Archive for April 9th, 2011

Sidney Lumet (1924–2011)



Sidney Lumet (1924–2011)


Just a couple of weeks after Elizabeth Taylor we have lost another Hollywood legend, this time one who made his name behind the camera, Sidney Lumet. Lumet made his way into film via television in the 50s making his feature film directorial debut in 1957 with an adaptation 12 Angry Men (adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose). An impressive debut that earned him the first of his four Best Director Oscar nominations, and still my favourite of his movies.

Despite being nominated a further three times as a director and once for adapted screenplay (Prince of the City (1981)) he sadly never won an Oscar: The Verdict lost to Richard Attenborough for Gandhi; Network to John G. Avildsen for Rocky; Dog Day Afternoon to Milos Forman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; 12 Angry Men to David Lean for The Bridge on the River Kwai. Some of those are more understandable than others, but that’s an argument for another day.

One thing I will always remember Lumet for is getting great (often career best) performances from his actors, for example: Paul Newman in The Verdict (1982), Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Serpico (1973), Sean Connery in The Hill (1965), Rod Steiger in The Pawnbroker (1964) and the entire casts of Network (1976) and 12 Angry Men (1957). A point proven by the fact no fewer than seventeen actors have been nominated for acting Oscars in his movies: Katharine Hepburn, Rod Steiger, Al Pacino, Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Chris Sarandon, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Beatrice Straight, William Holden, Ned Beatty, Peter Firth, Richard Burton, Paul Newman, James Mason, Jane Fonda and River Phoenix. Four of them actually won, Bergman (Murder on the Orient Express), Dunaway, Finch and Straight all for Network

With over fourty movie credits to his name, Lumet moved back into TV with the short lived but acclaimed legal drama 100 Centre Street (2001–2002). What turned out to be his final film Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) is hugely underrated contained his trademark acting including a great performance from Marisa Tomei in her best role in years.

For those not familiar with his work, I recommend you start with . Still working into his 80’s he was a great director who will be sadly missed.



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