Oscar Roles: Straight, Beatrice in Network

Beatrice Straight won the Supporting Actress Oscar for “Network,” in 1976. She played one of the smallest parts to garner an Oscar, that of the dejected wife, Louise, of TV exec Max Schumacher (William Holden), who in one of the film's subplots go through male menopause and fall for the ambitious and heartless Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway).

Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, who won the Original Screenplay Oscar, has constructed a taut narrative with sharp dialogue for all the characters.

In one of their arguments, Max Schumacher tells Diana: “You're television incarnate, Diana. Indifferent to suffering. Insensitive to joy. All of life reduced to the common rubble of banality.”

“I'm not some guy discussing male menopause on the Barbara Walters show. I'm the man that you presumably love. I'm part of your life. I live here. I'm real. You can't switch to another person.” Max then confides in his wife: “I'm not sure she's capable of any real feelings. She's television generation. She learned life from Bugs Bunny.”

Beatrice Straight has only three or four scenes in the picture, but director Sidney Lumet, who adores actors, keep the camera on her during her painful speeches. Here is her arguably best scene, which might have accounted for her winning the Oscar:

Louise: “Then get out, go to a hotel, go anywhere you want, go live with her, but don't come back! Because after twenty-five years of building a home and raising a family, and all the senseless pain we've inflicted on each other, I'll be damned if I'll just stand here and let you tell me you love somebody else! Because this isn't some convention weekend with your secretary, is it Or some broad you picked up after three belts of booze.

“This is your great winter romance, isn't it Your last roar of passion before you sink into your emeritus years. Is that what's left for me Is that my share She gets the great winter passion and I get the dotage Am I supposed to sit at home knitting and purling till you slink back like a penitent drunk I'm your wife, damn it! If you can't work up a winter passion for me, then the least I require is respect and allegiance! I'm hurt! Don't you understand that I'm hurt badly!”

As noted elsewhere, Network won three out of its five acting nominations: Best Actor for Peter Finch, Best Actress for Faye Dunaway, and Supporting Actress for Beatrice Straight.