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Network is a satirical 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 and Robert Duvall and features 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 Congressmarker 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 U.S. American entertainment." 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 U.S. American Films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI gave it ten years earlier.

Plot

Long-time "UBS Evening News" anchor Howard Beale is fired because of declining ratings. He has two more weeks on the air, but the following night, Beale announces on live television that he will commit suicide by shooting himself in the head during an upcoming live broadcast. UBS immediately fires him after this incident, but they let him back on the air, ostensibly for a dignified farewell, with persuasion from Beale's best friend and president of the News division Max Schumacher, the network's old guard news editor. Beale promises that he will apologize for his outburst, but instead rants about how life is "bullshit". Sympathetic towards Beale, and bitter over the station's treatment of him, Schumacher decides to keep him on the air to vent his frustrations. While there are serious repercussions, the program's ratings soar and, much to Schumacher's dismay, the upper echelons of UBS decide to exploit Beale's antics rather than pulling him off the air. In one impassioned diatribe, Beale galvanizes the nation with his rant, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" and persuades Americans to shout out their windows during a lightning storm. Soon Beale is hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show, top-billed as a "mad prophet". Ultimately, the show becomes the highest rated program on television, and Beale finds new celebrity preaching his angry message in front of a live audience that, on cue, repeats the Beale's marketed catchphrase en masse.

Beginning as a producer of entertainment programming, Diana Christensen's desire to produce a hit show for the network results in her cutting a deal with a group of left-wing terrorists (a parody of the Symbionese Liberation Army, called the "Ecumenical Liberation Army") who film themselves robbing banks, footage to be used as the cold-opening for a new series based on terrorists for the network that she wishes developed for the upcoming fall season. When Beale's nervous breakdown-fueled rants suddenly start to bring in high ratings, Christensen convinces her boss Frank Hackett to merge the news and entertainment division, so that she can produce Beale's news program. This brings Christensen into contact with Schumacher, leading to a love-hate relationship due to their mutual attraction to each other in spite of Schumacher's disdain for her exploitation of his best friend. The two ultimately begin an affair, which leads to Schumacher leaving his wife of over 25 years for Christensen. But Christensen's fanatical devotion to her job and emotional emptiness ultimately drives Max back to his wife, warning his former lover that she will self-destruct at the pace she was running with her career.

Beale ultimately ends up going too far with his tirades upon discovering that the conglomerate that owns UBS will be bought out by an even larger Saudi Arabianmarker conglomerate. Beale launches an on-screen tirade against the two corporations, encouraging the audience to telegram the White Housemarker with the message, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!" in the hopes of stopping the merger. This throws the network into a state of panic due to the company's various debts making the merger necessary in order for it to survive. Beale is then taken to meet with Arthur Jensen, chairman of the company which owns UBS, who explicates his own "corporate cosmology" to the now nearly delusional Beale. Revealing himself to be quite as mad as Beale, Jensen delivers a one-on-one tutorial—almost a sermon in a darkened room that suggests to the delusional Beale that Jensen may be a higher power—describing the interrelatedness of the participants in the international economy, and the illusory nature of nationality distinctions. Jensen ultimately persuades Beale to abandon his populist messages. However, audiences find his new views on the dehumanization of society to be depressing, and ratings begin to slide. Despite this, Jensen will not allow executives to fire Beale as he spreads the new 'gratteau'. Still fixating on ratings, Christensen arranges for Beale's on-air assassination by the same group of urban terrorists who she discovered earlier and who now have their own UBS show, The Mao Tse-Tung Hour.

Cast





Cast notes
  • Kathy Cronkite (Walter Cronkite's daughter) appears as kidnapped heiress Mary Ann Gifford.
  • Lance Henriksen has a small uncredited role as a network lawyer at Ahmet Khan's home.
  • Tom Gibney, a now-retired news anchor in Torontomarker, Ontariomarker, appears in an uncredited role as a news anchor


Production

The script was written by Paddy Chayefsky, and the producer was Howard Gottfried. The two had just come off a lawsuit against United Artists, challenging the studio's right to lease their previous film, The Hospital, to ABC in a package with a less successful film. Despite recently settling this lawsuit, Chayefsky and Gottfried agreed to allow UA to finance the film. But after reading the script, UA found the subject matter too controversial and backed out.

Undeterred, Chayefsky and Gottfried shopped the script around to other studios, and eventually found an interested party in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Soon afterwards UA reversed itself and looked to co-finance the film with MGM, who for the past several years had distributed through UA in the US. MGM agreed to let UA back on board, and gave them the international distribution rights, with MGM controlling North American rights.

The film premiered in New York Citymarker on November 27, 1976, with a wide release following shortly afterward.

Critical reception

Vincent Canby, in his November 1976 review of the film for The New York Times, called the film "outrageous...brilliantly, cruelly funny, a topical American comedy that confirms Paddy Chayefsky's position as a major new American satirist" and a film whose "wickedly distorted views of the way television looks, sounds, and, indeed, is, are the satirist's cardiogram of the hidden heart, not just of television but also of the society that supports it and is, in turn, supported."

In a review of the film written after it received its Academy Awards, Roger Ebert called it a "supremely well-acted, intelligent film that tries for too much, that attacks not only television but also most of the other ills of the 1970s," though "what it does accomplish is done so well, is seen so sharply, is presented so unforgivingly, that Network will outlive a lot of tidier movies." Seen a quarter-century later, Ebert said the film was "like prophecy. When Chayefsky created Howard Beale, could he have imagined Jerry Springer, Howard Stern and the World Wrestling Federation?"; he credits Lumet and Chayefsky for knowing "just when to pull out all the stops."

Not all reviews were positive; Pauline Kael in The New Yorker slammed the movie's abundance of long, preachy speeches; Chayefsky's self-righteous contempt for not only television itself but also TV viewers; and the fact that almost everyone in the movie has a screaming rant at some point—pointing out that Robert Duvall screams the loudest. (Her review was subtitled "Hot Air.")

Awards and honors

Academy Awards

Network won three of the four acting awards, tying the record of 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire. As of 2009, Network is the last film to have won three of the four acting Academy Awards.

Won:

Finch died before the Academy Awards ceremony was held and, until Heath Ledger won an Oscar for his role in 2008's The Dark Knight, was the only performer ever to win the award posthumously. In addition, both Finch and Ledger were Australian citizens.

The award itself was collected by his widow, Eletha Finch. Straight's performance as the wife of Holden's character occupied only five minutes and 40 seconds of screen time, making it the shortest performance to win an Oscar, as of 2009.Nominated:

Golden Globes

Won:

Nominated:

BAFTA Awards

Won:

Nominated:

American Film Institute



Rights

In 1980, UA's then-parent, Transamerica Corporation, put the studio up for sale following the disastrous release of Heaven's Gate, which was a major financial flop and public relations nightmare. Transamerica had become very nervous about the film industry as a result. The next year MGM purchased UA, and consequently gained UA's international rights to Network.

Then, in 1986, media mogul Ted Turner purchased MGM/UA. Without any financial backers, Turner soon fell into debt and sold back most of MGM, but kept the library for his own company, Turner Entertainment - this included the US rights to Network, but international rights remained with MGM, who retained the UA library (or, at least UA's own releases from 1952 onward, plus a few pre-1952 features, as other libraries which had been acquired by UA - such as the pre-1950 Warner Bros. library - were retained by Turner). Turner soon made a deal with MGM's video division for home distribution of most of Turner's library, allowing MGM to retain US video rights to Network for 13 more years.

In 1996, Turner merged with Time Warner. Consequently, WB assumed TV and theatrical distribution rights to the Turner library, with video rights being added in 1999.

Today, WB/Turner owns the US rights to Network, while international ancillary rights remain with MGM - which was bought by a consortium led by Sony and Comcast in 2005. MGM has also assigned international video distribution rights to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, while theatrical rights are co-held by Columbia Pictures.

Cultural References

In the 2008 film, The Onion Movie the anchorman, Norm Archer uses the "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" sentence, which is a direct reference to the movie.

Conservative talk-show host, Glenn Beck, has repeatedly compared himself to Howard Beale.

In the TV Series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the pilot episode features a television producer going on a rant similar to Beale's, and numerous reporters allude to the film itself. At one point, one of the characters states, "At least they know who [Paddy] Chayefsky is."

In the TV special Un-broke Samuel L. Jackson played an author of self-help books who was out of money and encouraged people to yell, "I'm broke as Hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

The New York Mets used to play the clip, "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" followed by a video of "LETS GO METS". Other sports teams likely use this clip as well to start a chant, as the San Francisco Giants have used the same clip for years.

Notes

  1. Producers Guild Hall of Fame - Past Inductees from the PGA website - THIS IS A DEAD LINK
  2. Because Chayefsky started writing the screenplay during the same month that newscaster Christine Chubbuck committed on-air suicide, some, including Matthew C. Ehrlich in Journalism in the Movies (ISBN 0252029348), have speculated (p. 122) that the scene was inspired by Chubbuck's manner of death.
  3. Review of Network from the November 15, 1976 edition of The New York Times
  4. Review of Network by Roger Ebert from the 1970s
  5. Review of Network by Roger Ebert from October 2000
  6. You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story (2008), p. 255.
  7. WB retained a pair of features from 1949 that they merely distributed, and all short subjects released on or after September 1, 1948; in addition to all cartoons released in August 1948.
  8. Fair.org


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