One of the finest, most prolific character actors in Hollywood history, Ned Beatty is best-known for his legendary roles in two seminal films — “Deliverance” and “Network.” 

The former made him the butt of many juvenile jokes. The latter made him a star. Beatty’s performance as TV Network executive Arthur Jensen dressing down renegade news anchor Howard Beale is a 5-minute master class in giving vital, lasting life to words on a page. 

Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky wrote Jensen’s cynical, serrated monologue. Beatty made it believable and unforgettable. 

When I read that Beatty died Sunday at the age of 83, the first thing that came to mind was Jensen’s monologue channeled through Beatty. It was true in 1976. Read it below and tell me it’s not even more true 45 years later. I tried and failed to attach a video clip to this blog, but I urge to read this transcript and then google and watch five minutes of the best acting ever captured on film.

I’ve always thought Beatty is so convincing delivering Jensen’s speech because in his heart, he knew it was true. How about you?

ARTHUR JENSEN: You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale! And I won’t have it! Is that clear?! 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! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? 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.

HOWARD BEALE: Why me?

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

HOWARD BEALE: I have seen the face of God.

ARTHUR JENSEN: You just might be right, Mr. Beale.