Ex-television writer Paddy Chayefsky turned on his old medium with a vengeance in this ferocious satire about a raving mad anchorman who becomes enormously popular.
The film opens during a shift in corporate structure of the fictitious UBS television network. This fourth network is struggling for ratings and turns its news division over to the control of its entertainment division.
Consequently, Howard Beale (Peter Finch), the aging UBS news anchor, is fired by the network. He reacts by announcing on live television his intention to commit suicide on air.
After a media frenzy, the next day he turns what is meant to be his apology into a rant that culminates in insisting that people go to their windows and yell “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”, which they do en masse.
Beale becomes a major TV sensation and one of the most valuable assets to his parent company, CCA, that is gradually taking control of UBS.
As a result, he is given his own show as “the mad prophet of the airwaves” and appears on television every weekday evening to tell the real truth to the people of America. The show is a huge success, but Beale uses his power to make startling revelations about CCA, leaving its executives with a serious problem.
William Holden is remarkable as the craggy and relatively ethical chief of the news department who sees but is unable to stop, the grotesque decline of news standards. Faye Dunaway tags the role of her career as Diana Christensen, the seemingly confident career woman who is coming apart at the seams.
The Motion Picture Academy awarded this hilarious exercise in television-bashing with four Oscars: Chayefsky for his screenplay; Finch (posthumously) for Best Actor; Faye Dunaway for Best Actress in her role as a ruthless program executive; and Beatrice Straight for Best Supporting Actress.
Ironically, the state of network news in the 21st Century has degenerated to such a level that what was posed as absurd dark comedy in 1976 has actually been exceeded by reality. Network will shortly need reclassifying from ‘Drama’ to ‘Documentary’.
Edward George Ruddy
Great Ahmed Kahn
Mary Ann Gifford
Walter C. Amundsen
Milton K. Steinman
Sasha von Scherler