A+ A A-

Remembering: Network

Remembering: Network
American satirical film directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway,
William Holden and Robert Duvall
Released November 27, 1976
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head

image002 

Howard Beale is a human being god dammit! His life has value! Upon seeing this film in ‘76, how many people in real life d’ya think did what Howard said, and got up out of their chairs, threw open their windows and yelled out: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”?

Over the last thirty-seven years, the phrase has become firmly embedded in our culture. And the late-great Peter Finch will forever be linked to it for uttering those words in his brilliant portrayal of Beale, evening news anchor for UBS, The Union Broadcasting System. The outburst was a reaction to the television network forcing Beale out of his job. And because his job is the only thing in his life that he’s got going for himself, Beale tells his viewers on national television that he will kill himself within a week’s time. Television was never the same again.

Satire, black comedy, dramady, however you wish to label it, Network is a film that was selected in the year 2000, for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The film’s dialogue, which comes off more like individual speeches, is incredible. And only the best actors deliver them. When the network news division president (William Holden) confesses to his wife that he’s having an affair with the opportunistic soul-less head of television programming (Faye Dunaway), Beatrice Straight in her role as Louise Schumacher, won an Academy Award for her emotional response to losing her husband. And the scene for which Straight appeared was only five minutes and 40 seconds long. Oddly enough, Finch died in real life from a heart attack mere months after the picture was released. His widow accepted his posthumous award for Best Actor.

The message of the film according to the writer Paddy Chayefsky (as he told it to Dinah Shore): “How do you preserve yourself in a world where life doesn’t really mean much anymore? It’s how I feel about the world around me. And it’s what writers do. They write about themselves, which seems to express the feelings of a lot of other people.” Faye Dunaway looked back at the film and had this to say: “The films of the 70s had a sense of story and originality that certainly isn’t true of studio films today.”

A film about corruption, extreme exploitation, and de-humanization, Network won four Academy Awards, but not for Best Picture. That’s because it was up against Rocky!

The trailer for Network...



 

Comments   

 
+1 #1 Darryl Tahirali 2013-01-23 13:42
Thanks for this new feature--great idea!

Network is very much a '70s movie, a socially-aware examination whose satire contains the jagged edges of the kind of cynicism, borne of lost idealism of the previous decade, that permeated a lot of movies of the 1970s.

Sidney Lumet was the ideal director for Network: He made many films with social issues at their core, from Fail-Safe to Dog Day Afternoon to The Verdict, but he never forgot that these issues involve individuals often caught up in events that they can barely control, and I think that is what makes his films so appealing--they illustrate the personal and social dynamics without preaching. (British director Stephen Frears also displays this quality.)

Unfortunately, that does not always happen in Network. You hit the nail on the head when you wrote that the dialogue "comes off more like individual speeches." This is the central problem with Paddy Chayefsky's stilted script: These aren't individuals speaking to each other--they are symbols speechifying to the camera. Chayefsky began his career in 1950s television with intimate, incisive teleplays, but he seemed to have abandoned that for the soapbox here. Put simply, people just do not talk like he has them talk in Network, and that gives the film's dialogue the same impression as vitamins--they are supposed to be good for you, but they can leave an unpleasant aftertaste.

Fortunately, many of the performances redeem the film. As the mirror for the other characters, William Holden musters the quiet dignity that marks his later career. As the catalyst, Faye Dunaway is terrific, a literal television baby and frightening example of the then-incipient corporate warrior, ruthless and driven, her alien beauty epitomizing how she could discern what would entertain millions of viewers while having no idea how to relate to them as individuals. In many ways, Peter Finch's Howard Beale has the thankless role as the buffoon although he of course gets the film's catch-phrase. Even though Beatrice Straight might only have a few minutes of screen time, she does get Chayefsky's best speech--or maybe she just delivers it with the biggest dose of humanism in the film; either way, it is probably the most affecting scene in Network, and I don't begrudge Straight her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. (I have bigger complaints about Estelle Parsons's Oscar in Bonnie and Clyde, as well as Judi Dench's one for her virtual walk-on in Shakespeare in Love.) Finally, Ned Beatty gets the scenery-chewing award for his unforgettable over-the-top dressing-down of Beale: "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mister Beale, and I won't have it!" Beatty as corporate chairman Arthur Jensen symbolizes the soulless rapaciousness that Chayefsky and Lumet are driving at in Network, and that symbol also happens to be a bludgeon, not a rapier.

Still, the broad satire can be enjoyable. Although kids today might not understand just why the "Ecumenical Liberation Front" is in the film (it was a reference to the 1970s political revolutionary outfit the Symbionese Liberation Army, which had kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst in 1974), its behavior during the script run-through for its TV show is still bitingly hilarious.

What makes Network enduring is its warning about the pervasiveness and ruthlessness of mass media, exemplified by television. This movie explains how we ended up with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo today, so despite the groaning dialogue, it remains a classic thanks to Sidney Lumet's steady guidance.

Looking forward to more reviews of classic movies!
Quote
 

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Remembering: Network

Remembering: Network
American satirical film directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway,
William Holden and Robert Duvall
Released November 27, 1976
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head

image002 

Howard Beale is a human being god dammit! His life has value! Upon seeing this film in ‘76, how many people in real life d’ya think did what Howard said, and got up out of their chairs, threw open their windows and yelled out: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”?

Over the last thirty-seven years, the phrase has become firmly embedded in our culture. And the late-great Peter Finch will forever be linked to it for uttering those words in his brilliant portrayal of Beale, evening news anchor for UBS, The Union Broadcasting System. The outburst was a reaction to the television network forcing Beale out of his job. And because his job is the only thing in his life that he’s got going for himself, Beale tells his viewers on national television that he will kill himself within a week’s time. Television was never the same again.

Satire, black comedy, dramady, however you wish to label it, Network is a film that was selected in the year 2000, for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

The film’s dialogue, which comes off more like individual speeches, is incredible. And only the best actors deliver them. When the network news division president (William Holden) confesses to his wife that he’s having an affair with the opportunistic soul-less head of television programming (Faye Dunaway), Beatrice Straight in her role as Louise Schumacher, won an Academy Award for her emotional response to losing her husband. And the scene for which Straight appeared was only five minutes and 40 seconds long. Oddly enough, Finch died in real life from a heart attack mere months after the picture was released. His widow accepted his posthumous award for Best Actor.

The message of the film according to the writer Paddy Chayefsky (as he told it to Dinah Shore): “How do you preserve yourself in a world where life doesn’t really mean much anymore? It’s how I feel about the world around me. And it’s what writers do. They write about themselves, which seems to express the feelings of a lot of other people.” Faye Dunaway looked back at the film and had this to say: “The films of the 70s had a sense of story and originality that certainly isn’t true of studio films today.”

A film about corruption, extreme exploitation, and de-humanization, Network won four Academy Awards, but not for Best Picture. That’s because it was up against Rocky!

The trailer for Network...



 

You may also like...

Login

Click an icon to login instantly with your social account. (If you are logged into Facebook, clicking the Facebook icon will log you in to Not in Hall of Fame instantly.)
  • 321. The Raspberries
    The Raspberries were an early 70’s Power Pop group that echoed the sound of the British Invasion. Problem was, they did so at a time when many music fans were craving a harder sound and much of the music that they created was considered “uncool” at the time. Time has reflected very well on the Raspberries and the slickly produced…
    Comments (2)

Popular

red gold blue

© 2009-2012 Kirk Buchner & David Johnson