“This story is about Howard Beale who was the network 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.”
“In 1969, however, he fell to a 22 share, and, by 1972, he was down to a 15 share. In 1973, his wife died, and he was left a childless widower with an 8 rating and a 12 share. He became morose and isolated, began to drink heavily, and, on September 22, 1975, he was fired, effective in two weeks. The news was broken to him by Max Schumacher who was president of the News Division at UBS and an old friend. The two men got properly pissed.”
What can I say about Network, that Network doesn’t already say about itself?
Network is one of the most well rounded films I have ever seen in my life. It is one of the best written and acted I have ever seen in my life, and it is eerie how relateable the film is with our present times, even though it was made in 1976.
The incredible script is written by Paddy Chayefsky(Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen) and directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet.
If you are as big of a media fan as I am, this movie lays out the cut throat competition for television ratings better than anything I have ever seen.
First off let me tell you about the movie itself and where the inspiration for the plot came from. Network boasts a large cast filled with talented actors that each play a major role to the success of UBS–TV a dying Network unable to keep up with ABC,NBC, and CBS. Ratings are down, money is not being made and the News Division is in last place with Howard Beale lead anchor becoming staler and staler by the day.
Desperate times call for desperate measures right?
Howard Beale hits the airwaves and proclaims he plans to kill himself. Now before going any further, this plot used in the movie does have some reality to it. A news reporter by the name of Christine Chubbuck really did commit suicide on a live news cast in 1974.
“I’m going to blow my brains out right on the air, right in the middle of the seven o’clock news.” -Howard Beale
Now if you’re a “normal” human being with any type of emotion the first reaction you will have will involve some type of shock or gasp. But if your a TV executive working in the business the first thought that may cross your mind is “that would give us a hell of a rating.” That’s what makes Network so cut throat, the characters live life as a script. As a chain of events that lead to a conclusion. Emotions are rare, finding the meat of the product and milking it for all its worth is the goal no matter who it hurts or effects negatively. Clearly as you may assume Howard Beale’s comments cause quite the stir as other Networks quickly grab the story and air it out to the world. UBS-TV quickly sees the amount of incredible publicity they are receiving, and realize “sensationalism” not only sells to the public but sells in a massive way.
Howard has revelation after revelation, and becomes the “mad prophet of the airways.” Who doesn’t want to watch a mad man yell and scream on television, it sells! The show hits all time highs because not only does Howard “lecture” but what he says makes lots of sense, it’s the cold hard truth, the things you don’t want to hear but know are true. Along the way presidents, executives, producers all chime in on the situation with Beale and UBS.
Peter Finch plays Howard Beale a once legendary reporter gone crazy due to depression and low ratings. Peter Finch did win the Oscar for this role and is an absolute scene stealer throughout the movie. His speeches have gone down into movie history and his most prolific line voted on many lists as one of the greatest lines to ever be said in a motion picture “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The Howard Beale character is cynical, intelligent, and eccentric. Unfortunately Peter Finch passed away before he could receive his Oscar, similar to Heath Ledger recently who played The Joker in the Dark Knight. It was said Finch had a failing heart during the making of Network. It is one of the most iconic roles even in my opinion and will never be matched.
Faye Dunaway plays Diana Christensen the typical workaholic. Diana is the head of TV at UBS not the News Division but quickly takes control of that division after she sees the potential in Howard Beale as a”cynical character” instead of a professional news reporter. Friction is caused by Diana entering the News Division which is handled by Max Schumacher. Like Finch, Faye won an Oscar for her brilliant role. She is a chatterbox throughout the movie, and delivers her lines better than anyone I can think of. A real go getter who lives life like it’s a script, no human emotion no regard for human life. She is as cut throat as it gets.
William Holden plays Max Schumacher the News Division’s main man and Howard’s good friend. Max goes through the most ups and downs in his life and all in all is the man with the most emotion for Howard. Max knows Howard is unstable, yet he is being used like a circus act for ratings. Holden brings the emotional reality into the film and is superb.
Most of you are familiar with this man Robert Duvall. Duvall plays Frank Hackett the man at the top. Hackett takes the reigns of this “Beale adventure” only to realize how much he’s put his job on the line by accepting the challenge. Duvall plays this role with passion and aggression, a real tough guy who isn’t willing to back down from anyone. It’s my favorite Duvall role to date.
The last character I wanted to talk about is Arthur Jensen which is played by Ned Beatty. Jensen is the big boss, the man at the top with the fancy office. Though this character is not in the movie heavily, he has a defining scene with Beale in the boardroom. A scene that gives you chills and changes the entire scenario for Beale. Jensen essentially tells Beale what he’s saying is all wrong, that he doesn’t get how the world works. Then Jensen describes to Beale that the world is no longer ran by people, but by big money hungry corporations.Like I said sounds eerie with the situation we are in now doesn’t it? Jenson brainwashes Beale into conveying the message he wants.
Beale asks Jenson “why me?”
Jenson replies “because you’re on television, dummy.”
Network is a must watch. I find no faults with Network and it may sound like I’m in denial when it comes to this film, but it’s brilliant on all levels for me. I highlighted some specific actors in this film but many more have unforgettable moments including Beatrice Straight.
“Well, the issue is: shall we kill Howard Beale or not? I’d like to hear some more opinions on that…” – Frank Hackett
My 1-10 scale = 10