"I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!"
Description: Peter Finch as Howard Beale in the motion picture Network (1976)
Howard Beale is a aging news anchorman of the UBS Evening News. Unfortunately, his ratings are not what they should be and the people in corporate decide to fire him. Upon hearing the news Howard and his long time friend, Max Shumacher (William Holden) get drunk and talk about the old days and how the world is going to hell.
"Television is not the truth. Television is a goddamn amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, and a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom killing business." - Howard Beale
During a fit of inebriation, Howard tells Max he should commit sucide on-the-air. Max thinks that will definitely raise his ratings. The next day, Howard goes on the air and informs his viewer audience:
“I would like at this moment to announce that I will be retiring from this program in two weeks time because of poor ratings. Since this show is the only thing I had going for me in my life, I’ve decided to kill myself. I’m going to blow my brains out right on this program a week from today. So tune in next Tuesday. That should give the public relations people a week to promote the show. You ought to get a hell of a rating out of that. Fifty share, easy.”
Howard's outrageous outburst gets him fired, but Max Shumacher intervenes with the suites and allows Howard to go back on the air so he can make a dignified farewell. But Howard decides to use his last moments on the air to rant about state of the world. His crazed ranting spikes his ratings, and he is allowed to remain with the network. During one of his diatribes, he tells his viewers:
“I want you to go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Howard's passionate message registers with thousands of viewers who follow his recommendation and go their windows and scream their frustrations into the night.
Howard's ratings increase and he becomes the host of THE HOWARD BEALE SHOW, He's known as the "Mad Prophet of the Airwwaves" and his audience chants his now popular catchphrase, "I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
But when Howard learns that the CCA, the conglomerate that owns the UBS TV network will be bought by a Saudi Arabian conglomerate, he launches an on-screen protest encouraging his viewers to stop the deal.
Howard's anti business message come to the attention of Arthur Jensen, the CCA Conglomerate Chairman, who invites Howard to his office where he educates Beale to the stark realities of the modern world:
“There are no nations. There are no people. There are no Russians, no Arabs, no Third Worlds, no West, There is only one holistic system of systems. One vast interwoven, interacting multi-varied, multi-national dominion of dollars—petro dollars, electro dollars, Reich marks, rubles, pounds, shekels. That’s the atomic and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today...There is no democracy. There is only IBM, ITT, AT&T, DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, Exxon—these are the nations of the world today. The world is business, Mr. Beale. Democracy is a dying giant, a sick, sick decaying political concept. It’s a nation of two hundred million totally unnecessary human beings as replaceable as piston rods.”
As Howard tones down his messages, and so do his ratings, but Jensen allows his show to stay on the air. In a clever tactic to increase ratings and get rid of Howard Beale, various UBS executives hire a terrorist to assassinated Beaal while on the air. The film ends with his Lee Ricahrdson narrating:
“This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because of lousy ratings.”
As the Howard Beale story unfolded during the film, network television executive Max Schumacher (William Holden) was having problems of his own after he had taken up with TV producer Diane Christensen (Faye Dunaway).
At home Max's wife, Louise (Beatrice Straight) is obviously upset when she hears about his mistress. But Max trying to minimize the situation says, "I’m not sure she's capable of any real feeling. She's television generation. She learned life from Bugs Bunny."
But Louis has had enough with her husband's infidelity, and shouts:
“Get out, go anywhere you want, go to a hotel, go live with her, and don’t come back! Because, after 25 years of building a home and raising a family and all the senseless pain that we have inflicted on each other, I’m damned if I’m going to stand here and have you tell me you’re in love with somebody else!”
"Because this isn’t a convention weekend with your secretary, is it? Or—or some broad that you picked up after three belts of booze. This is your great winter romance, isn’t it? Your last roar of passion before you settle into your emeritus years. Is that what’s left for me? Is that my share? She gets the winter passion, and I get the dotage? What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to sit at home knitting and purling while you slink back like some penitent drunk? I’m your wife, damn it! And, if you can't work up a winter passion for me, the least I require is respect and allegiance! I hurt! Don’t you understand that? I hurt badly!"
Eventually, Max decides to go back to his wife after he realizes that Diane's love of television supercedes her ability to have a meaningful relationship with him.
""You are television incarnate, Diana, indifferent to suffering, insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality....You’re madness, Diana. Virile madness. War, murder, death—all the same to you as bottles of beer, and the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensation of time and space into split seconds, instant replays. You're madness, Diana. Virile madness, and everything you touch dies with you. But not me. Not as long as I can feel pleasure and pain...and love."
Note: On July 15, 1974, a very depressed anchorwoman named Christine Chubbuck actually did commit suicide on-the air while broadcasting the news to a stunned audience Sarasota, Florida TV viewers.
Paddy Chayefsky, who wrote the script for Network, used this on-air tragedy as the inspiration for his film's climax.