Network (1976)

network poster 1976 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

A great predictor of the future of television news


Movie Info

Movie Name:   Network

Studio:   MGM

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   November 27, 1976

MPAA Rating:   R

network howard beale mad as hell speech peter finch

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!!!!”

Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is the main anchor of the failing Union Broadcasting System’s evening news.  With slipping ratings and unhappy investors, Beale finds his already stressful job taken from him…and he’s not going to take it.  Getting on air and announcing that he’s going to publically kill himself starts off a chain reaction which changes the graces of UBS.  As his friend and colleague Max Schumacher (William Holden) tries to contain Beale, the programming department led by Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) wants to exploit him and she’s got the backing of her boss Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall).  Beale’s not stopping and either is UBS…but viewers can be fickle things.

Directed by Sidney Lumet, Network is a news satire.  The film was released to critical acclaim and a strong box office return.  It won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Peter Finch—accepted posthumously after Finch’s death on January 14, 1977), Best Actress (Faye Dunaway), Best Supporting Actress (Beatrice Straight), and Best Original Screenplay with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (William Holden), Best Supporting Actor (Ned Beatty), Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing.  It was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry in 2000.

Working in news, there are essentially two paths you can take…All the President’s Men where valiant reporters risk life and limb to uncover the truth despite orders not to or Network…where money and viewership reigns supreme (ironically both were released in 1976).  While everyone would like to think All the President’s Men is the more realistic film (because it is based on real events), it seems more and more that Network is the more telling of the stories.

network diana max sex scene faye dunaway william holden

Can we just talk about love and emotions instead of TV for once?

The plot for Network is extremely tight and strong.  It takes the basic plot of “the nightly news” as entertainment and runs with it by making it more and more fun and profitable while making it less and less informative.  This is a huge trend and as the social media expands, it seems to be even more true with everyone posting videos like the Ecumenical Liberation Army, the “need” for newsmen to sort it all out is falling by the wayside…forcing news to keep up with bloggers and streamers.  Network had immense foresight by recognizing this was already beginning in the ’70s before the invention of the internet and cable news networks.

It is bolstered by a great cast.  The series flips the traditionally seen gender roles with Faye Dunaway being the work obsessed business woman and William Holden being the sensitive man who cares more about love and emotions.  Robert Duvall is the cold and calculating business man who wants to run news for a profit and Ned Beatty acts as a voice of God to keep Peter Finch in line.  Finch’s classic “Mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” speech is still a showstopper and considered one of film’s most memorable lines.  Also in the movie is the Academy Award winning Beatrice Straight who is often cited as one of the Academy Award winners having the least screen time in her two short scenes.  There is a small cameo by Lance Henriksen and Walter Cronkite’s daughter Kathy Cronkite appears as the kidnapped heiress Mary Ann Gifford.

network arthur jensen ned beatty

Let me give you a new direction…

The movie has that great ’70s gritty look.  It is definitely of the period, but I also like the religious overtones of the set for the Howard Beal “news” show once he becomes the mad profit (and that they still consider soothsayers, public opinion surveys, and celebrity secrets news…something that is considered “real” news now).

Network was a great predictor of the future of TV news.  I’m not going to say that there aren’t true news people out there (I work with many), but often the interference of producers and marketers create a weird power struggle between news and entertainment.  Who has the biggest audience and what will bring the people in often outweighs what is best and most important to the viewer…Network is reality, and reality is Network.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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