In terms of effective dialogue in any screenplay I have ever read, the film Network, that was released in 1976 could be the best one I have ever seen. Paddy Chayefsky won the Oscar for best screenplay for Network, which is arguably the best screenplay he ever wrote. With Network, it was almost as if Chayefsky saw into the future and predicted some of the insane reality TV shows that started with “Survivor” in 2000 and lead to hundreds of ridiculous reality shows that some critics have said, have ruined television, however, things have seemed to improve somewhat in recent years.
In this history of the movie industry, there has never been any actor before Peter Finch who won the Oscar for best actor posthumously as Finch died of a heart attack just a few months before the Oscar ceremony in 1977. Equally as significant is that Finch won the best actor Oscar even though his entire time on the screen was far less than any other actor who was nominated for best actor Oscar. This is also true of Beatrice Straight who was only on screen for 5 minutes and she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Sometimes the people who run the Oscars ceremony seem to make insane decisions, including the movie Ordinary People that came out in 1980 when Timothy Hutton was nominated for best Supporting Actor, even though he was on screen 90% of the time. Who knows why decisions like this are made in Hollywood, unfortunately, sometimes it’s all about business and not about giving the correct amount of credit to those who deserve it the most. Faye Dunaway deservedy won a best actress Oscar for her performance in this film.
While watching the movie Network when it first came out 40 years ago, I thought about the way people talk in this movie, especially Faye Dunaway’s and Robert Duval’s characters. Do people really talk like this real life, so quickly and with such effect? Of course, they don’t. Part of the reason for this kind of fast-talking dialogue had to do with the fact that Network is a parody on the insane Television Industry and doing anything for ratings, and this fast talking and cursing was a parody on how executives like this talk. The most unusual example of this was Peter Finch, who played Howard Beal. His speeches were over the top, insane and so full of energy that at the end, very often he would faint from exhaustion. Of all of the characters in Network, the late William Holden was the only character in this entire film who talked like a normal person; my guess of the reason for this was to provide a contrast from all of the other characters in the movie who talked like they were using cocaine. Holden’s character has an affair with a younger woman, the TV executive played by Faye Dunaway. Their scenes together along with the incredible speeches by Howard Beal are the highlights of this classic film.
The director of Network, Sidney Lumet was said to be very upset that the film did not win the Oscar that year for best picture, losing to the movie “Rocky”. He was also upset by the fact that one line by Howard Beal, “I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore”, seemed to overshadow the film. That one “Mad as Hell” line from Network is now considered one of the classic lines in the entire history of Cinema.
Network, is one of the all-time classic movies in movie history and should be seen by everyone.