Friday, August 19, 2016

A detail, re: Howard Beale, and "Network"

Watched the 1976 movie Network again, recently (on TCM).  What an exceptional film.  It  was of course written by Paddy Chayefsky, and was directed by Sidney Lumet (both known for their work, by the way, in early television).  Its stars included Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, and Robert Duvall. 

I had not noticed, previously, a certain detail in the film. The detail, linguistic, is a small one, but I think it is not insignificant.  It concerns the famous "Mad as hell" scene, which featured television newscaster-turned-commentator Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch). 

I had always thought Beale had asked his viewers to go their windows, open them, and yell out: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!"

What Beale actually said is slightly different. There was an additional use of the word "as," following the first word of the sentence. 

His viewers, he said, should shout:  "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore!"

I like the additional "as" very much. It provides, I think, a subtle oratorical elegance--a feeling, perhaps (near-archaic), of formality.  It offers emphasis, force, a sense of exactitude: "I'm as mad as hell..."

In the clamor that follows Beale's exhortation, incidentally, most of--but not all of--the TV viewers who take to their windows do not follow his precise usage;  most, in fact, yell what I had previously thought Beale himself had said: "I'm mad as hell..." 

Here is the scene, and Peter Finch's sensational performance in it, from YouTube: 

Finch died in 1977, at age 60, two months before he was given an Academy Award for his performance in the film.  

Network was nominated for ten Academy Awards, and received four--for Finch (Best Actor), Faye Dunaway (Best Actress), Beatrice Straight (Best Supporting Actress), and Paddy Chayefsky (Best Original Screenplay).