Director Sidney Lumet passed today at the age of 86. The cause was lymphoma.
Sidney Lumet was born on 25 June, 1924 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were both actors and Mr. Lumet made his stage debut at the age of four. He made his debut on Broadway in Dead End in 1935. As a youth he would appear in more shows on Broadway, including The Eternal Road (1937), Sunup to Sundown (1938), My Hearts in the Highlands (1939), Morning Star (1940), and Brooklyn U.S.A. (1942).
During World War II Sidney Lumet served as a radar technician in the Far East. Once he returned to New York he turned to directing, starting with summer stock and Off Broadway shows. He entered the field of television by directing an episode of Crime Photographer in 1951. Over the next many years he would direct episodes of Danger, You Are There, The United States Steel Hour, The Alcoa Hour, Goodyear Playhouse, Studio One, and Kraft Theatre.
Mr. Lumet made his film debut as a director with a classic, 12 Angry Men. Adapted from the teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose from the series Westinghouse Playhouse, the film centred on the deliberations of a jury. For his film directorial debut Mr. Lumet was nominated for the Oscar for Best Director. From the Fifties into the Sixties he would direct such films as Stage Struck (1958), The Fugitive Kind (1960), Long Day's Journey into Night (1962), The Pawnbroker (1964), Fail-Safe (1964), The Deadly Affair (1968), and The Appointment (1969). Sidney Lumet would also return to Broadway. He directed the plays Night of the Auk (1956), Caligula (1960), and Nowhere to Go But Up (1962).
After a bit of a slump in the late Sixties, Sidney Lumet would return to form in the Seventies. He directed The Anderson Tapes (1971), Serpico (1973), Murder on the Orient Express (1974). Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976), and Equus (1977). From the Eighties into the Naughts Mr. Lumet directed such films as Prince of the City (1981), Deathtrap (1982), The Verdict (1982), Power (1986), Family Business (1989), Night Falls on Manhattan (1996),. Gloria (1999), and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007). He returned to television directing several episodes of 100 Centre Street in 2001 and 2002.
Sidney Lumet was not the most consistent of directors. He directed classics such as 12 Angry Men and Fail-Safe, but also directed such lesser films as The Wiz and A Stranger Among Us. Regardless, he earned his place among the most well regarded of directors. From the late Fifties into the mid-Sixties, he directed a string of classic films (12 Angry Men, Long Day's Journey into Night, Fail-Safe) that are unabashed classics. He would have another string of such great films in the Seventies, with Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network. At his very best Mr. Lumet was the equal of the greatest of directors.
Indeed, perhaps only a few directors had Mr. Lumet's gift for creating three dimensional characters (with the help of the screenplay writer and the actors, of course). His very best films--12 Angry Men, Fail-Safe, and Network, are all marked by strong characters. Perhaps because he had acted himself, Mr. Lumet had a gift for bringing out great performances in actors. Indeed, it was perhaps in Network that Peter Finch gave his best performance. Directing number of truly great films and bringing out the best in his casts, Sidney Lumet won't soon be forgotten.