Mad as Hell: Discovering Paddy Chayefsky

Paddy Chayefsky - Mad As Hell - thescriptblog.com

Prepare Yourself For A Perfectly Outrageous Motion Picture.

Paddy Chayefsky. It’s highly probable that you are not familiar with the name. But let me tell you, he was quite a filmmaker. A hell of a writer. During the 50s, 60s, and 70s he was a man to watch. Just check his credits:

Academy Awards

1977Winner
Oscar
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Network (1976)
1972Winner
Oscar
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced
The Hospital (1971)
1959Nominee
Oscar
Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen
The Goddess (1958)
1956Winner
Oscar
Best Writing, Screenplay
Marty (1955)

So he got three bloody Oscars + one nomination. And this is not all. Here, the basic resume:

Primetime Emmy Awards

1956Nominee
Primetime Emmy
Best Original Teleplay Writing
Goodyear Television Playhouse (1951)
For episode “The Catered Affair”.
1955Nominee
Primetime Emmy
Best Written Dramatic Material
The Philco Television Playhouse (1948)

BAFTA Awards

1978Nominee
BAFTA Film Award
Best Screenplay
Network (1976)
1973Winner
BAFTA Film Award
Best Screenplay
The Hospital (1971)

Golden Globes, USA

1977Winner
Golden Globe
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Network (1976)
1972Winner
Golden Globe
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
The Hospital (1971)

Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

1976Winner
LAFCA Award
Best Screenplay
Network (1976)

National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA

1977Nominee
NSFC Award
Best Screenplay
Network (1976)
2nd place
Network-Paddy Chayefsky - thescriptblog.com

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

1977Winner
NYFCC Award
Best Screenplay
Network (1976)

Writers Guild of America, USA

1977Winner
WGA Award (Screen)
Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen
Network (1976)
1974Winner
Laurel Award for Screen Writing Achievement
1972Winner
WGA Award (Screen)
Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen
The Hospital (1971)
1956Winner
WGA Award (Screen)
Best Written American Drama
Marty (1955)

Cannes Film Festival

1955 Palm D’Or Winner Marty (1955)


The scene that made Chayefsky famous

According to the Network script

(..) the scene was to unfold on a stormy evening starting at the apartment of the Schumachers, as their daughter, Caroline, looks out onto “the rain-swept streets of the Upper East Side, the bulking, anonymous apartment houses and occasional brownstones.” Max then joins his daughter to gaze upon “the erratic landscape of Manhattan,” seeing “silhouetted HEADS in windows—here, there, and then out of nowhere everywhere, SHOUTING out into the slashing black RAIN.” There would be “a terrifying THUNDERCLAP, followed by a FULGURATION of LIGHTNING” that “punctuates the gathering CHORUS coming from the huddled, black border of the city’s SCREAMING people, an indistinguishable tidal roar of human RAGE.”

Chayefsky’s stage directions spelled out a clear vision for the scene, but they did not discourage (director Sidney) Lumet from imagining an alternate presentation. As Gottfried recalled, “One day when we were talking about it, Sidney comes in with an idea. He thought it would be funnier, and perhaps even more effective, if, once the scene started with Peter, that people start shouting it in different areas. Like sitting in a taxi, they’d stick out their heads and shout, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.’ People coming from different places, coming from a taxi, coming from people walking in the street or something like that. I thought the original scene as Paddy wrote it would be far more powerful, and ultimately Sidney agreed. I know he did. That was basically changing the script, which certainly Paddy wouldn’t go in for.”

So director Sidney Lumet stuck to the script.

Once the commitment was made to Chayefsky’s version of the scene, it became “the biggest shooting of the picture,” according to director of photography Owen Roizman. The sequence required three nights of filming, from March 23 through 25, and more gear and equipment than had been used at any point in the New York production, including “fire trucks with water hoses to wet down the buildings, so that we could get a little sheen from the water dripping off the windowsills,” Roizman said, and “huge cherry pickers with lightning machines on them to light each building.… You could practically melt the generator with all the current that it draws.”

In the book Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movie, Dave Itzkoff tells all about the making of the film Network and Chayefsky’s figure. All you need to know.

Marty and The Hospital made him win Oscars number one and two. Please notice that The Hospital poster states that it’s a film BY PADDY CHAYEFSKY.

On making Network

For a few months it may have seemed that Network was a true collaboration, the result of a cast and crew, a director and a screenwriter, working in tandem, if not always in harmony. But once the film was shot, edited, and in the can, the actors, artisans, and crew members moved on to their next projects and their next paychecks.

And when all the moviemaking apparatus was stripped away, there remained one man who would receive the praise and bear the blame for the film, who had fought from its inception to make sure the final product was his vision and that all who saw it knew it was his creation. As the opening-credit sequence for Network declared, after announcing the names of its lead performers, its own title, and the studios that made it, but before acknowledging its director, producer, or any other contributor, this was a film by Paddy Chayefsky.

Chayefsky’s Third Oscar. Clearly stated on the poster: NETWORK, by Paddy Chayefsky.
Oscars 1977. Left, Wiiliam Goldman, Best Adapted Screenplay for All the President’s Men; right, Paddy Chayefsky, Best Original Screenplay for Network. In the middle, author Norman Mailer.

Funnily enough, this is not the only book about Chayefsky named MAD AS HELL:

More on Screenwriting? Check Subtext: The Magic Dust of Good ScreenwritingBest Screenwriting Books: Dmytryk’s ON SCREEN WRITINGBest Screenwriting Books: ESSENTIALS OF SCREENWRITINGHow Billy Wilder’s SOME LIKE IT HOT Was WrittenHow Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT Was Written, David Mamet’s Master Class Memo to the Writers of THE UNIT and Top Screenwriter Scott Frank: “I Hate Writing”, amongst many others!

More about Making Movies? Check Oliver Stone’s Great Autobiography is a Must, How Billy Wilder’s SOME LIKE IT HOT Was WrittenFilm Blocking, What is it?The 5 Best Books on Making Movies, by Darren AronofskyFirst Assistant Directors: Who Are They?The World of Movie Posters and Foley Artists: Who Are They?, amongst many others!

close

SIGN UP! YOU'LL BE THE FIRST TO KNOW WHEN SOMETHING NEW HAPPENS!

IF YOU ENJOY THE SITE AND LEARN A BIT, WE'LL BE FULLY REWARDED.

We keep your data private and share your data only with third parties that make this service possible. See our Privacy Policy for more information.
Posted in: FILMMAKINGTagged under: , , , , , , , , ,