The film Network starts on a NYC street with two old friends reminiscing about the early days of Television. Max Schumacher (William Holden) is telling Howard Beale (Peter Finch) about a time as a young producer he rushed onto the busy New York streets to hail a cab to take him to a morning news live remote shoot. "Take me to the middle of the George Washington Bridge", he yelled at the cab driver. The punch line is the cabbie, thinking Max intends to kill himself, pleads with him not to do it - that he has his whole life in front of him.
The movie parallels this joke when it is recited a second time just before Beale is given the green light to become a modern day prophet on Network TV. Others, off the top of my head, that resonate:
- Howard hearing "the voice" alone in bed and Howard hearing "the voice of Mr. Jensen in the board room.
- Frank Hackett's address to the UBS shareholders and Diana's adulation when she takes to the podium.
- The creative department in NYC and the creative meeting in LA.
- Max in the screening room looking at bank robbery footage and Diana in the screening room looking at footage of mad prophets
- The Ecumenical Liberation Army and Arthur Jensen's sermon on the ecumenical corporate paradise.
- Max leaving his wife Louise and Max leaving Diana.
- The raw footage of the ELA bank robbery and the highly produced footage of Howard's assassination.
- Hackett exalting Howard's ratings (Diana passive) and Laureen Hobbs raving about the terms in her contract (Great Ahmet Khan passive)
- The "old guard" newsmen meeting to decide Howard's fate after his first outburst (suicide) and Hackett's new guard meeting to plan Howard's assassination (murder).
- The opening exterior shots of the 4 network glass and steel citadels and the "I'm mad as hell" apartment building shots.
I watched Network again last week and the DVD came with some bonus interviews and segments - comments by cast and crew, etc. The usual log rolling and inside baseball crap they package up around these movies. But there were a few things worth watching. Sidney Lumet's comments on how he found and prepared his actors for their roles. Walter Cronkite's preposterous claim that Network was not an accurate depiction of what went on at the big three and that, in essence, it wasn't true. On that point, let me tell you, I worked at one of the big three and Network is about as true to life as it gets - only a brainwashed old man could think otherwise. And finally, an interview with the great Paddy Chayefsky on the Dinah Shore show where he spoke the truth - the setting could not have been better - and God bless him for it.
Notice the freedom of 1970's America - crazy cloths, fat, bearded and smoking on the god damn set!
Bring it back America - it's not too late.