×

Network

"Network" will shake you up. Paddy Chayefsky's absurdly plausible and outrageously provocative original script concerns media running amok. Faye Dunaway and William Holden, each in two of their finest performances, plus Peter Finch and Robert Duvall star in this superbly cast and handsomely produced Howard Gottfried production. Sidney Lumet's direction is outstanding. The Metro picture, released by United Artists, is a potent commercial blend of artful tirade, visual excitement and sociological horror.

With:
Diana Christensen - Faye Dunaway Max Schumacher - William Holden Howard Beale - Peter Finch Frank Hackett - Robert Duvall Nelson Chaney - Wesley Addy Arthur Jensen - Ned Beatty Great Ahmed Kahn - Arthur Burghardt TV Director - Bill Burrows Mary Ann Gifford - Kathy Cronkite Bill Herron - Darryl Hickman Sam Haywood - Roy Poole Edward George Ruddy - William Prince Louis Schumacher - Beatrice Straight Laureen Hobbs - Marlene Warfield Narrator - Lee Richardson

“Network” will shake you up. Paddy Chayefsky’s absurdly plausible and outrageously provocative original script concerns media running amok. Faye Dunaway and William Holden, each in two of their finest performances, plus Peter Finch and Robert Duvall star in this superbly cast and handsomely produced Howard Gottfried production. Sidney Lumet’s direction is outstanding. The Metro picture, released by United Artists, is a potent commercial blend of artful tirade, visual excitement and sociological horror.

In terms of older films about the broadcast media, this is no soap opera film, like MGM’s long-ago “The Hucksters.” Nor is it low-key, intellectual drama like “A Face In the Crowd.” This is a bawdy, stops-out, no-holds-barred story of a TV network that will, quite literally, do anything to get an audience. The strangest thing about the film is that, while often preachy, hysterical, shrill and bizarre, it also makes a compelling statement from amidst its sound and fury. It’s a verbal and visual equivalent of a dozen top-40 radio stations blaring out at you in the same room. In short, it’s just mad.

The fictional TV network, United Broadcasting System, has been acquired from control of founder William Prince by a conglomerate headed by Ned Beatty, whose hatchet man, Robert Duvall, succeeds to operating control. Holden heads the money-losing network news division, where Finch, the longtime, oldtime and passe evening news anchorman is about to get the heave. To the dismay of all, Finch announces his own axing, becoming an instant character.

Dunaway has become programming chief. You can see her cunning ambition and her origins. Perhaps in earlier years she had a minor tv column, peddling her copy and her body to a small group of people in as much need of stroking as she. She probably was paid off a few times with bit roles in tv series episodes, eventually piling up enough brownie points to get a low-level programming job in the last-place network. You know, the type–sexless, but pushing her sex; brainless, but with a fair line of gab; in short, your total windup mechanical dame. So much for Chayefsky’s imagination in forging her fictional background.

Finch’s on-the-air freakout suggests to Dunaway that she turn the news into a gross entertainment package. It works, of course. Simultaneously she hires a professional Communist, played superbly by Marlene Warfield, to help assemble a documentary show with the assistance of urban guerilla-terrorist Arthur Burghardt. Idea springs from latter’s bank heist, in which kidnapped heiress Kathy Cronkite participates (a la Patty Hearst).

A scene in which the revolutionaries, network execs and their respective lawyers scream at each other over syndication fees and overhead charges is an example of how Chayefsky takes a good idea, pushes it relentlessly past discretion and through the barrier of intellectual credulity, making it so outrageous that it comes across as brilliant.

Finch’s evangelical appeals to the frustrations of the viewing public in time cross Beatty’s stock-market merger plans. But when Beatty himself emerges as an apostle of the multinational state, Finch is converted. Yet ratings falter (people don’t like to be told they should surrender their humanity; they prefer the regular stroking garbage); Beatty won’t let Duvall cancel Finch; only one solution–kill Finch on the air, as a lead-in to the revolutionaries’ show.

The large cast is uniformly excellent. One quiet moment in the film–but a dramatic sequence of the type that can endure for years as a terrific playlet exercise between thesps–has Holden discussing his infatuation with Dunaway to longtime wife Beatrice Straight. Her range of responses, complementing his, constitute one of those outstanding film memories of a lifetime.

Philip Rosenberg’s production design, Owen Roizman’s camera, and all other key technical achievements are magnificent, all polished and enhanced by that customary MGM post-production miracle which remains unique in Hollywood filmmaking. The project is an MGM picture, with UA as the production partner, and certainly a suitable valedictory for former Metro production chief Dan Melnick. There’s a lot of award potential here, above and below the line.

Murf.

1976: Best Actor (Peter Finch), Actress (Faye Dunaway), Supp. Actress (Beatrice Straight), Original Screenplay.

Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (William Holden), Supp. Actor (Ned Beatty), Cinematography, Editing

Popular on Variety

Network

Production: M-G-M/UA. Director Sidney Lumet; Producer Howard Gottfried; Screenplay Paddy Chayefsky; Camera Owen Roizman; Editor Alan Heim; Music Elliot Lawrence; Art Director Philip Rosenberg. Reviewed at MGM Studios, Culver City, Sept. 30, '76. (MPAA Rating: R.)

Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Original review text from 1976. Running time: 121 MIN.

With: Diana Christensen - Faye Dunaway Max Schumacher - William Holden Howard Beale - Peter Finch Frank Hackett - Robert Duvall Nelson Chaney - Wesley Addy Arthur Jensen - Ned Beatty Great Ahmed Kahn - Arthur Burghardt TV Director - Bill Burrows Mary Ann Gifford - Kathy Cronkite Bill Herron - Darryl Hickman Sam Haywood - Roy Poole Edward George Ruddy - William Prince Louis Schumacher - Beatrice Straight Laureen Hobbs - Marlene Warfield Narrator - Lee Richardson

More Film

  • Noele trailer Anna Kendrick

    Disney Unveils 'Noelle' Trailer Starring Anna Kendrick, Bill Hader

    Among the many announcements at the D23 Expo, Disney debuted the first look at holiday feature “Noelle,” which is set to premiere exclusively on Disney Plus this fall. “It isn’t Christmas without Santa’s Sister,” Walt Disney Studios said of the film on Twitter. Starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader, the Christmas flick tells the story [...]

  • A Hidden Life Movie Austria

    Film News Roundup: Austin Festival Selects Terrence Malick's 'A Hidden Life'

    In today’s film news roundup, the Austin Film Festival selects a Terrence Malick title, “A Day Without a Mexican” gets a sequel and DCR Finance signs a first-look deal. FESTIVAL SCREENING The Austin Film Festival will screen Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” which won the Francois Chalais and Ecumenical Jury awards at the Cannes Film [...]

  • Blake Lively

    Blake Lively's 'Rhythm Section' Moved Back to 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved the release date of Blake Lively’s “The Rhythm Section” back two months from Nov. 22 to Jan. 31, 2020, the weekend of Super Bowl LIV. The spy tale, adapted from Mark Burnell’s novels surrounding character Stephanie Patrick, is produced by James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson through their [...]

  • The Mandalorian

    'The Mandalorian': Watch the First Trailer for 'Star Wars' Series

    The gunslinging lone warrior — the Mandalorian, as they call him — calls the far reaches of the “Star Wars” galaxy home. Disney dropped the first trailer for the spinoff series during its biennial D23 convention on Friday, finally giving fans a closer look at the franchise’s newest character. “The Mandalorian” creator Jon Favreau, who [...]

  • Lady and the Tramp trailer

    'Lady and the Tramp': Disney's Live-Action Remake Gets First Trailer (Watch)

    Ready your dog-friendly bowl of spaghetti, Disney has debuted the first trailer for its live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp,” starring Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux. The teaser was released during Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim at the Disney + presentation. In addition to Thompson and Theroux, who play the Lady and Tramp, respectively, [...]

  • Mickey Mouse waves to members of

    Spider-Man, Spicer and Splashy First-Looks: Everything We're Looking For at D23

    As if Disney hasn’t owned enough weekends this year at the box office, the biennial D23 Expo will light up Anaheim, Calif. over the next three days to celebrate the content monolith. From a new Netflix-competing streaming platform to scores of movie and series reveals — along with a few hot controversies to confront — [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    'Angel Has Fallen' to Dominate Modest Box Office With $20 Million Weekend

    Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman are leading the way at the North American box office with “Angel Has Fallen” on its way to about $20 million, early estimates showed Friday. Should forecasts hold, “Angel Has Fallen” will take in about double the next title, Universal’s second weekend of raunchy comedy “Good Boys” with about $10 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content