A perfect picture

There’s nothing wrong with the picture Network (1976). The talent on display in the film is formidable. With a screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Peter Finch, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Ned Beatty, and others, it’s an irresistible satire of television news as show business. I’ve had the opening scene playing in my head over the past week. “Don’t do it, buddy!”

In the opening scene UBS-TV news division president Max Schumacher (William Holden) and news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) are drunk outside on the sidewalk. The two old friends are in midtown Manhattan. It’s nearly midnight as Schumacher recalls his early days in the business:

Must’ve been 1950 then. I was at NBC, uh, associate producer. Morning News. I was just a kid. 26 years old. Anyway… anyway… they’re building the lower level of the George Washington Bridge. We were doing a remote from there. And nobody told me!

Ten after seven in the morning, I get a call, “Where the hell are YOU? You’re supposed to be on the George Washington Bridge!”

I jump out of bed, throw my raincoat over my pajamas. I run downstairs and out into the street…hail a cab, and I say to the cabbie, “TAKE ME TO THE MIDDLE OF THE GEORGE WASHINGTON BRIDGE!”

And the cabbie turns around and he says…he says “Don’t do it, buddy! You’re a young man! You got your whole life ahead of you!”

Didn’t I ever tell you that one before?

It’s the perfect opening to a perfect picture.

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