WolfmanOz at the Movies #24

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore !

Paddy Chayefsky is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for screenplay writing (both adapted and original), and it’s his third Academy Award winning script for the brilliant film Network, released back in 1976, that is the focus this week.

His screenplay for Network is often regarded as his masterpiece and has been hailed as “the kind of literate, darkly funny and breathtaking prescient material that prompts many to claim it as the greatest screenplay of the 20th century.” from 101 Greatest Screenplays – Writers Guild of America.

The film starts with Howard Beale, the longtime evening newscaster for UBS, learning that he just 2 more weeks on air due to declining ratings. Then on the following evening he announces on live television that he will commit suicide on next Tuesday’s broadcast:


It was the role of a lifetime for English born Aussie Peter Finch, one which resonates just as strong today as it did 46 years ago.

He would go on to win the Oscar for his performance but he never got to enjoy it as he died of a heart attack during a promotional tour for the film a couple of months before the Oscar ceremony. He was only 60 years old.

His boss and close friend Max Schumacher (played by William Holden in yet another brilliant performance in this film) manages to dissuade UBS from firing Beale from which he says he will apologise on air for his outburst which then descends into more farce as he says live on air “I just ran out of bullshit”.

But Beale’s outbursts have caused ratings to rise and UBS decide to exploit the situation through the machinations of programming chief Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway in yet another top performance) who gets the evening news show under her entertainment programming division.

During an evening storm, Beale turns up at UBS and galvanises the nation with one of the most memorable 5 minute rants you’ll ever see in a movie:

Which leads to Beale now hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show with him top-billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves”:


Schumacher leaves his wife of 25 years for Christensen but their romance withers as Christensen’s stock rises:


I always thought Bill Holden was so unlucky not to win the Oscar, although he was nominated. He gives arguably his best performance on film as he perfectly captured the weariness of an ageing man trying to rekindle his youth whilst all around him his world is collapsing.

Ultimately Beale’s show begins to tank in the ratings and UBS executives decide to have Howard assassinated on air which would also provide a boost in a season opener; where the films ends with Beale shot on air.

The final voiceover proclaims “this was the story of Howard Beale. The first know instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings”.

Today, the films acts like a prophecy in the way it attacks not only television but also of the society that supports and devours it.

The film is unrelenting, hysterical, loud and an exhausting experience that is superlatively acted by its marvellous cast and expertly directed by Sidney Lumet who not only had to handle the egos of his cast but also the constant notes and suggestions from Chayefsky.

It’s another film from the 1970s which would no longer be made to today, which is more the pity, as it was a smash hit on release as adult audiences lapped up its anger at the society they were living in which probably hasn’t really changed all that much given all the bullshit that’s still going around in the world today.

Enjoy.

17 thoughts on “WolfmanOz at the Movies #24”

  1. The new series TL;DR gets me every time:

    You needn’t bother to read them. I’ll tell them to you.
    The first one is set in a large Eastern law school, presumably Harvard.
    The series is irresistibly entitled The Young Lawyers.
    The running characters are a crusty but benign ex-Supreme Court Justice,
    presumably Oliver Wendell Holmes by way of Dr. Zorba.
    There is a beautiful girl graduate student and the local district attorney who is brilliant and sometimes cuts corners.
    Next one.
    The second one is called The Amazon Squad.
    Lady cops?

    And so it goes on with only the occupations changed.


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  2. I have to admit I far preferred Peter Finch in A town like Alice.

    Now there’s a film that couldn’t be made today. “Mrs Boong” indeed.

    Having said that, I would love to see a film where the media are held to account for their relentless shaping of society in their image and their credulity ground into the dirt.


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  3. I’ve never watched Network. I enjoyed Citizen Kane, but these days I can’t make myself look at anything to do with the media. Too painful and anger inducing.


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  4. Hi WolfmanOz
    I know it’s your channel…

    Please consider critiquing another media movie

    Sweet Smell of Success

    with the acerbic Burt Lancaster and the oleaginous Tony Curtis.


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  5. Hi Zyconoclast – I’ll give it a look – I haven’t seen it for a number of years so I’ll mark it down to revisit in the next couple of weeks.


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  6. As if by some cosmic coincidence, a former workplace proximity acquaintance (anchor)
    has just got a gig as a “story producer” for MAFS*.
    Surely the twenty-first century version of getting whacked for poor ratings.
    * I’m pretty sure she knew nothing about mass air flow sensors,
    but she did know a lot about drama queening, so it’s probably the other one.


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  7. William Holden always enjoyable even though he seemed to be the same person in all his pictures. A favourite is The World of Susie Wong: fantastical nonsense but still entertaining.


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  8. If you thought Network was dated, look at what the Democratic Party is attempting to do this week: it has hired a top news producer from the US ABC network to dramatise Congress’s January 6 Committee hearings in Washington later this week.

    Of course, like Network, it will become a farce that unwittingly lampoons the US media’s disconnection from the American middle class as it tries to ram Democratic Party propaganda down the throats of the flyover states who will dare to vote Republican in the 2022 mid-term elections and end the control over national policy being exercised by the Marxist cabal running the Biden White House.

    The (dramatised) January 6 hearings are evidently scheduled for Thursday (US time). As Wolfman urges, think of Peter Finch and enjoy!


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  9. Network was one of those films which photographed new York with great sympathy and a dynamic life style without physical exertion, unlike the lifestyles in California or the mid west.
    It opened my eyes to white collar work.
    The subliminal socialist messages hit home now.


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  10. It was the role of a lifetime for English born Aussie Peter Finch, one which resonates just as strong today as it did 46 years ago.

    Sure does. Think about the things Beale denounces at the start of his rant and think of Biden’s America. I suspect that the American public are mad as hell and are not going to take it any more, but will the Dems manage to control the midterms enough to force them to?


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