Director of "12 Angry Men," "Network" passes away at 86
Sidney Lumet, the award-winning director of such acclaimed films as “Network,” “Serpico,” “Dog Day Afternoon” and “12 Angry Men,” has died. He was 86.
Lumet’s death was confirmed Saturday by Marc Kusnetz, who is the husband of Lumet’s stepdaughter, Leslie Gimbel. He said Lumet died during the night and had suffered from lymphoma.
A Philadelphia native, Lumet moved to New York City as a child, and it became the location of choice for more than 30 of his films. Although he freely admitted to a lifelong love affair with the city, he often showed its grittier side.
Such dramas as “Prince of the City,” “Q&A,” “Night Falls on Manhattan” and “Serpico” looked at the hard lives and corruptibility of New York police officers. “Dog Day Afternoon” told the true-life story of two social misfits who set in motion a chain of disastrous events when they tried to rob a New York City bank on an oppressively hot summer afternoon.
“It’s not an anti-L.A. thing,” Lumet said of his New York favoritism in a 1997 interview. “I just don’t like to live in a company town.”
Although he didn’t work in Los Angeles, the director maintained good relations with the Hollywood studios, partly because he finished his pictures under schedule and budget. His television beginnings had schooled him in working fast, and he rarely shot more than four takes of a scene.
He was nominated four times for directing Academy Awards, and although he never won, Lumet did receive an honorary Oscar in 2005 for lifetime achievement. He also received the Directors Guild of America’s prestigious D.W. Griffith Award for lifetime achievement in 1993.
Al Pacino, who produced memorable performances for Lumet in both “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Serpico,” introduced the director at the 2005 Academy Awards.
“If you prayed to inhabit a character, Sidney was the priest who listened to your prayers, helped make them come true,” the actor said.
Accepting the award, Lumet thanked the many directors who had inspired him, then added, “I guess I’d like to thank the movies (too).”
Lumet immediately established himself as an A-list director with his first theatrical film, 1957′s “12 Angry Men,” which took an early and powerful look at racial prejudice as it depicted 12 jurors trying to reach a verdict in a trial involving a young Hispanic man wrongly accused of murder. It garnered him his first Academy Award nomination.
Other Oscar nominations were for “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975), “Network” (1976) and “The Verdict” (1982).
“Network,” a scathing view of the television business, proved to be Lumet’s most memorable film and created an enduring catch phrase when crazed newscaster Peter Finch exhorted his audience to raise their windows and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
It won Academy Awards for Paddy Chayefsky for best screenplay, Finch as best actor (presented posthumously) and Faye Dunaway as best actress.
Although best known for his hard-bitten portrayals of urban life, Lumet’s resume also included films based on noted plays: Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” and Tennessee Williams’ “Orpheus Descending,” which was made into “The Fugitive Kind.” He also dealt with such matters as the Holocaust (“The Pawnbroker”), nuclear war (“Fail-Safe”) and the convicted Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (“Daniel”).
He directed a highly successful Agatha Christie mystery, the all-star “Murder on the Orient Express,” as well.
Other popular Lumet films included “Running On Empty,” “Equus,” “Family Business’ and “The Wiz.”
The director was born June 25, 1924, in Philadelphia to a pair of Yiddish stage performers, and he began his show business career as a child actor, appearing on radio at age 4.
He made his Broadway debut in 1934 with a small role in Sidney Kingsley’s acclaimed “Dead End,” and he twice played Jesus, in Max Reinhardt’s production of “The Eternal Road” and Maxwell Anderson’s “Journey to Jerusalem.”
After serving as a radar repairman in India and Burma during World War II, Lumet returned to New York and formed an acting company. In 1950, Yul Brynner, a friend and a director at CBS-TV, invited him to join the network as an assistant director. Soon he rose to director, working on 150 episodes of the “Danger” thriller as well as other series.
The advent of live TV dramas boosted Lumet’s reputation. Like Arthur Penn, John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann and other directors of television drama’s Golden Age, he smoothly made the transition to movies.
Lumet continued directing features into his 80s, and in 2001 he returned to his television roots, creating, writing, directing and executive producing a cable series, “100 Centre Street.” It was filmed in his beloved New York.
In 2006, he brought out “Find Me Guilty,” starring Vin Diesel and based on a true story about a mob trial in New Jersey. His final film was 2007′s “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei.
Lumet once claimed he didn’t seek out New York-based projects.
“But any script that starts in New York has got a head start,” he said in 1999. “It’s a fact the city can become anything you want it to be.”
His first three marriages ended in divorce: to actress Rita Gam, heiress Gloria Vanderbilt and Lena Horne’s daughter, Gail Jones. In 1980, he married journalist Mary Gimbel.
Thomas reported from Los Angeles.
More Related Stories
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
- Billionaire hedge funder: Babies, breast-feeding "kill" focus, keep women from succeeding
- "Bookless library" set to open in Texas
- 2 more arrested in London attacks
- Glenn Beck: CNN interview with atheist tornado survivor was a setup!
- Incoming BBC news director on journalism gender gap: "We can do better"
- Illegal construction, shoddy materials at fault in Bangladesh factory disaster
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Lawsuit alleges anti-gay hiring practices at ExxonMobil
- Boy Scouts poised to vote, still greatly divided on gay youth
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- 80-year-old becomes oldest to climb Mount Everest
- Before FBI shooting man implicated self, Tsarnaev in triple murder
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- UK emergency committee convenes after attack
- Brave scout leader tried to reason with London attackers
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11