A movie for every day of the year – a good one
50th Anniversary of CBS Evening News
On this day in 1963 CBS’s flagship news show – broadcast since 1948 – assumed the title CBS Evening News. At which point it became US network TV’s first half-hour weeknight news broadcast. Walter Cronkite was its presenter (he’d taken over from Douglas Edwards the year before), a position he’d hold until 1981. A solid, progressive middle-American with natural gravitas, Cronkite became known as “the most trusted man in America” and the CBS Evening News became the country’s ratings-leading and most authoritative news broadcast. To this day when footage about the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, the moon landings or the Watergate break-ins is shown, there’s a fair chance that it’s Cronkite’s voice you’ll hear.
Network – (1976, dir: Sidney Lumet)
A prescient drama about the way news reporting on TV was heading, Network was also something of an elegy for the way it had been. Faye Dunaway won an Oscar for her portrayal of driven programming executive from the UBS network who’d do anything for ratings, and this was pretty much the last time she’d be in anything really of note, doing anything worth talking about. The same could be also said of William Holden, as news boss Max Schumacher, and of Peter Finch, as the crazed veteran news anchor who announces he’s going to kill himself live on air one night and gets a huge ratings boost as a result – Finch died before getting his posthumous Oscar. Sidney Lumet, an old TV hand, directs with a sure invisible hand and a real knowledge of the milieu, doing his best with Paddy Chayefsky’s furious script, which reaches for more than it can grasp. Tilt Network sideways and you’ve got Anchorman – but that’s another story.
- An epic Peter Finch performance, his last
- Faye Dunaway at fever pitch
- It’s a caustic satire whose predictions have all come true
- A reminder of thoughtful, adult Hollywood film-making
- Finch’s famous “I’m mad as hell” speech
© Steve Morrissey 2013