NETWORK ( 1976 )

Well it’s Oscar time again.

OSCAR BLOGATHON ( Banner )I’ve been watching the Oscar ceremonies since I was a little girl and saw Sidney Poitier and Julie Christie win their Academy Awards waaay back in the 60’s. I’ve been recording the ceremony every year since my 1983 VCR days. My Oscar-tradition is: lights out, Haagen-Dazs at the ready and just gaze at the movie stars. Sometimes I agree and cheer, other  times I’m annoyed and yell. But I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Thanxxx to Once Upon A Screen,  Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club I get to talk about NETWORK.”

 

NETWORK POSTER

For my contribution to the 31 DAYS OF OSCAR Blogathon 2015, I gotta tell ya – “Network” has got to be the most perfect motion picture ever made…that didn’t win a Best Picture Oscar. The big picture winner in 1976 was ROCKY ( also nominated along with  All the President’s Men, Bound for Glory” and Taxi Driver” ). I enjoyed “Rocky” – it’s an emotional favorite; lower budget, indie-ish…has the flavor of “On The Waterfront.” But I guess I can’t in good conscience think of “Network” as Oscar-snubbed just because it didn’t win the Best Picture award. The glass is not exactly half-empty. The movie gar-nered FOUR Oscars for acting and writing. And that makes the glass pretty darned full.

NETWORK ( #2 )

“Network” is the perfect storm of systems: The Plot – Keeping a mentally unstable newsman on air and exploiting his illness for ratings. The big Set-Pieces: “Mad As Hell”, Ned Beatty’s Corporate Speech, The Wife’s Speech and the Contract Negotiation Scene which is the highpoint in the movie for me. And Director – Sidney Lumet who keeps it all moving and flowing. But the main ingredient of this perfect storm is the Acting and Writing.

The problem I’ve had with shows like “Thirty-Something” “West Wing” and currently, “The Newsroom” is that even with the very good actors on these shows, the shows SOUND written. The words sound WRITTEN; they don’t sound SPOKEN. Not Paddy Chayefsky. He’s a Bronx boy born January 29th 1923 and knows how people talk. ( “Marty” “Bachelor Party” “Middle of the Night” ). He imbues his characters with great dialogue and the actors put it over brilliantly.

NETWORK ( PADDY TALKS ) NETWORK ( PADDY TALKS-#1 )

The man is twenty, thirty, now almost forty years ahead of his time with what he says about television in the movie “Network”.  And the Actors’ performances in this movie is nothing short of brilliant. From starring role to cameo appearances, they all lend such credibility to these characters making them three-dimensional by being either their best selves or being just plain rotten to the core. Mostly, they play them as human beings. They say forewarned is forearmed, so be forewarned you might see me over-use words like brilliant or great. And you will hear some very salty language by clicking on any number of hot-linked photos below. I spotlight ACTORS in my contribution to this popular annual Oscar blogathon.

NEWSPAPER ( NETWORK )

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NETWORK ( DUNAWAY )

“I was married for four years and pre-tended to be happy, and I had six years of analysis and pretended to be sane. My husband ran off with his boyfriend and I had an affair with my analyst who told me I was the worse lay he had ever had. I can’t tell you how many men have told me what a lousy lay I am. I apparently have a masculine temperament. I arouse quickly, consummate prematurely and can’t wait to get my clothes back on and get out of that bedroom. I seem to be inept at everything…except my work. I’m good at my work.”

* * * * *

FAYE DUNAWAY ( as Diana Christiansen ) – DUNAWAY  is a runaway train in this movie. She’s the film’s catalyst and its tsunami. I think she gives the performance of the decade. If this movie had been done in the 30’s ( don’t worry, it wouldn’t have ) Dunaway would have been burned at the stake as a witch. Men, women and small dogs would not know what to make of her. She’d be an alien. She is riveting and kinetic. She is jittery with nervous energy.  She is direct and insane. No boundaries. Well, maybe I should say she thinks outside of the box. ( Ya think? ) She thinks only of the bottom line, goes after what she wants ( Holden ), drops what she doesn’t need and keeps it moving. She doesn’t use the grace note. She’s always pitching. Power IS sexy. She’s lost her humanity, and she only gets a very slim glimpse of its loss at the end. But do I detect a faint whiff of the boys throwing her under the bus when things go awry. There’s a reason why Dunaway was the It Girl back then. No one else could have done this role. Think about it. No one.

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NETWORK ( HOLDEN )“He may be jumping off a roof for all I know. The man is insane. He’s not re-sponsible for himself. He needs care and treatment. And all you grave robbers think about is that he’s a hit.”

* * * * *

WILLIAM HOLDEN  ( as Max Schu-macher ) – The soul of integrity. The spine. He’s Old School. He wants to do the news. He wants to do the Truth. He also wants to do Faye Dunaway. He’s the Straight Man in all this. His gravitas is on every line on his glorious face. He does a great job, even when he faces the folly of being enamored of Dunaway. He’s the Golden Boy. He’s a Movie Star. Wanna know why? Watch “Network.”

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NETWORK ( FINCH )

This is not a psychotic episode. It’s a cleansing moment of clarity. I’m imbued, Max. I’m imbued with some special secret. It’s not a religious feeling at all. It’s a shocking eruption of great electrical energy. I feel vivid and flashing as though I’d been plugged into some great electro-magnetic field. I feel connected to all things…

* * * * *

PETER FINCH  ( as Howard Beale ) –  He’s having a mental breakdown; he realizes practically his whole life has been b.s. and he’s a man with nothing left to lose. He’s a Messianic hippie. He’s a carnival barker. He’s a bit of a Happy Fool. He might be telling The Truth for the first time in his life. His “Mad-As-Hell” speech is pure brilliance. He seems absolutely level-headed. He plays it straight with a very slight twinkle in his eye. He’s the conduit for all the greed and power of television, but he doesn’t know it. Poor bubby…thinks he’s passing on The Word to people. And he was, for a bit. He was making them think for a little bit when they tuned in. He was a Messenger but he’s really just become a Tool for, what Ned Beatty will call, “…the primal forces of Nature.” If he’s The Messenger, he will deliver the Corporate Message. How sad and in awe he looks as he looks into the face of God. Corporate God. Finch is us, struggling to believe in Something, speaking for US…and he’s a heartbreaker. I should have liked to have seen him in more “sophisticated comedy.” I see he could handle it. The sad sad irony of all this is that Peter Finch does not live to see his performance awarded with an Academy Award for Best Actor.  I would have loved to have heard his speech. But we have Finch’s wife accepting his award posthumously. She does a touching job speaking on his behalf, for his great performance.

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NETWORK ( DUVALL - I )“Frank’s a corporation man body and soul. He has no love, lusts or alle-giances that are not consummately directed to becoming a CCA board member.”

* * * * *

ROBERT DUVALL ( as Frank Hackett ) – Duvall always sounds to me like he has marshmallows swirling in his mouth; and I love listening to him speak. He’s a company man. He likes Diana’s idea of giving Howard Beale a show and runs with it. He suckles at the corporate teet and guzzles as much as he can. He’s pumped up with it. He’s smug; a blowhard, waiting for that corporate pat on his bankroll. Money is his God. Duvall can handle pages of dialogue without the editor cutting away and back to him. He is infinitely watchable. Yep, the same man who played Boo Radley.

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NETWORK ( Beatrice Straight )

“I’m your wife dammit. And if you can’t work up a Winter passion for me, the least I re-quire is respect and allegiance. I’m hurt, don’t you un-derstand. I hurt badly.”                  

* * * * *

BEATRICE STRAIGHT  ( as  Louise Schumacher ) – It really is just one scene. Just one, less than five minute scene that shows her range and talent. ( Shades of Luise Rainer? )

Pain, humor and sadness seamlessly woven in less than five minutes. Betrayal and disbelief wash over her face. The humor I talk about is that kind where it hurts so much, you have to laugh; she does that in this scene.  Watch her for a master class in Acting. I miss her onscreen. And Louise Fletcher.

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NETWORK ( NED BEATTY )

“The world is a college of cor-porations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a busi-ness, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime.”

* * * * *

NED BEATTY  ( as Mr. Jensen, CCA Corporation ) – Have you ever seen a fire-breathing dragon? Okay. In human form? Ahhhh. Ned Beatty is a thing to behold in that darkened cave of a conference room. He is the most sinister and malevolent voice in “Network.”  Yet I do crack up when he calms down turns friendly and says: “…Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale?” Part of it is the way Lumet films him. But it’s also the ebb and flow of how he strokes and gives life to Chayefsky’s words. Beatty is a human roller coaster in this scene with twists and turns of emotion and fervor and anger and ordinary guy. But please…make no mistake. He’s Beelzebub.

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NETWORK ( WARFIELD - II )

MARLENE WARFIELD ( as Laureen Hobbes ) –  She gives a searing performance. We won’t see the likes of her fire until we see Angela Bassett or Viola Davis. Warfield’s Angela Davis take-off with her beauty and Afro and Dashiki is a woman with a laser-beam stare that could wilt steel; but that doesn’t phase Diana ( Dunaway ). Hobbes spits her words out like bullets. She believes in the Revolution until there’s tv exposure for her ideas. She has my favorite scene in the movie because in it everyone plays it sooo straight. But if you recognize that “Network” is a black comedy, you’ll see the hilarity in this very salty scene. Warfield is a beacon as she rat-a-tat-tats her dialogue. She’s ice. She’s fire. She’s fierce. She’s freakin’ funny.

* * * * * * *

They both understand each other in this scene, looking at each other eye-to-eye. No Black girl / white girl, b.s. They both want different things and both can get what they want:

NETWORK ( Faye & Marlene )

( Diana )  –  “I don’t give a damn about the political content. Each week we open with an authentic act of political terrorism taken on the spot and in the moment.”

( Laureen )   “The American masses are not yet ready for open revolt. We would not want to produce a television show celebrating historically deviational terrorism.” 

( Diana )  –  “Miss Hobbes, I’m offering you an hour of television every week into which you can stick whatever propaganda you want.”

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NETWORK ( WESLEY ADDY )  NETWORK ( WILLIAM PRINCE ) NETWORK ( Conchata )

I had to include Wesley Addy, William Prince and Conchata Ferrell for their small wonder- ful moments in the movie.

And lets not leave out the narrator of the movie, his deadpan delivery is utter perfection before every major moment and a nice touch. The voice is objective, a thing, no feeling. Just reports events: “There were the usual contractual difficulties. He’s referring to the scene below. You must check out this scene. Lawyers lawyering with their lawyer talk. Everyone trying to fight for their piece of the pie. Here’s Marlene Warfield with scene partner Kathy Cronkite – yes, Walter’s daughter.

NETWORK ( WARFIELD )

Please click on this photo below and watch the free-for-all play out. ( WARNING: Salty language ).

NETWORK ( Ahmed Khan )

The Great Ahmed Khan ( played by Arthur Burghardt )

NEWSPAPER ( NETWORK-II )

“You’re television incarnate, Diana.”

Watching the Oscars all these years, I’ve had many disappointments ( Hey Sis, remember how we screamed and hollered over Nicholson losing for “Five Easy Pieces”? ) But when they get it right, it’s great! “Network was one of those movies that made me feel kind of grown-up watching it back in ’76. And now, all these years later, I still feel kind of grown up. Check out the bits and pieces of acting hot-linked to some of the photos above. Or do yourself a big favor…just watch the movie and see some great performances.

And thanks again to Once Upon A Screen,  Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club for including my post in their 31 DAYS OF OSCAR blogathon. Folks, make some time to read others’ contributions as well. 

See you ‘…on the Couch’ next Sunday.

 

( H O M E )

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33 thoughts on “NETWORK ( 1976 )

  1. A great breakdown of a fascinating movie, thank you.

    You expressed a desire to see Peter Finch in sophisticated comedy, you might try the Brit film from 1955 ‘Simon and Laura’ with the gorgeous Kay Kendall.

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  2. The truth in this movie has always scared me. I think of Ned Beatty’s corporate speech every day. In fact the prescience here is so damned depressing to me I haven’t been able to watch this film in many years. Your essay here has accomplished what I thought was impossible. I want to watch it again. I’d also like to see Dunaway work again. What are the odds?

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    • You’re right Debra, this movie is FRIGHTENINGLY prescient; breathtakingly so. We are now living WITHIN its predictions ( reality tv, corporations being people and other Dystopian goodies ). What else can we do now, but laugh at this very black comedy. Think of those performances. Brilliant all of them. You’ve paid me the highest compliment too! I’m glad my gushing and musings have made you want to see the film again. ( I’ll try to use my movie powers for good and not evil. L0L! ) As for Dunaway working again, that might be a tall order; not in the same way her career was going back in the 60’s 70’s ). According to IMDB she made a tv movie in 2010. I’m afraid her time has passed. Why do I keep getting the feeling that her doing “Mommy Dearest” was the beginning of the end. But no one can take THIS performance away from her.Can you think of an actress today who could?

      Pssst! I over-rided that stupid ol’ auto-correct for you, okay? Thanks again for reading.

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  3. Theresa, you have admirably described the work of all the remarkable actors in Network, but for me, they all work too hard, creating scenes more than characters. This is appropriate for a Paddy Chayevsky script; he too works very hard to make a movie into a Significant Motion Picture. I have always felt that both he and Sidney Lumet were at their best when dealing with “unimportant” subjects like love and aging.

    Don’t write off Faye Dunaway! Although her time as a leading woman is past, her acting is better than ever. Just a few years ago, she created a beautiful characterization as James Caan’s wife in The Yards, one of the best written, directed, and acted movies of recent times.

    My favorite of 1976 is still Robin and Marian, even though my companion at the press screening didn’t like it as much as I. Fortunately, stimulating is more important than agreeing.

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    • It’d be great if there were a happy medium between “works too hard” and “phones it in.” Perhaps some of the characters were a little over-the-top in “Network”, but for me, that doesn’t mean I didn’t believe them. “Marty” was a great movie. Smaller, quieter, poignant. See how it all depends on what a person responds to? Did you like it or “Middle of the Night”? I thought March and Novak were very good. “Significant Motion Picture”… Ha! I hear ya. I know what you mean. For me that means a movie that opens at the Loew’s Tower East. Remember that theatre…on 71st and Third Avenue. ( No candy stand practically, so you knew they were serious about movies. ) I don’t get the sense of movies presenting themselves like that anymore.

      Faye Dunaway. I was a fan back then, and if she’s still putting out good strong performances I’m glad.

      “Robin and Marian.” Connery and Hepburn…hey wait…did we see that movie? ( Or am I thinking of “Mahogany”? ) Uh-oh.

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  4. Middle of the Night is, for me, Paddy Chayefsky at his best. Even though he still sometimes had his characters do some speechifying, they were all fully developed people. I saw three versions of the story; first on tv with E.G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint, then on the stage with Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands, and then the movie; you know who was in that. All the actors I saw were excellent. Paddy must have been very happy.

    I must have been to the Tower East, but I was a Westsider and didn’t spend time in the East unless something was not being shown in my neck of the woods.

    In addition to Faye, The Yards also has a beautiful performance from her fellow “has-been” Ellen Burstyn. So they’re playing mothers. Aren’t they people, too?

    I was on my own for Mahogany. Robin and Marian was you and me, Babe!

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    • Eva Marie Saint, Gena Rowlands and Kim Novak. Sensitive actresses all. Gentle performances I’m sure, and I’ll bet Eddie G., E.G., and March were bowled over to work opposite them.

      I’ll have to look up “The Yards.” Ellen Burstyn is another fantastic actress. We know the shelf life Hollywood places on actresses.

      “Robin and Marian.” D’0hhhhhhhh!

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  6. Thanks! You text was very interesting and I love the way you described the actors in this film. I agree it’s an excellent film and all the actors in it where just stunning! My favourite movie quote of all times comes from this film : “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take this anymore!” I also love the scene that comes with this quote.

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  7. Pingback: Day 2: ACTORS Week of the 31 DAYS OF OSCAR BLOGATHON – Outspoken and Freckled

  8. Theresa- WONDERFUL post! I LOVE me some black comedy- and this is a deliciously dark example- but it’s scary how this is no longer a frightening look of what ‘could be’ but now is a reflection of ‘what is.’ The comedy kicks in with the candor of speech and the rapid scale and pace of their acceptance of changing times in NETWORK. Which of course as you point out, could not be conveyed successfully without such incredible acting. Thanks again for joining our blogathon!!

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    • You hit it on the head…“What could be” to “what is” in the space of our own lifetime? Brrrrrrrrrrrrr! The cold reality is a bitter ccchhhhill. But while we’re going to hell in a handbasket, I am laughing at the craziness of it all. And movies like this help me understand our political climate too. For me, the acting sells it all ( in the movie, not the politics ). I love me some black comedy too Kellee. ( 🙂 ) I’m glad you enjoyed my essay, and I appreciate being included in your annual Oscar tradition. Thank you again…and your fellow hostesses as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I do not re-watch this movie often. Once in ten years? I think I watched it twice in ten years one decade, only because one was a Big Screen festival showing. But then as in now, I am reminded “I forget so much in this film.” Ned Beatty. Marlene Warfield. These are pretty huge aspects to the film’s vast landscape, yet I invariably forget these and other “subplots” . (It’s sort of like forgetting “clouds” can be a part of “weather” – du-uh? HOW CAN I?!! But I do… this is such a vast tale. Yet… whoosh… it’s all in a film, not a miniseries over weeks.)

    This film also won’t make my Favorites To ReWatch list because it’s an emotionally powerful and angering film. NOT something for Sat afternoon-with-laughing friends. This is a drama with a capital D R A M A. And somehow, I’m part of the target of this film’s raging writers. I’m part of the audiences that the creators are writing against. And there’s no doubt. I can’t say, “What’d I do?” because this film is all about Us, the TV Watchers of the world.

    And I still think it’s terribly kind to us!

    Great review, great selection of pix. This blog definitely makes me want to pull this DVD off the shelf and watch it all over again.

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    • Hey there Ollie! Grab that DVD and give this another look-see; we’re half-way through this decade. I think the film is well-layered so it’s easy to forget sub-plots. Thing is everything goes towards the whole, don’t you? The satire has turned into our media reality. Is it our own fault? Food for thought. Was it an easy call for Paddy? ( See “A Face in the Crowd.” )

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  10. Wonderful post! This is certainly a movie I need to see again, I discover a new layer every time I do. It always strikes me that Howard Beale is one of the most memorable parts, but he’s not really the ‘main’ attraction but what I love best of all is how well it moves between drama, comedy and exaggeration yet the whole film works.

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    • Thanks so much for reading this. You’ve hit the nail on the head about how seamless Lumet moves the film between moods and genres. A great touch. Yes, Howard Beale’s the catalyst that every one’s actions revolve around. Finch did a grand job in this film. But I thought all the characters were perfectly cast and executed. Thanks again for your comment! Appreciate it!

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  11. FANTASTIC!!! If NETWORK is perfection you’ve served it well, my friend. Love this, Theresa. You touch upon every element of this movie that makes it a standout. You brought back all of the smaller moments that really count because if lots of time passes between viewings with this classic those loud, unforgettable, overwhelming ones take over the memory. Sorry I got to this late, but I leave all the better for the visit. 😉

    Aurora

    AND – “marshmallows swirling in his mouth” – NEVER would’ve occurred to me, but you’re right!!

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    • Hi there Aurora. I appreciate and thank you for the comment, compliment and the great chance to participate in your popular Oscar blogathon. (( Folks…it’s still going on strong, so get your butts over here: http://aurorasginjoint.com/2015/01/05/31-days-of-oscar-blogathon-2015/ and check it out )). “Network” – it was a blast and a challenge to bring out the big and small moments of this fantastic movie and I’m glad you liked my write-up. I’m telling you, I could play that contract negotiation scene over and over again. Thanxx again. Still heading to Lunasa for Oscar night. That’ll be an experience.

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  12. Excellent! Paddy Chayefsky is one of my favorite screenwriters,and I must admit a fondness for The Hospital, but probably my favorite of his work is The Americanization of Emily. I appreciate your lovely photos and attention to detail in this in-depth essay, Theresa.

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    • Hi there Christy. Thank you so much for your comments, and for checking out my work. I’ve enjoyed Chayefsky’s work on film. I’ve got to give “The Americanization of Emily” another looksee. I’ve only seen a recent TCM screening and found it hilarious. The satire is right on point. I was so busy laughing I’m sure I’ve missed some points, so I’ve got to catch it again. Thanx!

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  13. “The problem I’ve had with shows like “Thirty-Something” “West Wing” and currently, “The Newsroom” is that even with the very good actors on these shows, the shows SOUND written. The words sound WRITTEN; they don’t sound SPOKEN.”

    This is so true, in fact I’ve given up on TV dramas for this reason. When did this become the accepted way to write television shows? Plus, there is a great deal of “written” sounding exposition on TV police or crime shows that drives me crazy. I like that someone else has noticed that quality, and it’s true that Paddy Chayevsky did write more natural dialogue. Even though sometimes (as in the fight between James Garner and Julie Andrews in The Americanization Of Emily) he didn’t, quite.

    Good job!

    ross (from TCMParty)

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    • Howdy Ross. Thanks for reading and stopping by!!! I accept a certain amount of “sounding written dialogue” in classic movies. You know…the “Oh dear. Whatever do you mean?” stuff. It’s baked into my DNA’s love of classic films. But for more contemporary work, UGH! Watching Kirk Douglas and the cast of “Network” just scalded my brain. They all sounded TRUE!! Thanks again Ross. I appreciate your taking the time.

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