“The World Is a Business, Mr. Beale”

As true now as it was in 1976.

“It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic, and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today… and YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature. And you will atone.”

Howard Beale is a fictional character from the film Network (1976) and one of the central characters therein.[1] He is played by Peter Finch, who won a posthumous Oscar for the role.[2]

In Network, Beale, the anchorman for the UBS Evening News, struggles to accept the ramifications of the social ailments and depravity existing in the world. His producers exploit him for high ratings and avoid giving him the psychiatric assistance that some, especially news division president, Max Schumacher, think he needs.

The image of Beale in a khaki raincoat with his wet hair plastered to his head, standing up during the middle of his newscast saying, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” is often listed as one of the most iconic in film history, and the aforementioned line ranked #19 on the American Film Institute‘s 2005 list of the 100 greatest American movie quotes.[3]

Beale’s career as “The Mad Prophet of the Airwaves” is sparked by his half-joking offer, after receiving his two-weeks’ notice, to kill himself on nationwide TV. He subsequently apologizes to his viewers, telling them he “ran out of bullshit.” Viewers respond positively and he is given his own show where he can say whatever he likes. Unfortunately for the network, he exposes the ties between CCA, the corporation that owns the network, and business interests in Saudi Arabia. Arthur Jensen, CCA chairman and chief stockholder (played by Ned Beatty), thunderously explains to him his belief that money is the only true god, whereupon Beale completely turns his message around; before, he had told people their lives had value and meaning, but after his meeting with Jensen, he says the opposite. His ratings drop, but Jensen orders him kept on; network executives order him to be assassinated. The film concludes with his murder on national television; a voiceover proclaims him “the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.”

In the 2017 stage adaptation, the role of Beale is played by Bryan Cranston in the National Theatre, London production. Later, the play moved to Broadway in New York. The show received critical acclaim, and won multiple awards.


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