Sidney Lumet (1924–2011)Director | Producer | Writer

Date of Birth 25 June 1924, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of Death 9 April 2011, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA  (lymphoma)
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Sidney Lumet was a master of cinema, best known for his technical knowledge and his skill at getting first-rate performances from his actors -- and for shooting most of his films in his beloved New York. He made over 40 movies, often complex and emotional, but seldom overly sentimental. Although his politics were somewhat left-leaning and he often treated socially relevant themes in his films, Lumet didn't want to make political movies in the first place. Born on June 25, 1924, in Philadelphia, the son of actor Baruch Lumet and dancer Eugenia Wermus Lumet, he made his stage debut at age four at the Yiddish Art Theater in New York. He played many roles on Broadway in the 1930s and also in the film ...One Third of a Nation... (1939). After starting an off-Broadway acting troupe in the late 1940s, he became the director of many television shows in the 1950s. Lumet made his feature film directing debut with 12 Angry Men (1957), which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and earned three Academy Award nominations. The courtroom drama, which takes place almost entirely in a jury room, is justly regarded as one of the most auspicious directorial debuts in film history. Lumet got the chance to direct Marlon Brando in The Fugitive Kind (1960), an imperfect, but powerful adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "Orpheus Descending". The first half of the 1960s was one of Lumet's most artistically successful periods. Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962), a masterful, brilliantly photographed adaptation of the Eugene O'Neill play, is one of several Lumet films about families. It earned Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Dean Stockwell and Jason Robards deserved acting awards in Cannes and Hepburn an Oscar nomination. The alarming Cold War thriller Fail-Safe (1964) unfairly suffered from comparison to Stanley Kubrick's equally great satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), which was released shortly before. The Pawnbroker (1964), arguably the most outstanding of the great movies Lumet made in this phase, tells the story of a Holocaust survivor who lives in New York and can't overcome his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. Rod Steiger's unforgettable performance in the title role earned an Academy Award nomination. Lumet's intense character study The Hill (1965) about inhumanity in a military prison camp was the first of five films he did with Sean Connery. After the overly talky but rewarding drama The Group (1966) about young upper-class women in the 1930s, and the stylish spy thriller The Deadly Affair (1966), the late 1960s turned out to be a lesser phase in Lumet's career. He had a strong comeback with the box-office hit The Anderson Tapes (1971). The Offence (1973) was commercially less successful, but artistically brilliant - with Connery in one of his most impressive performances. The terrific cop thriller Serpico (1973), the first of his films about police corruption in New York City, became one of his biggest critical and financial successes. Al Pacino's fascinating portrayal of the real-life cop Frank Serpico earned a Golden Globe and the movie earned two Academy Award nominations (it is worth noting that Lumet's feature films of the 1970s alone earned 30 Oscar nominations, winning six times). The love triangle Lovin' Molly (1974) was not always convincing in its atmospheric details, but Lumet's fine sense of emotional truth and a good Blythe Danner keep it interesting. The adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (1974), an exquisitely photographed murder mystery with an all-star cast, was a big success again. Lumet's complex crime thriller Dog Day Afternoon (1975), which Pauline Kael called "one of the best "New York" movies ever made", gave Al Pacino the opportunity for a breathtaking, three-dimensional portrayal of a bisexual man who tries to rob a bank to finance his lover's sex-change operation. Lumet's next masterpiece, Network (1976), was a prophetic satire on media and society. The film version of Peter Shaffer's stage play Equus (1977) about a doctor and his mentally confused patient was also powerful, not least because of the energetic acting by Richard Burton and Peter Firth. After the enjoyable musical The Wiz (1978) and the interesting but not easily accessible comedy Just Tell Me What You Want (1980), Sidney Lumet won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for his outstanding direction of Prince of the City (1981), one of his best and most typical films. It's about police corruption, but hardly a remake of Serpico (1973). Starring a powerful Treat Williams, it's an extraordinarily multi-layered film. In his highly informative book "Making Movies" (1995), Lumet describes the film in the following way: "When we try to control everything, everything winds up controlling us. Nothing is what it seems." It's also a movie about values, friendship and drug addiction and, like "Serpico", is based on a true story. In Deathtrap (1982), Lumet successfully blended suspense and black humor. The Verdict (1982) was voted the fourth greatest courtroom drama of all time by the American Film Institute in 2008. A few minor inaccuracies in legal details do not mar this study of an alcoholic lawyer (superbly embodied by Paul Newman) aiming to regain his self-respect through a malpractice case. The expertly directed movie received five Academy Award nominations. Lumet's controversial drama Daniel (1983) with Timothy Hutton, an adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's "The Book of Daniel" about two young people whose parents were executed during the McCarthy Red Scare hysteria in the 1950s for alleged espionage, is one of his underrated achievements. His later masterpiece Running on Empty (1988) has a similar theme, portraying a family which has been on the run from the FBI since the parents (played by Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch) committed a bomb attack on a napalm laboratory in 1971 to protest the war in Vietnam. The son (played by River Phoenix in an extraordinarily moving, Oscar-nominated performance) falls in love with a girl and wishes to stay with her and study music. Naomi Foner's screenplay won the Golden Globe. Other Lumet movies of the 1980s are the melancholic comedy drama Garbo Talks (1984); the occasionally clichéd Power (1986) about election campaigns; the all too slow thriller The Morning After (1986) and the amusing gangster comedy Family Business (1989). With Q & A (1990) Lumet returned to the genre of the New York cop thriller. Nick Nolte shines in the role of a corrupt and racist detective in this multi-layered, strangely underrated film. Sadly, with the exception of Night Falls on Manhattan (1996), an imperfect but fascinating crime drama in the tradition of his own previous genre works, almost none of Lumet's works of the 1990s did quite get the attention they deserved. The crime drama A Stranger Among Us (1992) blended genres in a way that did not seem to match most viewers' expectations, but its contemplations about life arouse interest. The intelligent hospital satire Critical Care (1997) was unfairly neglected as well. The courtroom thriller Guilty as Sin (1993) was cold but intriguing. Lumet's Gloria (1999) remake seemed unnecessary, but he returned impressively with the underestimated courtroom comedy Find Me Guilty (2006) and the justly acclaimed crime thriller Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007). In 2005, Sidney Lumet received a well-deserved honorary Academy Award for his outstanding contribution to filmmaking. Sidney Lumet tragically died of cancer in 2011.

Spouse (4)

Mary Gimbel (1980 - 9 April 2011) (his death)
Gail Lumet Buckley (23 November 1963 - 1978) (divorced) (2 children)
Gloria Vanderbilt (27 August 1956 - 24 August 1963) (divorced)
Rita Gam (1949 - 15 August 1955) (divorced)

Highly dialogue driven films, with a lot of speeches and dramatic verbal duels.
On all his films he assembles the cast for a two week rehearsal in which they perform the script from beginning to end like a play. This cuts down on the need for repeated takes during filming.
Keeps a realistic atmosphere by using very little music
His characters are often persecuted men striving for justice
Films often take place over a short period of time
Most of his films were shot in New York City and almost none of them were shot in Hollywood
Films often take place in single confined locations
Recurring themes of corrupt or inept authority figures

Children: sound editor Amy Lumet and actress Jenny Lumet.
Studied acting with Sanford Meisner.
One of the original Sidney Kingsley's "Dead End" kids, on Broadway. The play was later adapted as Dead End (1937) by William Wyler.
Former son-in-law of Lena Horne; was married to her daughter, the journalist and author Gail Lumet Buckley (nee Gail Jones).
Lumet is often a favorite director for actors, encouraging the creative collaboration of his stars.
Was voted the 42nd Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985." Pages 610-617. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Directed 17 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: 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. Bergman, Dunaway, Finch and Straight won oscars for their performances in one of Lumets movies.
It was Lumet's idea to make the characters Cuban and to include the 1980 Mariel harbor boat lift in the story in Scarface (1983).
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1982.
Was the original director of Funny Girl (1968), but left the picture over differences with producer Ray Stark and star Barbra Streisand. He was replaced by William Wyler.
Interviewed in Peter Bogdanovich's "Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Robert Aldrich, George Cukor, Allan Dwan, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Chuck Jones, Fritz Lang, Joseph H. Lewis, Sidney Lumet, Leo McCarey, Otto Preminger, Don Siegel, Josef von Sternberg, Frank Tashlin, Edgar G. Ulmer, Raoul Walsh." NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
Three of his films are listed on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time. They are: Serpico (1973) at #84, The Verdict (1982) at #75, and 12 Angry Men (1957) at #42.
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001 he caused some controversy by continuing to shoot his New York based series 100 Centre Street (2001) for the remainder of the day. Lumet said he told the crew that they could leave if they wanted but that no one did.
Ex-father-in-law of Bobby Cannavale and P.J. O'Rourke.
Roger Ebert says of Lumet's book "Making Movies" that it "has more common sense in it about how movies are actually made than any other I have read".
Wanted to direct Death Wish (1974) with Jack Lemmon in the leading role.
Given a lifetime achievement award by the Savannah College of Art and Design at the 2005 Savannah Film Festival. The same award was later found hidden in a patch of shrubbery at a three-point intersection in Brooklyn.
Served in the Army during WWII.
Son of Baruch Lumet and Eugenia Wermus, both actors in the Yiddish Theatre. The family moved to New York City when he was a baby where they joined the Yiddish Art Theatre.
He served the United States Army as a radar technician in the Far East during World War II.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Gimbel of New York City; stepdaughter, Leslie Gimbel; two daughters, Amy Lumet and Jenny Lumet, from his marriage to Gail Lumet Buckley; stepson, Bailey Gimbel; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
He lived in New York City and East Hampton, Long Island, New York.
Directed two of the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Movies: Network (1976) at #64 and 12 Angry Men (1957) at #87.
Longtime friend of John Connell.
Stepfather of sound editor Leslie Gimbel and Bailey Gimbel.
His final resting place is New Mount Carmel Cemetery in Glendale, New York.
He directed his father Baruch Lumet in two films: The Pawnbroker (1964) and The Group (1966).
Two of his films, 12 Angry Men (1957) and The Fugitive Kind (1960), are in the Criterion Collection.
He was a Democrat.
Associated with New York based and themed films.
According to Lumet, he was inspired by the work of Carl Dreyer, Jean Vigo, Jean Renoir, and Robert Bresson in particular.
Lumet was an assistant director or director on some 250 live TV programs.
Had a reputation of bringing in films under budget and ahead of schedule.
In the early 1970's, Lumet was offered the directing job for a new version of the best-selling novel "Marjorie Morningstar" and went to meet with the studio because he found the novel's take on the Jewish American experience fascinating. However, Lumet was disgusted when the studio executives made it clear they wanted him to "de-ethnic" the film and not cast any Jewish actors in the main roles. Lumet recounted in his book "Making Movies" that he was sarcastic about this plan and actually got fired from the project (which ended up never being made) less than an hour into the only meeting he attended.
According to Roger Ebert, Lumet had a theory about why Marlon Brando's performances were so uneven. In a review of a bad film starring Brando, Ebert outlined this idea in detail: Lumet said that on the first scene he filmed for any director, Brando would do exactly two takes. In one of the takes, Brando would be putting technical skill and background research into his reading, and in the other he would simply recite his lines as blandly as possible. If the director used the bland take, Brando would proceed to sleepwalk though his performance for the entirety of filming.
Sidney Lumet adapted two novels written by Robert Daley, "Prince of the City" and "Tainted Evidence", into the films Prince of the City (1981) and Night Falls on Manhattan (1996), respectively.
He directed Sean Connery in five films: The Hill (1965), The Anderson Tapes (1971), The Offence (1973), Murder on the Orient Express (1974) and Family Business (1989).
He directed four members of the Redgrave family in his films: Michael Redgrave in The Hill (1965), his son Corin Redgrave in The Deadly Affair (1966), his daughter Lynn Redgrave in The Deadly Affair (1966) and Last of the Mobile Hot Shots (1970), and his daughter Vanessa Redgrave in The Sea Gull (1968) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).
He directed his then son-in-law Bobby Cannavale in two films: Night Falls on Manhattan (1996) and Gloria (1999).
He directed his daughter Jenny Lumet in three films: Deathtrap (1982), Running on Empty (1988) and Q & A (1990).
He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for 12 Angry Men (1957), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976) and The Verdict (1982) but never won the award.
Four of the films that he directed were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture: 12 Angry Men (1957), Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Network (1976) and The Verdict (1982). None of the films won the award, losing to The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Rocky (1976) and Gandhi (1982) respectively.
He directed Edward Binns in four films: 12 Angry Men (1957), Fail-Safe (1964), Lovin' Molly (1974) and The Verdict (1982).
He directed Martin Balsam in three films: 12 Angry Men (1957), The Anderson Tapes (1971) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).
He directed Henry Fonda in three films: 12 Angry Men (1957), Stage Struck (1958) and Fail-Safe (1964).
He directed Harry Andrews in four films: The Hill (1965), The Deadly Affair (1966), The Sea Gull (1968) and Equus (1977).
He directed Marcia Jean Kurtz in five films: Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Running on Empty (1988), Night Falls on Manhattan (1996), Find Me Guilty (2006) and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007).
He directed Ed Crowley in five films: Serpico (1973), Network (1976), Garbo Talks (1984), Running on Empty (1988) and Family Business (1989).
He directed Jack Warden in five films: 12 Angry Men (1957), That Kind of Woman (1959), Bye Bye Braverman (1968), The Verdict (1982) and Guilty as Sin (1993).
He directed James Mason in four films: The Deadly Affair (1966), The Sea Gull (1968), Child's Play (1972) and The Verdict (1982).
He directed Beau Bridges in Child's Play (1972) and Lovin' Molly (1974) and his younger brother Jeff Bridges in The Morning After (1986).
He directed Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men (1957), Stage Struck (1958) and Fail-Safe (1964) and his daughter Jane Fonda in The Morning After (1986).
He directed Lindsay Crouse in three films: Prince of the City (1981), The Verdict (1982) and Daniel (1983).
He directed Christopher Plummer in Stage Struck (1958) and his daughter Amanda Plummer in Daniel (1983).