Saturday, April 29, 2006

Chayefsky: ahead of his times?

The Anchoress recently watched a video of the 1976 film "Network," written by Paddy Chayefsky. She found the movie's satire to be strangely prescient, featuring TV networks that would do nearly anything to make a buck, including suck up to terrorists.

I saw the film when it first came out, but I can't say I remember too much about it except the always-arresting Peter Finch , and Faye Dunaway's nervous edginess. Maybe I'll have to rent it again to refresh my memory.

I had developed a mild crush on Peter Finch in his younger incarnation in "The Nun's Story," which turns out to have been his favorite movie of the ones he made prior to 1968. And, by the way, doesn't Finch look just the tiniest bit as though he might have been the somewhat glum father of the smilier Tony Blair? (don't want to start a rumor, but...):

After reading the Anchoress's post, I got curious about Chayefsky, and looked him up. There wasn't a whole lot of information, but I found this in Wikipedia, indicating that Chayefsky may have not only been prescient, but that he also didn't shy away from speaking up and speaking out himself:

[Chayefsky] is known for his comments during the 1978 Oscar telecast after Vanessa Redgrave, when she went to accept her award for Best Supporting Actress in Julia, made a controversial speech denouncing extreme elements of Zionism. He made a comment during the program immediately after hers in which he stated that he was upset by her using the event to make an irrelevant political viewpoint during a film award program. He said, "I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation and a simple 'Thank you' would have sufficed."


At 12:29 PM, April 29, 2006, Blogger anonymess said...

Whether or not Paddy Chayefsky was prescient, or whether or not Tony Blair is the love child of Peter Finch, when you do an anagram of the combined last names of these three men, you can get: HERSH--A FLAKY FIB CYNIC. Sounds plausible to me.

At 3:55 PM, April 29, 2006, Blogger MT said...

Great stuff...I'm coming back.

Posted at


At 5:11 PM, April 29, 2006, Blogger Tom Grey said...

I'm MAD AS HELL and I'm NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE -- isn't that the new Dem Party unofficial emotional state.

Didn't WaPo have a Lefty blogger like that?

Of course, come the midterm elections, we'll see how much, or little, changes. Gerrymandering is terrible.

At 9:21 AM, April 30, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

I see a lot of people use Wikipedia as their source of background information. I would be very cautious about using Wikipedia as your main or only source for information. I believe anyone can submit an article for this free collaborative public encyclopedia and, although there is probably some fact checking and editorial scrutiny its still very easy to get it wrong. It's also very easy to twist things and mislead. Witness the recent charges that some Capitol Hill politicians have sanitized their own Wiki profiles (of course it was their misguided, over zealous staff that did it) and dirtied up that of their opponents.

Just because its written and just because its in an "encyclopedia" doesn't necessarily mean its correct or true.

Back in the day US subscribers to the "Great Soviet Encyclopedia" sometimes got new pages and a razor blade mailed to them from Moscow with instructions to cut out the lauditory profile of a recently purged "non-person" and substitute the enclosed article on the Siberian Mugwort.

At 10:40 AM, April 30, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Oh, I rarely do that, snowonpine. Especially for controversial issues.

When I cite wiki, it's usually because (as in the case of Chayevsky, for example) there's a dearth of other online information, or because the information is utterly noncontroversial, or because I've checked out other sources and they substantiate wiki.

At 10:49 AM, April 30, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...


Sorry to go all librarian on you.

At 10:53 AM, April 30, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

That's OK, snowonpine. Some of my best friends are librarians :-).

At 8:44 PM, April 30, 2006, Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

My wife, who is a librarian, deplores Wikipedia - on theory alone, because she never uses it. I love it. I know all the arguments why it's supposed to be bad and could be unreliable, but in practice it doesn't work that way. It puts the information you want in front of your eyes quicker.

At 10:43 PM, April 30, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

Just happened to see this comment about Wiki on at the first item in the section titled, "A Trip to the Nuthouse"

At 2:27 AM, May 01, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once made a list of my 10 all-time favorite movies, and I placed "Network" at #9, right behind "Casablanca". I saw it again recently and I'm not sure I would still rate it so highly - the last half of the movie is kind of meandering and the characters do a lot of pontificating, i. e. relaying speeches written by Chayefsky.

But the first half of the movie, leading up to the memorable "Mad as Hell ..." scene, is still explosive, brilliant, and chillingly prescient of the current state of the media. Of course, this may go back far past the mid-70s. While browsing the IMDB, I recently found a movie directed by Billy Wilder ("Some Like It Hot", "Double Indemnity", "The Apartment" etc.) in 1951 called "Ace in the Hole" about a cynical reporter who exploits a mine tragedy. Anyone seen it (probably not, it's pretty obscure)?

At 4:56 PM, May 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much as I love NETWORK and the other Cheyefsky ouvre, his dialog always seemed a little tin-eared to me. His characters talked like they were in a novel. Rod Serling, his early-television contemporary, had the same problem. Great ideas, but you tolerated the dialog.


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