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Date: 8/26/03

Subject: Dialogue



In Paddy Chayefsky's Academy Award-winning screenplay of "Network," the main conflict is defined through dialogue. In that way, dialogue becomes an offshoot of the plot itself.

Throughout the story, the protagonist, TV-news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch), verbally lashes out at his employers, executives at the UBS-TV network. He does so because they fired him for getting poor audience ratings.

In a series of monologues, or speeches, he gives during live broadcasts on the network, he attempts to expose the lies
and hypocrisy of UBS-TV and of corporate America itself.

These monologues are woven into the plot structure of "Network" and become part of the main conflict, which is the struggle of Howard Beale and his friend, Max Schumacher (William Holden),
to prevent UBS-TV from eliminating the old generation of TV news anchormen and the style of broadcasting those anchorman created.

While giving a monologue on live TV, Howard threatens to kill himself during the next broadcast because UBS-TV fired him.
The next time he speaks on TV, he refers to life as bullshit.

When Diana Christenson (Faye Dunaway), VP of programming
for UBS, learns that the network's ratings went up dramatically
after Howard lashed out verbally on UBS, she convinces Executive Senior VP Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) to let Howard make uncontrollable speeches on the UBS network's TV news program
on a regular basis.

In one such speech, Howard says: "I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the defense budget and the Russians and crime in the street. All I know is first you['ve] got to
get mad. You've got to say: 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more. I'm a human being, goddammit. My life has value."

Max Schumacher, the president of the UBS-TV news division, realizes that Howard is having a nervous breakdown and that the network is simply taking advantage of Howard's pain to get bigger profits.

In one scene, Max chastises UBS executive Frank Hackett for exploiting Howard.

Max does so by saying: "The man [Howard] is insane. He's no longer responsible for himself. He needs care and treatment.
And all you grave-robbers care about is he's a hit."

Toward the end of "Network," as Howard's mental illness progresses, he begins to become morose while giving monologues
on his UBS show, the Howard Beale Show.

As a result, his ratings drop, and Diana Christenson, the VP who was responsible for having Howard regularly give verbal tirades
on live TV, panics.

She convinces Frank Hackett to have a group of revolutionaries assassinate Howard during the Howard Beale Show.

The assassination does indeed take place, proving that the new generation of TV executives, the generation represented by Frank Hackett and Diana Christenson, lacks the moral integrity of Howard and Max Schumacher's generation.

We learn about this lack of integrity only because of the main conflict expressed in Howard Beale's monologues.

It is these monologues that are the very focus of the story of "Network."

They are the way in which Howard expresses his outrage at being thought of as only a ratings and profit tool by the UBS-TV network.

Screenwriters should study Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay of "Network" as an example of how to make dialogue an integral part of the plot structure of a story.

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