AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Sidney Lumet (Dir)
Release Date:   14 Nov 1976
Premiere Information:   Los Angeles and New York openings: 14 Nov 1976
Production Date:   19 Jan--24 Mar 1976 in Toronto, Canada and New York City
Duration (in mins):   121
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Cast:   Faye Dunaway (Diana Christensen)  
    William Holden (Max Schumacher)  
    Peter Finch (Howard Beale)  
    Robert Duvall (Frank Hackett)  
  Co-Starring Wesley Addy (Nelson Chaney)  
    Ned Beatty (Arthur Jensen)  
    Jordan Charney (Harry Hunter)  
    Conchata Ferrell (Barbara Schlesinger)  
    Darryl Hickman (Bill Herron)  
    Roy Poole (Sam Haywood)  
    William Prince (Edward [Ed] George Ruddy)  
    Beatrice Straight (Louise Schumacher)  
  [and] Marlene Warfield (Laureen Hobbs)  
    Arthur Burghardt (Great Ahmed Kahn)  
    Bill Burrows (TV director)  
    John Carpenter (George Bosch)  
    Kathy Cronkite (Mary Ann Gifford)  
    Ed Crowley (Joe Donnelly)  
    Jerome Dempsey (Walter C. Amundsen)  
    Gene Gross (Milton K. Steinman)  
    Stanley Grover (Jack Snowden)  
    Cindy Grover (Caroline Schumacher)  
    Mitchell Jason (Arthur Zangwill)  
    Paul Jenkins (TV stage manager)  
    Ken Kercheval (Merrill Grant)  
    Kenneth Kimmins (Associate producer)  
    Lynn Klugman (TV production assistant)  
    Carolyn Krigbaum (Max's secretary)  
    Zane Lasky (Audio man)  
    Michael Lipton (Tommy Pellegrino)  
    Michael Lombard (Willie Stein)  
    Pirie MacDonald (Herb Thackeray)  
    Russ Petranto (TV associate director)  
    Bernard Pollock (Lou)  
    Sasha von Scherler (Helen Miggs)  
    Lane Smith (Robert McDonough)  
    Theodore Sorel (Giannini)  
    Fred Stuthman (Mosaic figure)  
    Cameron Thomas (TV technical director)  
    Lydia Wilen (Hunter's secretary)  
    Lee Richardson (Narrator )  

Summary: On 27 September 1975, Max Schumacher, the head of the United Broadcasting System’s (UBS) television news department, fires veteran newscaster and old friend Howard Beale because of his low ratings. To commiserate, Max drinks with Howard at a couple of New York City bars, and toward the end of the night, Howard drunkenly suggests that shooting himself during his broadcast might improve ratings. The equally inebriated Max jokingly adds that real-life murder and mayhem might improve the entire network’s ratings. The next evening, during his broadcast, Howard announces his upcoming retirement, and since he has nothing else in his life, he will “blow his brains out” on next Tuesday’s show. The comment creates a media flurry, and UBS executive Frank Hackett takes Howard off the air. The next day, Howard calls Max to apologize and ask if he can return to his show that night to say goodbye. Later, Los Angeles, California, news liaison Bill Herron shows Max and Diana Christensen, the head of UBS programming, film footage of a bank robbery taken by an African American revolutionary group, the Ecumenical Liberation Army (ELA). Herron tells them that his contact, Laureen Hobbs, a black U.S. Communist Party official, is in communication with the ELA and can supply the network with more crime footage. Though Max sees no news value in the film, Diana thinks UBS could build a new “movie of the week” around the ELA by mixing its anti-establishment crime footage with scripted stories. At a UBS stockholders’ meeting, Hackett announces plans to end the independent news division’s autonomy because it loses money. Discovering that his authority has been undermined, Max is outraged, and believes that Hackett purposely humiliated him. On Wednesday evening, Howard broadcasts his final show. He apologizes to his audience for his threatened suicide, and explains that he had no other recourse. Howard repeats a vulgarity several times, but Max refuses the producer’s request to take his friend off the air, even though sixty-seven million people are watching the incident on live television. UBS chairman Ed Ruddy asks for Max’s resignation, Howard Beale becomes a media sensation, and his rant is headlined on the front page of New York City’s biggest newspapers. Calling Howard a “latter day prophet denouncing the hypocracies of our time,” Diana tells Hackett she wants to put Howard back on the air, because his show rose five rating points in one night and will jump another fifteen points if he returns. She promises to make the news show a hit, and Hackett and Ruddy agree. Max is permitted to stay with UBS, and Howard’s ratings go up for the next few days. When public interest begins to wane, Diana demands that Howard act more extreme. She also adds new elements to the program, including a psychic and a gossip columnist. To solidify her authority over the enterprise, Diana seduces Max. The following night, Howard tells his audience that a voice woke him up that morning and told him to report the truth. Sleeping at Max’s apartment to avoid the press, Howard awakens the following morning, puts on his raincoat, and spends the day walking in the rain. When Max tells Hackett he wants to take Howard off the air because he is having an emotional breakdown, Hackett fires Max. Only minutes before Howard’s show begins that evening, he walks into UBS from the rain, still dressed in his pajamas, and complains to his television audience about the ills of society. He tells them to get out of their chairs, stick their heads out their windows, and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Diana receives calls from UBS affiliates around the country, reporting that people are screaming out their windows. At Max’s New York apartment, his daughter opens a window and watches hundreds of neighbors shouting Howard’s new catchphrase. Billed as “the mad prophet of the airwaves,” Howard skyrockets in the ratings. Diana travels to Los Angeles to talk with Laureen Hobbs about setting up the ELA’s “political terrorism” program, called The Mao Tse Tung Hour, even though the ELA is wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Later, Howard tells his audience that UBS chairman Ed Ruddy has died and now the network’s owner, a conglomerate called Communication Corporation of America (CCA), will control the news content. Since few Americans read or think for themselves, and television is their only “truth,” they must save themselves by turning off their television sets. After Ruddy’s funeral, Max and Diana rekindle their relationship and vacation in New England for a weekend, while Max’s wife, Louise Schumacher, is out of town. Diana talks incessantly about rating shares and television business, even during sex, but despite his disapproval of Diana’s worldview, Max remains infatuated. When Max confesses the affair to his wife, she asks him to leave their apartment and he moves in with Diana. At the UBS affiliates convention in Los Angeles, Diana rouses the audience with the network’s new ratings, while Hackett is called away from the banquet to answer a phone call from CCA CEO Arthur Jensen’s office. Hackett is told to turn on a television set and watch Howard Beale inveighing against a consortium of banks that is buying CCA, and therefore UBS, for Saudi Arabian interests. Howard tells his audience to contact the White House and stop the deal. Informed that the East Coast broadcast alone has already flooded the U.S. President with telegrams, Hackett is ordered to return to New York City and have Howard Beale in Arthur Jensen’s office at 10 a.m. When they arrive, Jensen takes Howard into a private boardroom, berates him for wrecking the Saudi deal, and explains that corporations, not nations, run the world. Jensen wants Howard to preach this new message to his audience. When Howard returns to the air, he stops complaining about corporate greed and national ills. His ratings plummet. Diana wants to replace Howard, but Jensen demands that he stay on the air regardless of ratings. Realizing that Diana represents the madness that has taken over modern media, Max leaves her, hoping his wife may take him back. Diana and Hackett save their ratings by hiring the ELA to assassinate Howard during his television show.

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.  
Production Text: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents
A Howard Gottfried - Paddy Chayefsky Production
Brand Name:

Distribution Company: United Artists Corp. (Transamerica Corp.)
Director: Sidney Lumet (Dir)
  Jay Allan Hopkins (1st asst dir)
  Ralph Singleton (2d asst dir)
  Pete Scoppa (1st asst dir)
Producer: Howard Gottfried (Prod)
  Fred Caruso (Assoc prod)
Writer: Paddy Chayefsky (by)
Photography: Owen Roizman (Dir of photog)
  Fred Schuler (Cam op)
  Tom Priestley, Jr. (Asst cam)
  Gary Muller (2d asst cam)
  Michael Ginsburg (Still photog)
  Kenneth Goss (Key grip)
  Norman Leigh (Gaffer)
Art Direction: Philip Rosenberg (Prod des)
  Phillip Jostrom (Asst to art dir)
Film Editor: Alan Heim (Ed)
  Michael Jacobi (Asst ed)
Set Decoration: Edward Stewart (Set dec)
  Conrad Brink (Prop master)
  Eugene Powell (Scenic artist)
  Jules Wollock (Carpenter)
  Walter Way (Const grip)
Costumes: Theoni V. Aldredge (Cost des)
  George Newman (Cost)
  Marilyn Putnam (Cost)
Music: Elliot Lawrence (Orig mus comp and cond)
Sound: Jack Fitzstephens (Sd ed)
  Sanford Rackow (Sd ed)
  Marc M. Laub (Sd ed)
  Dick Vorisek (Re-rec)
  James Sabat (Sd mixer)
Special Effects: Steve Rutt/EUE Video Services (U.B.S. video logo)
Make Up: Lee Harman (Ms. Dunaway's make-up)
  Susan Germaine (Ms. Dunaway's hair)
  John Alese (Make-up artist)
  Philip Leto (Hair stylist)
Production Misc: Juliet Taylor /MDA (Casting)
  Kay Chapin (Scr supv)
  John Starke (Loc coord)
  Connie Schoenberg (Office coord)
  Selma Brown (Prod auditor)
  Todd-Champion, Ltd. (Extra casting)
  Lynn Klugman (Television consult)
  John McWade (Asst to prod auditor)
  Susan Landau (Prod asst)
  Mark Hurwitz (Prod asst)
  James Giblin (Transportation chief)
  Howard Newman (Pub coord)
MPAA Rating: R
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. & United Artists Corp. 14/11/1976 dd/mm/yyyy LP46818

PCA NO: 24546
Physical Properties: Sd:
  col: Prints in Metrocolor
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.85:1
  Lenses: Filmed in Pavavision®

Genre: Comedy-drama
Sub-Genre: Political
  Show business
Subjects (Major): Assassination
  Mental illness
  Television networks
  Television news and information
Subjects (Minor): Advertising executives
  African Americans
  Business competition
  New York City
  New York Daily News (Newspaper)
  The New York Times (Newspaper)
  Television news anchors
  Terrorists and terrorism
  United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation

Note: The film begins with the following voice-over by Lee Richardson: “This story is about Howard Beale, who was the network news anchorman on UBS TV. In his time, Howard Beale had been a mandarin of television, the grand old man of news, with a HUT rating of sixteen and a twenty-eight audience share. In 1969, however, his fortunes began to decline. He fell to a twenty-two share. The following year his wife died, and he was left a childless widower with an eight rating and a twelve share. He became morose and isolated, and began to drink heavily, and on September 22, 1975, he was fired, effective in two weeks. The news was broken to him by Max Schumacher, who was the president of the news division at UBS. The two old friends got properly pissed.” At the end of the film, the voice-over continues: “This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.” In ratings parlance, “HUT” stood for “homes using television.”
       Principal photography began 19 Jan 1976 in Toronto, Canada, and ended 24 Mar 1976 in New York City, seven days ahead of schedule, according to the 5 Apr 1976 Box. For the film’s television studio scenes, the production rented an independent television studio in Toronto, and began shooting there with local studio technicians, the 30 May 1976 LAT reported. One of the film’s later locations was an empty floor of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer building on Sixth Avenue in New York City, where offices were built for the fictional “United Broadcasting System.” In an arrangement unusual for a Hollywood studio project, screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky remained on the set to make last-minute changes in dialogue. One of the background actors in an office scene was Frank Sciacca, a San Diego, CA, man whose wife bought him the role as a gift, for $2,500, in an M-G-M promotional campaign. The interiors for the New York apartment belonging to “Frank and Louise Schumacher” were shot at the Apthorp Apartments on W. 79th Street and Broadway, according to the 12 Mar 1977 LAT, though the paper misspelled the location as “Althrop.” It was there that actress Beatrice Straight worked “just a couple of days” in her role as “Louise Schumacher,” for which she won an Academy Award for “Actress in a Supporting Role.”
       Network opened nationally on 17 Dec 1976, the 13 Dec 1976 Time reported, and the 14 Mar 1977 Box noted that the film grossed over $14 million in its first two weeks in 500 theaters.
       One of M-G-M’s promotional campaigns included the printing of at least 80,000 bumper stickers with the film’s popular slogan: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this any more,” the 17 Nov 1976 LAT reported.
       Network was honored with four major Academy Awards, including “Actor in a Leading Role” (Peter Finch), “Actress in a Leading Role” (Faye Dunaway), “Actress in a Supporting Role” (Beatrice Straight), and “Writing (Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen)” (Paddy Chayevsky). The film was also nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: “Best Picture,” “Directing” (Sidney Lumet), “Actor in a Leading Role” (William Holden), “Actor in a Supporting Role” (Ned Beatty), “Cinematography” (Owen Roizman), and “Film Editing” (Alan Heim).
       Finch, who died in Jan 1977, was the first to win a posthumous “Best Actor” award. Network was Finch’s last theatrical film.
       Despite the movie’s attack on television, CBS bought the rights to televise Network for $5 million, the 4 Oct 1978 LAT reported. Though CBS left the film’s message intact, it trimmed a love scene and replaced most of the obscenities and profanites.
       Network was ranked 64th on AFI’s “2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition” list of the greatest American films, moving up from the 66th position it held on AFI’s 1997 list.

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   5 Apr 1976.   
Box Office   14 Mar 1977.   
Hollywood Reporter   12 Oct 1976   p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times   30 May 1976   Calendar, pp. 32-34.
Los Angeles Times   14 Nov 1976   Calendar, p. 1, 41.
Los Angeles Times   17 Nov 1976.   
Los Angeles Times   12 Mar 1977.   
Los Angeles Times   4 Oct 1978.   
New Republic   3 Nov 1976   pp. 22-23.
New York Times   15 Nov 1976   p. 39.
New Yorker   6 Dec 1976   pp. 177-80.
Newsweek   22 Nov 1976   p. 107.
Rolling Stone   16 Dec 1976   p. 41.
Saturday Review   13 Nov 1976   p. 44.
Time   29 Nov 1976   p. 79.
Time   13 Dec 1976.   
Variety   13 Oct 1976   p. 22.
Village Voice   29 Nov 1976   p. 53.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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