In the 1970s, terrorist violence is the stuff of networks' nightly news programming and the corporate structure of the UBS Television Network is changing. Meanwhile, Howard Beale, the aging UBS news anchor, has lost his once strong ratings share and so the network fires him. Beale reacts in an unexpected way. We then see how this affects the fortunes of Beale, his coworkers (Max Schumacher and Diana Christensen), and the network. Written by
Bruce Janson <email@example.com>
Sidney Lumet claimed that he wanted to cast Vanessa Redgrave in the film, but Paddy Chayefsky didn't want her. Lumet argued that he thought she was the greatest English-speaking actress in the world, while Chayefsky, a proud Jew and supporter of Israel, objected on the basis of her support of the PLO. Lumet, himself a Jew, said "Paddy, that's blacklisting!" to which Chayefsky replied, "Not when a Jew does it to a Gentile." The year after this film swept the Oscars, Redgrave won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Julia. The Jewish Defense League had protested her nomination and was picketing and burning her in effigy outside the Academy Awards ceremony. In her controversial acceptance speech, Redgrave decried intimidation by "Zionist hoodlums". Chayefsky was one of the scheduled presenters later in the evening, and he took a moment to express his contempt at Redgrave for "exploiting" the Academy Awards for "personal propaganda". See more »
Just after Beale announces his intention to commit suicide on the air, we see a row of TV screens showing how the story is being covered by the other channels. Playing a news anchor, John Gabriel claims that "something happened at one of our sister networks..." It should have been referred to as a "competitive" network - a "sister" implies the same corporate ownership, something prohibited by the FCC in 1976. See more »
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. In 1969, however, his fortunes began to decline. He fell to a 22 share. The following year, 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, ...
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This movie came out when I was nine years old, and I saw it on network TV the following year, lured by the brouhaha that surrounded the use of the "barnyard epithet" during prime time. I loved this movie before I understood it, and I worship it now. Like "Elmer Gantry" or "1984," it's a work of didactic art that only fails on an imaginative level -- Sinclair Lewis couldn't grasp how debased evangelism would become, Orwell couldn't foresee the excesses of Mao or Pol Pot, and Chayevsky couldn't envision the absolute decline of television from a vast wasteland to a malevolent sewer. Fox News, reality TV, even the OJ chase, "Network" anticipates every vile bit of it.
Now, it's ridiculously overwritten -- NO ONE is as articulate as the characters in this film, and most certainly, no one who works in television is as literate as Diana Christensen (the Faye Dunaway character). I doubt that poet laureates or even Eminem could spew as witty an aside as "muttering mutilated Marxism." But damn if that isn't part of its charm. Plus, outside of Max Schumacher (William Holden), the characters are pretty much archetypes instead of real people (the Robert Duvall character might as well wear a black cape and top hat), but their two-dimensionality works as a good metaphor for Max's seduction into the "shrieking nothingness" or television. Plus the actors are so superb they make screeching caricatures into almost-sympathetic characters: Duvall is a credible and charismatic villain, Finch is a fine mad prophet and Faye Dunaway manages to make a shrill, manipulative, soulless neurotic so damn cute and sexy you'll want to leave your wife for her, too, just as long as she promises to keep sitting cross-legged on your desk and hitching up her skirt. (Therein lies the real eroticism, forget the intentionally mechanical, unerotic coupling later in the flick). Anyway, this is complex, high art masquerading as popular entertainment, go rent it now.
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