NETWORK, Sidney Lumet, 1976 – The Tube Lies

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Howard Beale (Peter Finch), an acclaimed anchor at the UBS Evening News, is put out to pasture because he too old. News division president Max Schumacher (William Holden), Howard’s best friend, is forced to deliver the decision. Beale can’t stomach the idea of losing his 25-year post as anchorman simply because of age, so in his next broadcast he announces to the viewers that he’s going to commit suicide on his final program. The network wants Beale immediately fired, but Schumacher gives him a chance to apologize on the air. What he doesn’t count on is Beale using this camera time to go off on another tirade that to everyone’s surprise resonates with the audience. Seeing an opportunity to harness Beale’s “mad as hell” energy, the head of programming, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway), suggests Beale be given his own show. Although Max and Diana disagree on this business proposal, they initiate a personal relationship that complicates matters further. Driven by her tireless efforts to succeed, Diana drives Max away as Beale’s show becomes more crazed. And as those working in media know, fans are fickle and when Beale’s ratings drop, Diana and the network execs cancel his show permanently.

Collection: Written by Paddy Chayefsky

Cast: Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden

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Network (1976) – Modern Trailer

Director Sidney Lumet and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky claimed that the film was not meant to be a satire but a reflection of what was really happening.

Faye Dunaway would later say that this was “the only film I ever did that you didn’t touch the script because it was almost as if it were written in verse.” She was as happy with Sidney Lumet as with the writing, describing him as “one of, if not the, most talented and professional men in the world. In the rehearsals, two weeks before shooting he blocks his scenes with his cameraman. Not a minute is wasted while he’s shooting and that shows not only on the studio’s budget but on the impetus of performance.”

Peter Finch was desperate to win the role of Howard Beale once he had read the script. He even offered to pay his own airfare to New York City for the screentest. But Sidney Lumet was concerned about Finch’s Australian accent. Finch won the part after sending Lumet a recording of himself reading the New York Times with a perfect American accent.

Beatrice Straight is only on-screen for five minutes and two seconds. Hers was the briefest performance ever to win an Oscar.

Sidney Lumet said that he shot the film using a specific lighting scheme. He said in the film’s opening scenes, he shot with as little light as possible, shooting the film almost like a documentary. As the film progressed, he added more light and more camera moves and by the end of the film, it was as brightly lit and “slick” as he could make it. The idea was to visually convey the theme of media manipulation.

According to Sidney Lumet, the “Mad as Hell” speech was filmed in one and a half takes. Midway through the second take, Peter Finch abruptly stopped in exhaustion. Lumet was unaware of Finch’s failing heart at the time, but in any case, did not ask for a third take. What’s in the completed film is the second take for the first half of the speech, and the second half from the first take.

Henry Fonda turned down the role of Howard Beale, saying that it was “too hysterical.” Glenn Ford and George C. Scott did also. Although William Holden turned it down, he was cast in the other male lead and was nominated for Best Actor along with Peter Finch.

Faye Dunaway managed to put aside their earlier clashes and enjoy an apparently cordial relationship with William Holden. She claimed that during the shooting of the new film, “I found him a very sane, lovely man.”

This was one of Sidney Lumet‘s personal favourite movies of his own.

Network is a 1976 American satirical black comedydrama film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, about a fictional television network, UBS, and its struggle with poor ratings. The film stars Faye DunawayWilliam HoldenPeter Finch and Robert Duvall and features Wesley AddyNed Beatty and Beatrice Straight.

Network received widespread critical acclaim, with particular praise for the performances. The film was a commercial success and won four Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Actor (Finch), Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Supporting Actress (Straight) and Best Original Screenplay (Chayefsky).

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”.[3][4] 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”.[5] In 2005, the two Writers Guilds of America voted Chayefsky’s script one of the 10 greatest screenplays in the history of cinema.[6][a] In 2007, the film was 64th among the 100 greatest American films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI had given it ten years earlier.

Howard Beale, longtime evening newscaster for the Union Broadcasting System (UBS), learns from friend and news division president, Max Schumacher, that Beale has just two more weeks on the air because of declining ratings. The two commiserate and drunkenly lament the state of their industry. The following night, Beale announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast. UBS immediately tries to fire him after this incident, but Schumacher intervenes so that Beale can have a dignified farewell. Beale promises to apologize for his outburst, but once on the air, he launches into a rant about life being “bullshit.” Beale’s outburst causes ratings to spike, and much to Schumacher’s dismay, the UBS upper echelons decide to exploit the situation rather than downplay it. When Beale’s ratings seem to have topped out, programming chief Diana Christensen reaches out to Schumacher with an offer to help “develop” the show. He declines the professional proposal, but accepts a more personal pitch from Christiansen and the two begin an affair.

When Schumacher decides to end Beale’s “angry man” format, Christensen persuades her boss, Frank Hackett, to slot the evening news show under the entertainment programming division banner so she can develop it. Hackett agrees, bullying the UBS executives to consent and fire Schumacher. In one impassioned diatribe, Beale galvanizes the nation, persuading viewers to shout “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” from their windows. Soon afterward, Beale is hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show, top-billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves”. Ultimately, the show becomes the most highly rated program on television, and Beale finds new celebrity preaching his angry message in front of a live studio audience that, on cue, chants his signature catchphrase en masse: “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore!” Max and Diana’s romance withers as the show flourishes, but in the flush of high ratings, the two ultimately find their way back together, and Schumacher leaves his wife of over 25 years for Christensen.

Christensen, seeking just one hit show, cuts a deal with a band of terrorists called the Ecumenical Liberation Army (ELA) for a new docudrama series, The Mao Tse-Tung Hour, for the upcoming fall season, for which the ELA will provide exclusive footage of their activities. Her liaison, Communist Party USA representative Laureen Hobbs, initially objects to the promotion of violent terrorism, believing Americans are “not yet ready for open revolt” and that the ELA will harm left-wing causes in America, but relents after Christensen promises her total editorial control of the weekly prime-time TV program.

When Beale discovers that Communications Corporation of America (CCA), the conglomerate parent of UBS, will be bought out by an even larger Saudi conglomerate, he launches an on-screen tirade against the deal and urges viewers to pressure the White House to stop it. This panics top network brass because UBS’s debt load has made the merger essential for its survival. Beale meets with CCA chairman Arthur Jensen, who explicates his own “corporate cosmology” to Beale, describing the inter-relatedness of the participants in the international economy and the illusory nature of nationality distinctions. Jensen persuades Beale to abandon his populist message and preach his new “evangel”. Christensen’s fanatical devotion to her job and emotional emptiness ultimately drive Schumacher away and back to his wife, and he warns his former lover that she will self-destruct if she continues running her career at its current pace.

Audiences find Beale’s new sermons on the dehumanization of society depressing and ratings start to slip, yet Jensen will not allow UBS to fire Beale, despite protestations from Hackett, who fears a loss of ad revenue, and Hobbs, who fears that Beale’s slipping ratings will harm viewer numbers for The Mao Tse-Tung Hour. Seeing its two-for-the-price-of-one value—solving the Beale problem plus sparking a boost in season-opener ratings—Christensen, Hackett, and the other executives decide to hire the ELA to assassinate Beale on the air. The assassination succeeds, putting an end to The Howard Beale Show and kicking off a second season of The Mao Tse-Tung Hour.

As Beale lies bleeding on the set, a camera swings over the body in a crane shot — the tight depth of field of this final shot results in the camera apparently running over the corpse. It then cuts to four television screens, three displaying news reports covering Beale’s death, and the bottom-left displaying a contemporary commercial. The overlapping audio creates an unintelligible cacophony. Each news report plays out, two cutting to a different commercial, while the bottom-left screen replays Beale’s death in slow-motion. The screens momentarily freeze, and a voiceover proclaims the film “the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.” All of the screens fade to black, except for a still-frame of the murder. The overlapping audio slowly resolves throughout the credits, finally ending in a sound effect of a single news teletype.[7]

WE&P by EZorrilla.

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