Thirty-five years later, “Network” remains an incendiary if influential film, and its screenplay is still admired as much for its predictive accuracy as for its vehemence: a relentless sense of purpose that is even more palpable in the files Chayefsky left behind upon his death in 1981.
These papers were acquired by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in 2001 but not examined much after their cataloging in the library’s Billy Rose Theater Division was completed in 2006. The rarely seen documents on “Network” speak loudly for their absent author, documenting the angst and animus that consumed him on this highly personal project.
Working in an era of paper, pencils and typewriters, Chayefsky seemingly committed to print every observation and self-criticism that he thought of. His “Network” archives provide a road map of the paths taken and not taken in its narrative, but they also reveal a visceral rawness that is scarce in today’s age of digital files and screenwriting by committee. They tell the story of an author’s struggles to determine what he wanted to say about a medium that would do anything for an audience’s attention.
Worth checking out.
[Pictures by Michael Rougier and Terry O’Neill]