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Riveting and Upsetting

  • Sep 12, 2003
After almost 30 years, people continue to disagree about Network which received an Academy Award for best film. No one questions the quality of acting. Finch, Dunaway, and Straight received Academy Awards; Holden and Beatty were nominees. Rather, one of the volatile issues concerns Paddy Chayevsky's portrayal of network television in the 1970s. (FYI, Chayevsky received an Academy Award for best original screenplay.) How plausible is it, after forcing a news anchor to retire, to allow him to remain on the air after he promises to commit suicide on camera at the conclusion of his final program? Worse yet, to promote him as "The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves" to increase viewership and improve ratings? Some people have suggested that the character of Howard Beale (Finch) is based on Dave Garroway, a long-time anchor on NBC?s Today Show. Others are better qualified to comment on that. The fact remains, Beale is obviously upset and becomes progressively moreso, ranting and raving on-air (and off) about the emergence of institutional authority and the decline of individual influence. At one point, he urges his viewers to go to the nearest window, open it, and shout at the top of their lungs "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Hundreds of thousands immediately do so, including members of the network executives' own families.

The United Broadcasting Company (UBS) is hardly unique. Amoral careerists and predatory backstabbers can be found in any organization. However, UBS and other networks are granted licenses to use air time owned by taxpayers. Therefore, in certain respects, they have a fiduciary responsibility to behave as a public trust. However mentally unbalanced Beale may be, his messianic zeal to defend the best interests of his viewers is both sincere and legitimate. Max Schumacher (Holden) is his closest friend and longtime business associate. As portrayed by Holden, Max is himself a troubled man. He feels obligated to support Beale but fears the end of his own career and the situation is complicated by the fact that his marriage has become stale and he is thus vulnerable to the charms of the ferociously ambitious Diana Christensen (Dunaway) with whom he has an affair.

Of course, tension builds as Beale's final program approaches. Will he commit suicide on air? Will his substantially increased popularity force UBS to let him continue to anchor the evening news or remain on-air in some other capacity? Will the Schumachers be reconciled? What impact will the Beale Saga have on others at UBS, notably Diana Christensen, owner Arthur Jensen (Beatty) and CEO Frank Hackett (Duvall)?

See the film and find out.

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More Network (1976 movie) reviews
review by . June 25, 2009
posted in Screen Gems
Network 1
When Paddy Chayefsky's "Network" opened in theaters back in 1976 it created quite a stir all across America.  "Network" boasted an all-star cast that included such luminaries as William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall and Ned Beatty,  "Network" tells the story of the fledgling UBS network which due to insipid programming and increasingly lackluster ratings was widely considered to be an industry joke.  The …
Quick Tip by . October 21, 2010
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Ultimately this is a scary movie (horror in the real sense not the gory kind).
review by . February 16, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Story, satire, maturity, acting      Cons: Speechifying and Dunaway's screaming gets pretty old.      The Bottom Line: I think many will find the themes in this movie fit our present situation in an eerie way. It is well worth the time.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie''s plot.      No one gripes more about the wasteland of television (and when Network was released, …
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Robert Morris ()
Ranked #75
Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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About this movie


Network is a 1976 New Hollywood drama film about a fictional television network, Union Broadcasting System (UBS), and its struggle with poor ratings. It was written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, and stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty and Beatrice Straight. The film won four Academy Awards, including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.

Network has continued to receive recognition, decades after its initial release. In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2002, it was inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame as a film that has "set an enduring standard for American entertainment."[1] In 2006, Chayefsky's script was voted one of the top ten movie scripts of all-time by the Writers Guild of America, East. In 2007, the film was 64th among the Top 100 Greatest American Films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI gave it ten years earlier.

Media madness reigns supreme in screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky's scathing satire about the uses and abuses of network television. But while Chayefsky's and director Sidney Lumet's take on television may seem quaint in the age of "reality TV" and ...

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