Classic Scene: Network (1976)

In Network, Sidney Lumet’s biting satire about a fictional TV news channel and its struggle to increase ratings, one scene stands out above all others. During the film news anchorman Howard Beale, played by the late, great Peter Finch, is told he will lose his job in a fortnight and subsequently announces live on air that he will commit suicide the following week. Although he is fired initially as a result of his threat, the studio bosses intervene when they realise Finch’s revelation has resulted in a ratings spike, and he is allowed to continue broadcasting. His mental state clearly deteriorating, Beale delivers the impassioned rant in the video below, which is widely regarded as the highlight of Finch’s terrific, Oscar-winning performance.

The screenplay was penned by Paddy Chayefsky, who remains the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for his writing work. Sadly Peter Finch died before the 1977 Oscars ceremony, and thus until Heath Ledger won a Best Supporting Oscar in 2009 he was the only actor to have received an award posthumously.

Comments 2

  1. Todd Benefiel October 13, 2014

    Damn! Wish I could’ve been here on Opening Day! At least I can be the first comment on the first post! Neat site, Stu!

    And yes, a very cool scene. That speech makes a lot of sense NOW, and it’s weird to think that it pertains to the mid-1970s. An aspect of our society that, unfortunately, appears to be timeless.

    • Stu October 14, 2014

      Thanks again Todd, the support is welcome and much appreciated! It’s interesting how relevant the speech is today isn’t it? And also interesting that Network came out way before the proliferation of rolling 24 hour news – I wonder what Lumet made of the various suspect attempts from the 1980s onwards to increase ratings by the likes of Fox News and CNN.

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