R.I.P. Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet, the acclaimed director of such definitive American works as 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon and Network, has passed away in his New York home of lymphoma. He was 86 years old.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1924, Lumet was quickly thrust into the world of performance by his theatre veteran parents. Having made his stage debut at the Yiddish Art Theatre at the age of five, he continued working as a stage actor until the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939. After spending three years stationed in India and Burma as a radar repairman, he returned to America and established his own theatre workshop.

Lumet cut his teeth directing a number of off-Broadway productions and TV episodes, eventually making his feature film debut in 1957 with 12 Angry Men, a powerful real-time character drama that follows a dozen jurors as they debate the innocence of a young man. The film was nominated for Best Picture, and Lumet – whose cinematic flair expanded upon its stage origins – picked up his first Best Director nod.

He spent much of his early career adapting plays for the screen, including Orpheus Descending, A View From The Bridge, Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Seagull.

At the advent of the 1970s, Lumet entered a new stage of his career, crafting some of the most acclaimed films of American cinema’s most exciting age. In 1973, he directed Al Pacino to an Academy Award nomination as an honest cop battling corruption in Serpico. Two years later, he reteamed with Pacino for Dog Day Afternoon, a subversive bank-robber flick with an undercurrent of social commentary, for which Lumet received his second Oscar nomination.

In 1977, Lumet brought Paddy Chayefsky’s Network to the big screen, an outrageous and darkly comic satire about the media that grows more relevant with each passing year. Although credited as ‘Paddy Chayefsky’s Network’ – his screenplay is rightfully considered one of the greatest of all time – Lumet’s work behind the camera was equally transcendent; his expertise in creatively filming plays helped him keep the monologue-heavy film from seeming stagey. It earned him a third Best Director nom, and almost the entire cast was either nominated for, or took home, an Oscar.

His next Oscar-nomination would come in 1982, as co-writer of Prince of the City. Lumet scored a fourth Best Director nod at the 1982 Oscar ceremony, for helming the Paul Newman courtroom drama The Verdict. In 1988, he directed River Phoenix to an Academy Award nomination in Running on Empty.

Although none of Lumet’s later films would reach the dizzying critical heights of Network, Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men, he continued to produce solid, acclaimed movies up until his death. In 2005, he received an honourary Oscar for his esteemed career. Two years later, he would direct his best film in decades, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, a brutal revenge tale starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke.

Lumet is survived by his wife Mary Gimbel, daughters Amy and Jenny Lumet, as well as step-children Leslie and Bailey Gimbel.

Discuss: R.I.P.

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: