A Scathing Satire

Main Cast: William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall

Director: Sidney Lumet

Plot Summary: The struggling fourth network finds a rating boost in an ex-anchorman, but his unedited ravings turn critical to the company and affects everyone involved.

A classic drama and remarkably prescient, this scathing denouncement of the “corporization” of America, and the danger of TV, is powerful stuff.

Howard Beale (Finch) is an old anchorman, great in his day but slowly sliding down in the ratings. His company UBS (the fictional fourth network, before Fox) decides to let him go. He responds by announcing that he is going to kill himself on the air. He is promptly yanked off the set and fired, but strangely enough the ratings for that show were through the roof.

The ambitious young Diana Christensen (Dunaway) senses something unique, and wants to give Beale his own show — an entertainment news program. This is during the ’70s, where the news was deadly serious and not to be taken lightly. Certainly Max Schumacher (Holden), the director of the news department, is against such prostitution of the news. But ratings are king, and Beale is put on the air, even though it’s obvious he is off his rocker.

But when you live by the ratings, you die by the ratings, and those ambitious corporate climbers are eventually burned by the ravings of a madman. The movie is intelligent and well cast, and while there are plenty of speeches disguised as conversation, they weren’t distracting enough to take away from the solid plot. The message was clear… but we did not heed it at the time.

This movie was ahead of its time and well worth your attention. 3 stars.

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