Remembering Ned Beatty

Five-minute monologue in ‘Network’ is one of the most powerful performances in movie history.

Actor Ned Beatty died in his sleep in his Los Angeles home Sunday surrounded by friends and family — his wife Sandra Johnson, eight children and grandchildren. He was 83.

He made his movie debut in the 1972 psycho adventure drama Deliverance with Burt Reynolds, John Voight and Ronny Cox, Atlanta businessmen riding the rapids in backwoods Georgia.

Remembering Ned Beatty

Beatty played the victim of a rape by mountain men in the hard-to-watch ‘Squeal like a pig’ scene.

The Kentucky-born actor appeared in more than 150 movies and TV shows, but the standout performance to me was in the 1976 box office hit Network when he gave a thundering five-minute long monologue to convince madman news anchor Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, to accept a major merger deal that would be bad for the public.

Remembering Ned Beatty

Beatty was only in the movie for a total of six minutes but his performance as network head Arthur Jensen earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Academy Awards that year. The screenplay was written by Paddy Chayefsky and this scene was a powerhouse, as relevant today — even more so — as it was then. The message being that the world is controlled by corporations and the common man and woman have zero rights.

You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it! Is that clear?!

Do you think you’ve merely stopped a business deal? That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance!

You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West.

There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. 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!

You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.

What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state — Karl Marx?

They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do.

We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business.

The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.

Beale: “Why me?”

Jensen: Because you’re on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday.

Beale: “I have seen the face of God.”

Jensen: You just might be right, Mr. Beale.

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