Long-time "UBS Evening News" anchor Howard Beale is fired because of declining... more »
Long-time "UBS Evening News" anchor Howard Beale is fired because of declining ratings. He has two more weeks on the air, but the following night, Beale announces on live television that he will commit suicide by shooting himself in the head during an upcoming live broadcast. UBS immediately fires him after this incident, but they let him back on the air, ostensibly for a dignified farewell, with persuasion from Beale's best friend and president of the News division Max Schumacher, the network's old guard news editor. Beale promises that he will apologize for his outburst, but instead rants about how life is "bullshit". Sympathetic towards Beale, and bitter over the station's treatment of him, Schumacher decides to keep him on the air to vent his frustrations. While there are serious repercussions, the program's ratings soar and, much to Schumacher's dismay, the upper echelons of UBS decide to exploit Beale's antics rather than pulling him off the air. In one impassioned diatribe, Beale galvanizes the nation with his rant, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" and persuades Americans to shout out their windows during a lightning storm. Soon Beale is hosting a new program called The Howard Beale Show, top-billed as a "mad prophet". Ultimately, the show becomes the highest rated program on television, and Beale finds new celebrity preaching his angry message in front of a live audience that, on cue, repeats the Beale's marketed catchphrase en masse.
Howard Beale (Peter Finch) delivering his "mad as hell" speech
Beginning as a producer of entertainment programming, Diana Christensen's desire to produce a hit show for the network results in her cutting a deal with a group of left-wing terrorists (a parody of the Symbionese Liberation Army, called the "Ecumenical Liberation Army") who film themselves robbing banks, footage to be used as the cold-opening for a new series based on terrorists for the network that she wishes developed for the upcoming fall season. When Beale's nervous breakdown-fueled rants suddenly start to bring in high ratings, Christensen convinces her boss Frank Hackett to merge the news and entertainment division, so that she can produce Beale's news program. This brings Christensen into contact with Schumacher, leading to a love-hate relationship due to their mutual attraction to each other in spite of Schumacher's disdain for her exploitation of his best friend. The two ultimately begin an affair, which leads to Schumacher leaving his wife of over 25 years for Christensen. But Christensen's fanatical devotion to her job and emotional emptiness ultimately drives Max back to his wife, warning his former lover that she will self-destruct at the pace she was running with her career.
Beale ultimately ends up going too far with his tirades upon discovering that the conglomerate that owns UBS will be bought out by an even larger Saudi Arabian conglomerate. Beale launches an on-screen tirade against the two corporations, encouraging the audience to telegram the White House with the message, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!" in the hopes of stopping the merger. This throws the network into a state of panic due to the company's various debts making the merger necessary in order for it to survive. Beale is then taken to meet with Arthur Jensen, chairman of the company which owns UBS, who explicates his own "corporate cosmology" to the now nearly delusional Beale. Revealing himself to be quite as mad as Beale, Jensen delivers a one-on-one tutorial—almost a sermon in a darkened room that suggests to the delusional Beale that Jensen may be a higher power—describing the interrelatedness of the participants in the international economy, and the illusory nature of nationality distinctions. Jensen ultimately persuades Beale to abandon his populist messages. However, audiences find his new views on the dehumanization of society to be depressing, and ratings begin to slide. Despite this, Jensen will not allow executives to fire Beale as he spreads the new 'gratteau'. Still fixating on ratings, Christensen arranges for Beale's on-air assassination by the same group of urban terrorists who she discovered earlier and who now have their own UBS show, The Mao Tse-Tung Hour.
* Faye Dunaway as Diana Christensen
* William Holden as Max Schumacher
* Peter Finch as Howard Beale
* Robert Duvall as Frank Hackett
* Wesley Addy as Nelson Chaney
* Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen
* Beatrice Straight as Louise Schumacher
* Jordan Charney as Harry Hunter
A word to those who betrayed the Public Trust!
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Everything comes around, you see. You forgot this, didn’t you? For years you’ve grown accustomed to always getting your own way. In fact you have become so used to getting everything you want that you simply cannot imagine losing or being defeated! So now be afraid! Be very afraid of this website court.
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“Oh, Pshaw!” you say! “You can’t do this to us!”
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The Court of Public Opinion has now been told what you are doing, and there nothing you can do to hide!
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Your pompous arrogance and your utter disdain for those you consider your “inferiors” is exceeded only by your hatred for any individual whom you perceive threatens your power or your pocketbook! You should be locked up, but justice in Nova Scotia lacks the backbone to do so.
It is time for The Court of Public Opinion to pass judgment on you! Now be afraid! Be very afraid! The world is watching you!
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