screen tirade against the deal, encouraging viewers to send telegrams to the White House telling them, "I want the CCA deal stopped now!" This throws the top network brass into a state of panic because the company's debt load has made the merger essential for its survival. Hackett takes Beale to meet with CCA chairman Arthur Jensen, who explicates his own "corporate cosmology" to Beale, describing the interrelatedness of the participants in the international economy and the illusory nature of nationality distinctions. Christensen's fanatical devotion to her job and emotional emptiness ultimately drive Max back to try returning to his wife, even though he doesn't think she'll agree, and he warns his former lover that she will self-destruct at the pace she is running with her career. "You are television incarnate, Diana," he tells her, "indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality." Jensen persuades Beale to abandon the populist messages and preach his new "evangel". However, television audiences find his new sermons on the dehumanization of society depressing, and ratings begin to slide, yet Jensen will not allow UBS executives to fire Beale. Seeing its two-for-the-price-of-one value—solving the Beale problem plus sparking a boost in season-opener ratings—Christensen, Hackett, and the other executives decide to hire the Ecumenical Liberation Army to assassinate Beale on the air. The assassination succeeds, putting an end to The Howard Beale Show and kicking off a second season of The Mao Tse-Tung Hour.
- Faye Dunaway as Diana Christensen
- William Holden as Max Schumacher
- Peter Finch as Howard Beale
- Robert Duvall as Frank Hackett
- Wesley Addy as Nelson Chaney
- Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen
- Beatrice Straight as Louise Schumacher
- Jordan Charney as Harry Hunter
- William Prince as Edward Ruddy
- Lane Smith as Robert McDonough
- Marlene Warfield as Laureen Hobbs
- Conchata Ferrell as Barbara Schlesinger
- Carolyn Krigbaum as Max's secretary
- Arthur Burghardt as the Great Ahmet Khan
- Cindy Grover as Caroline Schumacher
- Darryl Hickman as Bill Herron
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Part of the inspiration for Chayefsky's script allegedly came from the on-air suicide of television news reporter Christine Chubbuck in Sarasota, Florida two years earlier. The anchorwoman was suffering from depression and battles with her editors, and unable to keep going, she shot herself on camera as stunned viewers watched on July 15, 1974. Chayefsky used the incident to set up his film's focal point. As he would say later in an interview, "Television will do anything for a rating... anything!" However, Dave Itzkoff's book Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies disputes this, asserting that Chayefsky actually began writing Network months before Chubbuck's death and already planned for Howard Beale to vow to kill himself on air; Chubbuck's suicide was an eerie parallel. Sidney Lumet also confirmed that the character of Howard Beale was never based on any real life person.
According to Dave Itzkoff, what Cheyefsky saw while writing the screenplay during the midst of Watergate and the Vietnam war was all the anger of America being broadcast in everything from sitcoms to news reports. He concluded that American's “don’t want jolly, happy family type shows like Eye Witness News”... “the American people are angry and want angry shows.” When he began writing his script he had intended on a comedy, but instead poured his frustration at the broadcasts being shown on television, which he described as “an indestructible and terrifying giant that is stronger than the government” — into the screenplay. It became a "dark satire about an unstable news anchor and a broadcasting company and a viewing public all too happy to follow him over the brink of sanity."
Chayefsky and producer Howard Gottfried had just come off a lawsuit against United Artists, challenging the studio's right to lease their previous film, The Hospital, to ABC in a package with a less successful film. Despite this recent lawsuit, Chayefsky and Gottfried signed a deal with UA to finance Network, until UA found the subject matter too controversial and backed out.
Undeterred, Chayefsky and Gottfried shopped the script around to other studios, and eventually found an interested party in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Soon afterward, United Artists reversed itself and looked to co-finance the film with MGM, since the latter had an ongoing distribution arrangement with UA in North America. Since MGM agreed to let UA back on board, the former (through United Artists as per the arrangement) controlled North American/Caribbean rights, with UA themselves opting for overseas distribution.
Network opened to acclaim from critics, and became one of the big hits of 1976–77. Vincent Canby, in his November 1976 review of the film for The New York Times, called the film "outrageous ... brilliantly, cruelly funny, a topical American comedy that confirms Paddy Chayefsky's position as a major new American satirist" and a film whose "wickedly distorted views of the way television looks, sounds, and, indeed, is, are the satirist's cardiogram of the hidden heart, not just of television but also of the society that supports it and is, in turn, supported."
In a review of the film written after it received its Academy Awards, Roger Ebert called it a "supremely well-acted, intelligent film that tries for too much, that attacks not only television but also most of the other ills of the 1970s," though "what it does accomplish is done so well, is seen so sharply, is presented so unforgivingly, that Network will outlive a lot of tidier movies." Seen a quarter-century later, Ebert added the film to his Great Movies list and said the film was "like prophecy. When Chayefsky created Howard Beale, could he have imagined Jerry Springer, Howard Stern, and the World Wrestling Federation?"; he credits Lumet and Chayefsky for knowing "just when to pull out all the stops."
Not all reviews were positive: Pauline Kael in The New Yorker, in a review subtitled "Hot Air", criticized the film's abundance of long, preachy speeches; Chayefsky's self-righteous contempt for not only television itself but also television viewers; and the fact that almost everyone in the movie, particularly Robert Duvall, has a screaming rant: "The cast of this messianic farce takes turns yelling at us soulless masses." Michael Billington wrote, "Too much of this film has the hectoring stridency of tabloid headlines", while Chris Petit in Time Out described it as "slick, 'adult', self-congratulatory, and almost entirely hollow", adding that "most of the interest comes in watching such a lavishly mounted vehicle leaving the rails so spectacularly."
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin wrote that "no predictor of the future — not even Orwell — has ever been as right as Chayefsky was when he wrote Network." The film ranks at number 100 in Empire magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Films of All Time. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, Network currently holds a 91% "fresh" rating based on 56 reviews.
A stage adaptation by Lee Hall premiered in the Lyttleton Theatre at the National Theatre in London in November 2017. The play is directed by Ivo Van Hove featuring Bryan Cranston making his UK stage debut as Howard Beale, and Michelle Dockery as Diana.
Awards and honorsEdit
Network won three of the four acting awards. Only one other film, A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951, has won in three acting categories.
- Best Actor – Peter Finch
- Best Actress – Faye Dunaway
- Best Supporting Actress – Beatrice Straight
- Best Original Screenplay – Paddy Chayefsky
Finch died before the 1977 ceremony and was the only performer to win a posthumous Academy Award until Heath Ledger won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2009. The statuette itself was collected by Finch's widow, Eletha Finch.
Straight's performance as Louise Schumacher occupied only five minutes and two seconds of screen time, making it the shortest performance to win an Oscar (as of 2016), breaking Gloria Grahame's nine minutes and 32 seconds screen time record for The Bad and the Beautiful in 1953.
- Best Actor – William Holden
- Best Supporting Actor – Ned Beatty
- Best Cinematography – Owen Roizman
- Best Film Editing – Alan Heim
- Best Director – Sidney Lumet
- Best Picture – Howard Gottfried
- Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama – Peter Finch
- Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama – Faye Dunaway
- Best Director – Sidney Lumet
- Best Screenplay – Paddy Chayefsky
- Best Actor – Peter Finch
- Best Film
- Best Direction – Sidney Lumet
- Best Actor – William Holden
- Best Actress – Faye Dunaway
- Best Supporting Actor – Robert Duvall
- Best Screenplay – Paddy Chayefsky
- Best Editing – Alan Heim
- Best Sound – Jack Fitzstephens, Marc Laub, Sanford Rackow, James Sabat, and Dick Vorisek
American Film InstituteEdit
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #66
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains:
- Diana Christensen – Nominated Villain
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" – #19
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #64
In popular cultureEdit
The film's noted line "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore" and its derivatives are referenced in numerous films and other media, including Mad As Hell, a satirical Australian news show starring Shaun Micallef. In Better Call Saul's first episode Uno, Saul Goodman quotes part of Jensen's eviscerating diatribe when he is lambasting the board of his former law firm, then tells his confused audience that his quote came from Network. The same camera angle is employed in both instances.
- "NETWORK (AA)". United Artists. British Board of Film Classification. November 1, 1976. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
- "Network, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
- Archive of Producers Guild Hall of Fame – Past Inductees, Producers Guild of America official site. Accessed October 31, 2010. Original site.
- "101 Greatest Screenplays". Writers Guild of America, West. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
- Empire: "Television will eat itself in Sidney Lumet's searing satire", October 1, 2008; via allbusiness.com
- Itzkoff, Dave. Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies. Henry Holt and Company, 2014, p. 47.
- "Sidney Lumet on directing the film "Network" - EMMYTVLEGENDS.ORG".
- Itzkoff, Dave (2011-05-19). "Paddy Chayefsky's Notes for 'Network' - Film". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
- Dunaway, Faye; Sharkey, Betsy (1995). Looking for Gatsby: My Life. Simon & Schuster Inc. p. 304. ISBN 0-671-67526-5.
- UPI, via Milwaukee Sentinel and Google News, "Producer Lin Bolen Denies She's 'Network' Character", July 31, 1978.
- Review of Network from the November 15, 1976 edition of The New York Times
- Review of Network by Roger Ebert from the 1970s
- Review of Network by Roger Ebert from October 2000
- Kael, Pauline (December 6, 1976). "Hot Air". The New Yorker: 177.
- Halliwell, Leslie (1987). Halliwell's Film Guide, 6th edition. New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 729. ISBN 0-684-19051-6.
- Milne, Tom (editor) (1993). Time Out Film Guide, The (3rd Edition). Hammondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin. p. 486. ISBN 0-14-017513-X.
- Itzkoff, Dave (May 19, 2011). "Notes of a Screenwriter, Mad as Hell". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
- "The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". Empire. Bauer Media Group. Archived from the original on August 17, 2011. Retrieved August 17, 2011.
- "Network". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved July 11, 2014.
- "New for 2017 and 2018 | National Theatre". www.nationaltheatre.org.uk. Retrieved 2017-03-20.
- Billington, Michael (2017-11-13). "Network review – Bryan Cranston is mad as hell in blazing staging of Oscar winner". The Guardian.
- "Beatrice Straight performance length". Serving Cinema. Retrieved 2016-10-09.
- "Airdate: Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell". TV Tonight.
- Salud, April (February 24, 2015). "'It's From a Movie': A Guide to Better Call Saul". Geek and Sundry.
- Itzkoff, David. "Notes of a Screenwriter, Mad as Hell", The New York Times, 19 May 2011
- Lerro, Bruce. "Network" 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today, CounterPunch, 31 May 2016
- Parker, James. "Madder Than Hell: How Network Anticipated Contemporary Media". The Atlantic (March 2014). Retrieved 16 July 2016.