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Network (1976)


Howard Beale (Peter Finch), veteran anchor of the fictional Union Broadcasting System's UBS Evening News, is informed by his best friend, network executive Max Schumacher (William Holden), that he is being retired because he "skews old" and his newscast is losing the ratings battle. Beale announces on his next show that during his final broadcast, in protest, he is going to kill himself on live television. That doesn't happen, but the suicide threat turns Beale into the hottest star on TV. With his ratings suddenly going through the roof, the ruthlessly ambitious programming executive Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) convinces network head Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) to promote Beale as a kind of messiah, "The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves." The nation is galvanized by Beale's enraged on-air outbursts, particularly what has become his signature rant, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Meanwhile, Diana has created an exploitive show about the "Ecumenical Liberation Army" and has entered into a lustful affair with Max, threatening his 25-year marriage to Louise (Beatrice Straight). When CCA, the company that owns UBS, is bought out by a Saudi Arabian conglomerate, CCA chairman Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty) lectures Beale about the necessity of changing his message, leading the broadcaster's career to a violent end.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Producers: Fred Caruso, Howard Gottfried
Screenplay: Paddy Chayefsky
Cinematography: Owen Roizman
Editing: Alan Heim
Production Design: Philip Rosenberg
Original Music: Elliot Lawrence
Costume Design: Theoni V. Aldredge
Cast: Faye Dunaway (Diana Christensen), William Holden (Max Schumacher), Peter Finch (Howard Beale), Robert Duvall (Frank Hackett), Ned Beatty (Arthur Jensen), Beatrice Straight (Louise Schumacher), Wesley Addy (Nelson Chaney), Arthur Burghardt (Great Ahmed Khan), Bill Burrows (TV Director), John Carpenter (George Bosch), Jordan Charney (Harry Hunter)

Why NETWORK Is Essential

Network, made some 40 decades ago, remains a model of bold, outrageous satirical comedy, with sterling work by one of the strongest dramatic ensembles in the history of film. The bravura, Oscar®-winning performance of Peter Finch alone - at once funny, frightening and haunting - makes the movie must-see viewing. In addition, the movie offers a scathing indictment of the world of broadcast television and its many corrupting influences.

Many journalists and other screenwriters have remarked upon the movie's enduring relevance. In 2011 Dave Itzkoff wrote in The New York Times that "Thirty-five years later, Network remains an incendiary if influential film, and its screenplay is still admired as much for its predictive accuracy as for its vehemence." Aaron Sorkin, who cited Chayefsky when he accepted his Oscar® for the screenplay of The Social Network (2010), wrote that "no predictor of the future -- not even Orwell -- has ever been as right as Chayefsky was when he wrote Network." Stephen Colbert, anchor of Comedy Central's news satire The Colbert Report" has said that "Howard Beale is a precursor of people who are telling you how you feel. Not just the nighttime people that I'm sort of a parody of, not just the opinion-making people, but even what is left of straight news."

"What's that again, Paddy?" Chuck Ross wrote on "You say this is the basic problem of television? That we've lost our sense of shock, our humanity? Watch Network again - or for the first time - and see if you don't find some tears welling up behind your laughter."

By Roger Fristoe

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Network (1976)

Since its release in 1976, Network has come to seem prescient in its depiction of television and the U.S. culture at large, anticipating the blend of newscasting and entertainment, the proliferation of "reality" shows and other exploitive programming, and the dominating influence of global corporations. The film's dim view of television could now also apply to the film industry, where it's difficult to envision a contemporary Hollywood production that would dare take on so controversial a subject in such bold and critical terms.

The public at large, however, has continued to identify with Howard Beale's protest against the status quo; Howard's line "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" has entered the language. It was voted the No. 19 movie quote by the American Film Institute and was named as one of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere magazine. According to Aaron Sorkin, if you put Network "in your DVD player today you'll feel like it was written last week. The commoditization of the news and the devaluing of truth are just part of our way of life now. You wish Chayefsky could come back to life long enough to write 'The Internet.'"

The film has remained timely enough that, as recently as 2005, it was announced that George Clooney would star in a CBS-TV adaptation that would be broadcast live (in deference to the roots of Chayefsky and Lumet). Before plans for that project were scrapped, Clooney screened the 1976 film for a group of "young people" and found that none of them recognized it as satire. "I couldn't understand it," Clooney told the Associated Press. Then he "realized that everything Chayefsky wrote about had happened."

By Roger Fristoe

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Network (1976)

Network is the last film to date to receive five nominations for acting Oscars®.

It is one of only two films in history to win three acting Oscars® (awarded to Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight). The other is A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).

Peter Finch was the first person to win an acting Oscar® posthumously, and remains the only one to win in the lead category.

Producers of the Oscar® show had asked Paddy Chayefsky to accept in the event Finch won the award, but he called the actor's wife, Eletha, to the podium. Chayefsky claimed at first that it was an inspiration of the moment, but later acknowledged he had actually written Mrs. Finch's speech and rehearsed her delivery beforehand.

This was the first film since Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) to win Oscars® for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.

Beatrice Straight's performance holds the record for the briefest ever to win an Oscar®.

Chayefsky became the first screenwriter to win three Oscars® for scripts he wrote by himself, the other two being Marty (1955) and Hospital (1971). (Woody Allen later repeated the feat.)

Sidney Lumet admitted that he was "furious" that Network lost the Best Picture Oscar to Rocky.

The only music heard in the film is that generated in the TV studio for show themes and commercials. (Minimal use of music is a signature Lumet touch.)

In the film, the Holden and Dunaway characters refer to their affair as "a many-splendored thing" - an inside joke, since in 1955 Holden had starred in the movie Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.

Although Dunaway's character is preoccupied with Finch's throughout the film, she never speaks directly to him.

Walter Cronkite's daughter Kathy plays left-wing radical Mary Ann Gifford, a role loosely based on Patricia Hearst.

Laureen Hobbs, the black radical played by Marlene Warfield, was loosely modeled after activist Angela Davis.

It has long been rumored that Tim Robbins made his film debut playing an assassin at the film's end. But Robbins has debunked that rumor, saying he was still in high school at the time.

Quotes from Network:

"This story is about Howard Beale, who was the news anchorman on UBS TV. In his time, Howard Beale had been a mandarin of television, the grand old man of news, with a HUT rating of 16 and a 28 audience share..." - Narrator

"I would like at this moment to announce that I will be retiring from this program in two weeks' time because of poor ratings. Since this show is the only thing I had going for me in my life, I've decided to kill myself. I'm going to blow my brains out right on this program a week from today. So tune in next Tuesday." -- Howard Beale

"So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell: 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!'" -- Howard Beale

"Hi. I'm Diana Christensen, a racist lackey of the imperialist ruling circles." - Diana

"Look, all I'm saying is if you're going to hustle, at least do it right." - Diana

"I don't like the way this script of ours has turned out. It's turning into a seedy little drama." - Diana

"You're television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality." -- Max Schumacher

"What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to sit at home knitting and purling while you slink back like some penitent drunk? I'm your wife, damn it. And, if you can't work up a winter passion for me, the least I require is respect and allegiance. I hurt. Don't you understand that? I hurt badly." -- Louise Schumacher

"Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, side-show freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business!" -- Howard Beale

"I started as a salesman, Mr. Beale. I sold sewing machines and automobile parts, hair brushes and electronic equipment. They say I can sell anything." -- Arthur Jensen

"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear?" -- Arthur Jensen

"Well, the issue is: Shall we kill Howard Beale, or not? I'd like to get some more opinions on that." -- Frank Hackett

Compiled by Roger Fristoe

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Network (1976)

The germ of the idea for Network came from a real-life incident when television reporter Christine Chubbuck killed herself on live television during a newscast on July 15, 1974, on the Sarasota, Fla., TV station WXLT. She said, "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first: attempted suicide." Then she shot herself behind the right ear.

That same year, former television writer Paddy Chayefsky began work on the screenplay for Network. The Bronx-born scenarist, whose brilliant work during TV's Golden Age of the 1950s had led to scripts for feature films, had won Oscars® for his screenplays for Marty (1955) and The Hospital (1971). Disillusioned and annoyed with the path television had taken, Chayefsky began crafting a darkly satirical script about the medium that had once nurtured him but now aroused his scorn.

After his death in 1981, Chayefsky left behind extensive notes on the creation of that script. In those writings, now held by the New York Library for the Performing Arts, he noted that he was seeing the negative attitudes of the era of Watergate and the Vietnam War in all the programming of the broadcast networks, and wanted to address this in his screenplay. In a typewritten note to himself he wrote that Americans "don't want jolly, happy family type shows like Eyewitness News; the American people are angry and want angry shows." Chayefsky described television as "an indestructible and terrifying giant that is stronger than the government," and wrote that "the only joke we have going for us is the idea of ANGER."

In researching his screenplay, Chayefsky took trips to newsrooms in San Francisco and Atlanta, and compiled data on the lives of such national anchors as Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor. After strong reactions to the completed film from members of the media, he would make it clear in letters to prominent broadcasters that he had not been targeting them. He also claimed that he "never meant this film to be an attack on television as an institution in itself, but only as a metaphor for the rest of the times."

For his imaginary network, called UBS, Chayefsky created a fictional corporate hierarchy involving 23 different people and even worked out a detailed programming grid with such grotesque programs as "Death Squad," "Killer Theater" and "Celebrity Checkers." As he developed incidents in the screenplay, he realized that the tone was becoming more and more absurdist: "All this is Strangelove-y as hell. Can we make it work?"

Helping him "make it work" was director Sidney Lumet, who also was intimately acquainted with the world of television. He and Chayefsky were close friends, having both established their careers during the glory days of 1950s TV in New York City. Lumet's directing career, which would span almost 60 years, had included episodes of CBS-TV's You Are There, in which historical events were dramatized as Walter Cronkite "reported" on them. It was one of the first hybrids of news and entertainment that play a prominent role in Network. Lumet's movie career began with 12 Angry Men (1957), which had been originally written for television. He would later say that, in approaching Network, he thought of it not as satire but as "sheer reportage."

In his notes, Chayefsky jotted down his ideas about casting. For the inflamed anchor eventually played by Peter Finch, he envisioned Henry Fonda, Cary Grant, James Stewart and Paul Newman. He went so far as to write Newman, telling him that "You and a very small handful of other actors are the only ones I can think of with the range for this part." Director Lumet wanted Fonda, with whom he had worked several times, but Fonda declined the role, finding it too "hysterical" for his taste. Jimmy Stewart also found the script unsuitable, objecting to the strong language. Early consideration was given to real-life newscasters Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor, but neither was open to the idea. Although not mentioned in Chayefsky's notes, George C. Scott, Glenn Ford and William Holden reportedly also turned down the opportunity to play Beale - although of course Holden ended up playing battle-weary executive Schumacher. For that role Chayefsky had listed Walter Matthau and Gene Hackman. Glenn Ford was under consideration for this part as well, and was said to be one of two final contenders. Holden finally got the edge because of his recent box-office success, The Towering Inferno (1974).

For Faye Dunaway's role as the hard-driving programming exec, Chayefsky thought of Candice Bergen, Ellen Burstyn and Natalie Wood. The studio suggested Jane Fonda, with Jill Clayburgh, Diane Keaton, Marsha Mason and television actress Kay Lenz also in the running. But Lumet wanted Vanessa Redgrave, whom he considered "the greatest English-speaking actress in the world"; Chayefsky, a Jew and supporter of Israel, objected on the basis of Redgrave's support of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Lumet, also a Jew, reportedly said, "Paddy, that's blacklisting!" to which Chayefsky replied, "Not when a Jew does it to a Gentile!"

It was Chayefsky who eventually came up with the inspiration of Peter Finch as a possible Beale. The movie's producers were wary that Finch, born in England and raised partly in Australia, would be able to sound like an authentic American; they demanded an audition before his casting could be considered. Finch, an actor of considerable prominence, reportedly responded, "Bugger pride. Put the script in the mail." Immediately realizing that the role was a plum, he even agreed to pay his own fare to New York for a screen test. He prepared for the audition by listening to hours of broadcasts by American newscasters, and by weeks of reading the international editions of The New York Times and the Herald Tribune into a tape recording, then listening to playbacks with a critical ear. Producer Howard Gottfried recalled that Finch "was nervous as hell at that first meeting over lunch and just like a kid auditioning. Once we'd heard him, Sidney Lumet, Paddy and I were ecstatic because we knew it was a hell of a part to cast." Finch cinched the deal with Lumet by playing him the tapes of his newspaper readings.

There was some concern that the combination of Holden and Dunaway might create conflict on the set, since the two had sparred during an earlier co-starring stint in The Towering Inferno. According to Holden biographer Bob Thomas, Holden had been incensed with Dunaway's behavior during the filming of the disaster epic, especially her habit of leaving him fuming on the set while she attended to her hair, makeup and telephone calls. One day, after a two-hour wait, Holden reportedly grabbed his costar by the shoulders, pushed her against a soundstage wall and snapped, "You do that to me once more, and I'll push you through that wall!"

Three outstanding character actors were added to the cast of Network. Robert Duvall, a specialist in terse understatement, took on the role of the bland but villainous president of programming, seen by Duvall himself as "a vicious President Ford." Ned Beatty agreed to play the cynical, garrulous corporate head despite the brevity of the role, which amounts to one long, dynamic monologue. Years later he advised other actors to hesitate about turning down any role because "I worked a day on Network and got an Oscar® nomination for it." Beatrice Straight had an even briefer role as the betrayed wife of Holden's character, with a performance that clocked in at five minutes and 40 seconds. She had won a Tony award in 1953 for playing an anguished wife who is similarly cheated upon in Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

By Roger Fristoe

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Network (1976)

Network was financed and distributed by United Artists and MGM, despite the fact that UA had recently settled with Chayefsky in a lawsuit over the company's right to lease his previous film, The Hospital (1971), to ABC-TV in a package with a less successful film. UA originally rejected Network as being too controversial but reconsidered after MGM agreed to make the film. Lumet began a period of rehearsals in early 1976 in a ballroom of the Diplomat Hotel in New York City. Like most Lumet movies, the film was shot in New York, although control-room and news-studio scenes were filmed at CFTO-TV Studios in the Scarborough district of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Lumet said that he planned a very specific visual scheme for the film, shooting the early parts with available light and minimal camera movement, as in a documentary. As the movie progressed, he added more light and movement so that the final sequences were as brightly lighted and "slick" as possible.

Faye Dunaway would later say that this was "the only film I ever did that you didn't touch the script because it was almost as if it were written in verse." She was as happy with director Sidney Lumet as with the writing, describing him as "one of, if not the, most talented and professional men in the world. In the rehearsals, two weeks before shooting he blocks his scenes with his cameraman. Not a minute is wasted while he's shooting and that shows not only on the studio's budget but on the impetus of performance." Dunaway also managed to put aside their earlier clashes and enjoy an apparently cordial relationship with leading man William Holden. She claimed that during the shooting of the new film, "I found him a very sane, lovely man." She later revealed, however, that she had wanted Robert Mitchum as Max.

In researching her role as the rare female in the mostly male world of television executives, Dunaway met with NBC daytime programming vice president Lin Bolen. Bolen noted later that while she could see something of herself in Dunaway's mannerisms and speech patterns, she disavowed any further connection to the character and was appalled by her lack of moral standards. Chayefsky and Lumet made it clear to Dunaway that they wanted a cold-blooded, soulless characterization with no sympathetic shadings. "I know the first thing you're going to ask me," Lumet told her. "Where's her vulnerability? Don't ask it. She has none. If you try to sneak it in, I'll get rid of it in the editing room, so it'll be a wasted effort." Dunaway's then-husband, J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf, warned her that she could risk typecasting in such a role, but Dunaway plunged ahead fearlessly.

Holden had some reservations about the scene were he and Dunaway, as Max and Diana, are in bed making love and, in her excitement, she exclaims about the ratings of her successful TV show. At a climactic moment she cries out, "We're getting more publicity out of this than Watergate!" "Such scenes are not to my liking," Holden later said. "I believe lovemaking is a private thing and I don't enjoy depictions of it on the screen." He rationalized that, "If nobody had been in bed on the screen before, I might have hesitated." But he went with it, understanding that "The scene was not meant to be pornographic. It was meant to disclose a character flaw, the fact that Faye talks all the way through it tells more about her. It was Paddy's way of getting the dialogue out." Holden did allow, however, that he felt "the scene was meant to be more amusing than it came off."

Lumet recalled that Chayefsky was usually on the set during filming, and sometimes offered advice about how certain scenes should be played. Lumet allowed that his old friend had the better comic instincts of the two, but when it came to the domestic confrontation between Holden and Straight, the four-times-married director had the upper hand: "Paddy, please, I know more about divorce than you!"

Finch, who had suffered from heart problems for many years, became physically and psychologically exhausted by the demands of playing Howard Beale. By the time he filmed the "mad as hell" scene - the most celebrated of his career - he was able to deliver it only one and a half times. The final performance features the second take for the first half of the speech and the first take for the second half. Finch, who lived just long enough to see the completed film, further pushed himself with a hectic series of appearances to promote it. On January 14, 1977, the night after he had appeared on The Tonight Show, he collapsed in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel and died of a massive heart attack. He was 60 years old.

Upon its release in November 1976, Network became an instant success with audiences and most critics. Made at a reported cost of $3.8 million, it grossed $23.7 in the U.S. alone.

By Roger Fristoe

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teaser Network (1976)

When Network opened at theatres nationwide in November of 1976 it caused an instant sensation. People were either crazy about it or thought the film was just plain crazy. So when the film received ten Oscar nominations the following year and won four of them, it was hard to tell if it was justly rewarded or simply a case of Hollywood praising the total skewering of its longtime nemesis, television. In any case, Network still stands as one of the most potent, imaginative satires produced by a major studio, and the line, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" became one of the key catch-phrases of the 1970s.

The line is delivered by Peter Finch as Howard Beale, a news anchor on the verge of insanity. When executives of the fictional United Broadcasting System tell him he is being fired after 25 years in the job, he goes on the air and tells his audience he plans to commit suicide on his final broadcast. Ratings go through the roof, and suddenly everyone is tuning in. On the night of his promised suicide, he relents, telling the audience instead to rebel against the insanities of modern life, to go to their windows and scream the famous line into the streets. They do, and the nerve Beale has touched is soon turned into a ratings bonanza by programming executive Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), a ruthless child of the television age who cares only about her work and career. She gives Beale a weekly show to do whatever he wants, and audiences are mesmerized by his unpredictable, ranting behavior. The only voice against it is Max Schumacher (William Holden), head of the news division, who is fired because of his opposition. Nevertheless, Schumacher is drawn to the ambitious Diana, and he leaves his wife to move in with her. Christensen pushes ahead with her programming schemes and soon has a series starring a real-life group of terrorists. Beale begins to believe his viewers are mindless masses whose lives amount to very little, but when he expresses that on air, his superstar status crumbles. With ratings plummeting, the network executives decide to approve Diana's plan to end the show with a literal bang, using the terrorists who have been turned from idealistic revolutionaries into ratings-hungry TV stars to bring "The Howard Beale Show" to a bloody conclusion.

This scathing indictment of the television age was the brainchild of a writer who made his mark in the medium two decades earlier. Paddy Chayevsky was one of the leading lights of what came to be known as TV's Golden Age, a time in the 1950s when live drama was a broadcast staple and TV news had yet to totally usurp the daily paper as the number one source for information. Although some of Network's most negative critics believed he was lashing out at the industry that had launched his career, the truth was that Chayevsky actually had a very positive experience writing for the small screen; in 1953 he debuted his teledrama, Marty, which went on to become a quadruple Oscar-winner in its 1955 film version. But he was always wary of the medium and its potentially negative influence; his son later spoke of how Chayevsky restricted him from watching much TV and constantly railed against the "junk" he felt was being shown. In 1955, he tried to sell NBC on a spoof of the medium about a host on a local Ohio station who creates an outrageous variety show that ends up knocking Ed Sullivan's weekly series off the air. And by the 1970s, the changes in television had given him even more reason to lament its affects on society. "It's all madness," he said. "People are instant now. Thanks to TV we have all developed a ten-minute concentration span." He reserved his harshest criticism for what he saw as a small corporate elite taking complete cultural, political and social control of the medium and gaining the power to "make or break presidents, popes, and prime ministers."

As expected, Network was trashed by people in television, particularly in the news divisions. It was called tasteless, distorted, heavy-handed and accused of playing into the hands of "the incredible inferiority and hate complex on the part of the people in the print media," according to Today show producer Paul Friedman. TV journalist Barbara Walters feared the movie would harm the image of TV and insisted there would never be "that kind of show-biz approach to the news;because we will never let it happen."

Not every film critic was enchanted with the picture either. Many thought Chayevsky had sacrificed dramatic integrity by peopling his script with irredeemably vile caricatures and hollow shells who served only as mouthpieces for the author's own political diatribes, as when he put into Beale's dialogue a rant against the takeover of U.S. companies by Arabs and other foreign nationals. But audiences ate it up (even if they happily returned to sitting in front of the small screen for hours after seeing the movie). Had it not been for the enormous underdog success of Rocky (1976), Network might have taken more statuettes, including one for Best Picture. Still, it claimed four winning for Chayevsky's screenplay, Peter Finch as Best Actor, Faye Dunaway as Best Actress, and Beatrice Straight for her tiny role as Schumacher's jilted wife. By the time of the ceremony's broadcast, Finch had died and his Oscar was awarded posthumously. The awards show's producer insisted he wanted to keep it upbeat and told Chayevsky to accept instead of Finch's widow, who might be inclined to weep at the podium. But Chayevsky called her out of the audience and she came onstage to read an acceptance speech Chayevsky had written for her.

Dunaway was awarded for a role she was not sure she wanted to do in the first place. The studio initially wanted Jane Fonda, but Chayevsky did not agree with her politically. Jill Clayburgh, Marsha Mason, Diane Keaton, and Candice Bergen were names also bandied about before Dunaway was chosen. She loved the script but noted that it gave no vulnerability to Diana, no sense of what she might have been before television turned her into a woman whose only dream in life was "a 30 share and a 20 rating." But she went along with Chayevsky's conception and director Sidney Lumet's warning that she would not be allowed to sneak in any weeping or softness, and that it would remain on the cutting room floor if she did. Dunaway's husband at the time, rock musician Peter Wolf, and others close to her told her she should not do it. In her autobiography, she said they were trying to protect her, worrying that people would confuse her with the character and think badly of her. She never regretted her decision to take the role, but she did slyly remark she wished she had people around her later to talk her out of playing Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981), a film that had a negative effect on her career and image.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Producer: Howard Gottfried
Screenplay: Paddy Chayevsky
Cinematography: Owen Roizman
Editing: Allen Heim
Production Design: Philip Rosenberg
Original Music: Elliot Lawrence
Cast: Peter Finch (Howard Beale), Faye Dunaway (Diana Christensen), William Holden (Max Schumacher), Robert Duvall (Frank Hackett), Ned Beatty (Arthur Jensen), Beatrice Straight (Louise Schumacher), Wesley Addy (Nelson Chaney), Conchata Ferrell (Barbara Schlesinger), Kathy Cronkite (Mary Ann Gifford), Darryl Hickman (Bill Herron), William Prince (Edward George Ruddy).
C-122m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Rob Nixon

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Network (1976)

", as its ads proclaim, outrageous. It's also brilliantly, cruelly funny, a topical American comedy that confirms Paddy Chayefsky's position as a major new American satirist." - Vincent Canby, The New York Times

"Network will shake you up. Paddy Chayefsky's absurdly plausible and outrageously provocative original script concerns media running amok... a potent commercial blend of artful tirade, visual excitement and sociological horror." - Variety

"The venality of television is the central concern of the film, but Chayefsky was never one to concentrate on one target if he can leave his barbs in half a dozen others besides. Thus religion, politics, the corporate society, the whole quality of twentieth century life (or lack of it) are railed against by Chayefsky's lacerating prose." - David Castell, Films Illustrated

"Chayefsky [writes] directly to the audience - he soap-boxes. He hardly bothers with the characters; the movie is a ventriloquial harangue." - Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

"...a fantasy burlesque that might be considered an interesting, amusing divertissement, but nothing more." - Walter Cronkite

"The movie caused a sensation in 1976... Seen a quarter-century later, it is like prophecy. When Chayefsky created Howard Beale, could he have imagined Jerry Springer, Howard Stern and the World Wrestling Federation? ... In Network, which is rarely thought of as a "director's picture," it is [Sidney Lumet's] unobtrusive skill that allows all those different notes and energy levels to exist within the same film. In other hands, the film might have whirled to pieces. In his, it became a touchstone." - Roger Ebert (2000)

"Two decades later, this iconic American New Wave renegade text is even more startling than it once was--was Hollywood ever this cerebral, this caustic, this ethically apocalyptic? That 90 percent of [its] satire has become fulfilled prophecy by now doesn't take the shine off of its broadsword. It feels in the watching like a hilarious organic nightmare, but Network is very much a carefully crafted object, its structure brilliantly hidden, its sardonic flourishes made with a wide variety of weapons, its absurdities riding coach with hardcore realism." -- Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice (2006)

Awards and Honors - NETWORK

Academy Awards: Peter Finch (Best Actor), Faye Dunaway (Best Actress), Beatrice Straight (Best Supporting Actress), Paddy Chayefsky (Best Original Screenplay)
Other Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Sidney Lumet (Best Director), William Holden (Best Actor), Ned Beatty (Best Supporting Actor), Owen Roizman (Best Cinematography), Alan Heim (Best Film Editing)

Golden Globes: Peter Finch (Best Actor), Faye Dunaway (Best Actress), Sidney Lumet (Best Director), Paddy Chayefsky (Best Screenplay)
Other Golden Globe nomination: Best Motion Picture - Drama

British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award: Peter Finch (Best Actor)
Other BAFTA nominations: Best Film, Sidney Lumet (Best Director), William Holden (Best Actor), Faye Dunaway (Best Actress), Robert Duvall (Best Supporting Actor), Paddy Chayefsky (Best Screenplay), Alan Heim (Best Editing), Best Sound

Compiled by Roger Fristoe

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