US Release Date: 11-27-1976
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
- 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
- Marlene Warfield, as
- Laureen Hobbs
- Beatrice Straight, as
- Louise Schumacher
- Conchata Ferrell as
- Barbara Schlesinger
Peter Finch is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore in Network.
Network is a biting satire of the television industry in the 1970's. At that time there were only the big three networks NBC, CBS and ABC. The movie is set at a fictional fourth network called UBS.
Peter Finch plays Howard Beale long time anchor for the UBS Evening News. After years of declining ratings he is abruptly fired by his boss, and good friend, Max Schumacher (William Holden). On the next telecast Howard announces to the world that he is going to "blow his brains out" on live television. Later, after he assures Max that he was just momentarily upset and has now come to his senses, he is allowed to appear on one last broadcast to say his farewells. He seizes the moment to launch a tirade about how he is "tired of all the bullshit". He touches a nerve with many viewers and subsequently the show takes a huge leap in the ratings.
Enter the ruthlessly ambitious executive Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway). She successfully manuevers to take over the news department and immediately turns the evening broadcast into an entertainment type show complete with a fortune-teller and a spinning wheel and starring Howard Beale, who merely gives an impromptu rant on whatever topic he chooses. Then, as if possessed, he falls to the floor in a dead faint.
In Network's most celebrated and oft-quoted scene, Howard instructs his audience to "Get up out of your seats. Go to the window and yell - I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"
What was broad satire in 1976 now plays presciently. The line between news and entertainment has, indeed, blurred in the years since Paddy Chayefsky wrote this brilliant screenplay.
Network has great dialogue and some very fine acting. The mood and themes of the movie are dark even when being funny. The contract negotiation scene with the Ecumenical Liberation Front is one example. In another scene William Holden's character gives an emotionally revealing speech about aging and death. It shows why he was one of the few top Hollywood actors able to survive the style and content changes that happened in the industry between the 50's and the 70's.
Faye Dunaway is also good. Her best moment is when she has sex with Max. She can only orgasm by talking about her job.
In all honesty the ending - which I won't give away - has lost some of its shock. It holds up better as comedy than satire now. Still it is a fitting finish to a thoroughly original screenplay and a superbly acted film.
William Holden in Network.
Patrick is right when he says, "Network has great dialogue and some very fine acting." He's also right when he explains how some of what this movie presented as satire, has come to pass in the years since it was made. The line between reality and fiction has become blurry recently. However, the plot of Network is sometimes too scattered and loose. This is a movie that holds your attention, but I was more interested than entertained.
To me, the most striking difference between the world today and the world of 1976 as presented in this movie, is the power the networks possessed at that time. They speak of reaching 60 million viewers, which would be an absolutely astronomical figure for a newscast today in this age of 500 channels. In comparison, today's NBC nightly news – the highest rated nightly newscast – averages around 8.7 million viewers. In those days, you got your evening news report from one of three (or in this movie, four) newscasters. Today of course, you can get your news from dozens of news channels, but in those day's it was the networks or nothing, which gave the networks enormous power over how America perceived the world.
Another interesting aspect of this movie is that for a movie made in the middle of the seventies, it is remarkably timeless in some aspects. The wardrobe is fairly subdued, apart from the Ecumenical Liberation Front and some of the men's suits, but Faye Dunaway could walk down the street today in the clothes she wore in this movie without trouble. Also in regards to Dunaway, her character is strong, manipulative and in a position of power. For a woman in today's movies, that's nothing strange, but for 1976, when Women's Lib was headline news, this isn't the sort of character you expect to see, and if you do, you expect them to make a bigger deal out of it, but here she is just accepted by everyone as who she is.
Network is an interesting look into a time not so long ago. It presents themes and ideas that do make you think. However, a tighter story that focused more on just one of its three main characters would have made for a faster paced, more entertaining film.
You never see the actual people who control what gets reported.
Network is dated in its pop culture references to Mary Tyler Moore, Archie Bunker and Patty Hearst. It is also timeless in its revelation of biased news. As Scott mentioned, the network channels use to be able to control the country's opinions, as they were the major source of news. This movie clearly states that it is far more about ratings and money than informing people of the truth.
As Beale is spouting his random social/political opinions his ratings soar and the network rakes in the revenue. However, once Beale reveals that Arabs own large portions of The United States and has major influence in the networks, he becomes a liability. As executive Frank Hackett says, "The CCA has two billions in loans with the Saudis. And they hold every pledge we've got. We need that Saudi money bad."
Howard Beale was ahead of his time. People want to hear truths that they believe network news is not telling them. We have the choice of many different sources and personalities to give us information. Some folks turn to The Daily Show to hear liberal pundit John Stewart give his opinion on current events. The highest rated talk radio show is conservative Rush Limbaugh. People want to hear their news from those who they believe share their opinions. All news is biased, it is only the major networks who refuse to admit it, and as such their viewer ship is pathetic.
News programs have owners and they have to make money. If anyone thinks that any news show is 100% honest, they are only fooling themselves. Network is dated, yet still very relevant. As Howard Beale states of the news, "We'll tell you anything you want to hear, we lie like hell."
Photos © Copyright MGM/UA (1976)