Writer Paddy Chayefsky (1923-1981)

Paddy Chayefsky
Paddy Chayefsky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
August 3, 2013
by Jerry Alatalo

If there are any writers out there who have never heard of Paddy Chayefsky, find his work and you will have a new role model. He spent 58 years on this Earth and wrote some of the finest literature the world has ever been blessed to experience.

Paddy Chayefsky wrote in a manner which led to him being described as a realist. He was the only person to win three Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay; screenplays written by himself, alone.

The first Academy Award he won was for the film “Marty” about a lonely butcher, played by Ernest Borgnine, who finally finds love after meeting a quiet, also lonely schoolteacher played by Betsy Blair. Paddy Chayefsky won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for “Marty” in 1955, while Ernest Borgnine won the Award for Best Actor, and the Best Director Oscar went to Delbert Mann. “Marty” won the Academy Award for Best Picture. “Marty” was only the second American film to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The other was “The Lost Weekend.”

His screenplay for “The Hospital”, which one reviewer called “a scathing indictment of the medical community”, won him his second Academy Award in 1971. The film starred George C. Scott and Diana Rigg.

Paddy Chayefsky gained his greatest acclaim and fame for writing the screenplay for the 1976 film “Network”, starring Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Beatrice Straight and Robert Duvall. The film was directed by Sydney Lumet. It is a satirical film about a fictional television network that is struggling with poor ratings, UBS. Chayefsky won his third Academy Award for Original Screenplay. Faye Dunaway won the Academy Award for Best Actress, Beatrice Straight won for Best Supporting Actress, and Peter Finch was posthumously given the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Howard Beele.

In 2006 Paddy Chayefsky’s script for “Network” was added to the list of the top-ten screenplays by the Writers Guild of America.

Any actor would love to sink their teeth into the role of Howard Beele, played by Finch. His performance in “Network” remains one of the greatest performances by an actor in a film. The film “Network” remains as powerful and relevant today as when Paddy Chayefsky, a true artist, created it in the 1970’s.