I have already spoken about how strangely prophetic many of the finest speeches in Cinema now feel, most notably in my last post about Charlie Chaplin’s amazing monologue from the Great Dictator.
However, you could not talk about unforgettable scenes and speeches in Cinema without mentioning the 1976 movie Network that still resonates today. Network is about a TV news anchor called Howard Beale who is played fantastically by Peter Finch and with low ratings, breaks down on national TV and announces he will commit suicide live on air.
Wandering from the script, the character ignores the teleprompter and lets out all of his frustrations of the world in which he lives before ranting “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” and urges all viewers to open their windows and do the same.
Once again this speech feels more relevant now than its release nearly 40 years ago and seems to predict the world we live in today which is filled with reality TV, tabloid journalism and the overwhelming direction that media in general is taking with its “anything for ratings” philosophy.
The Character Howard Beale gave the following speech in Network that still resonates today.
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’
Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get MAD! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot – I don’t want you to write to your congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. (shouting) You’ve got to say: ‘I’m a human being, god-dammit! My life has value!’
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’
I want you to get up right now. Sit up. Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad!…You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first, get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’
The man behind the words of this powerful speech was the American playwright, screenwriter and novelist Sidney Aaron “Paddy” Chayefsky. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay (the other three-time winners, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, have all shared their awards with co-writers). The trio of Academy Awards were for Marty (1955), The Hospital (1971) and Network (1976).
Meanwhile the TV in the corner of the room will continue to do anything for ratings, your computer screens and social networks are littered with click bait with misleading headlines to keep you reading and governments seem more interested in the businesses that financed their campaigns rather than the voters who they are representing. With this in mind, you could be forgiven for opening your window and shout from the top of your lungs “I am as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” but remember that in 2014, even the revolution will be televised.
If you have somehow missed this Oscar-winning masterpiece, make sure you add Network to your Netflix queue sooner, rather than later.