Sidney Lumet


Sidney Lumet (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 25, 1924 – New York, April 9, 2011) was an American film director, film producer, screenwriter and actor. He began his career as a child actor. He began working as a director for television in the late 1940s. Since 1957 he has also directed films. He often shoots films based on literary works. Even in his less important films, the main characteristics of his style are still evident: atmospheric creation, effective plot development and excellent acting. The most memorable films of his long career were mostly made in the 1960s and 1970s.

The beginnings

Lumet”s father was the actor Baruch Lumet (1898-1992) and his mother was the dancer Eugenia Wermus Lumet. Little Sidney first appeared on stage at the age of four at the Jewish Theatre in New York. He appeared on Broadway from the mid-1930s, and in 1939 he had a film role (One Third of a Nation). He attended Columbia University. From 1941 to 1946 he served in the army. From 1947, he worked in off-Broadway productions with a company that included such later stars as Yul Brynner and Eli Wallach, as well as legendary Actors Studio artists who disagreed with studio head Lee Strasberg”s vision. Despite his stage experience, his first directing job was in television, back in 1948 (he first directed on stage in 1955). He was signed to CBS, where he was very well received, directing 150 (!) episodes of Danger and 26 episodes of You Are There, not to mention other television credits.

Towards the pinnacles of cinema

Lumet directed his first feature film in 1957, based on a play by Reginald Rose, called Twelve Angry Men. Set in a single location throughout, the chamber drama follows the events of a jury trial. Juror 8 (Henry Fonda) has doubts about the guilt of the accused Puerto Rican boy and tries to convince his fellow jurors, played by actors such as Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb and Jack Warden, of his doubts. The courtroom drama proved a great professional and audience success, and Lumet went on to create primarily for the cinema. After two lesser films, Orpheus Descends was made in 1960, based on the play by Tennessee Williams, starring Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani and Joanne Woodward. Brando played Xavier, a charming but down-and-out guitarist who tries to find work in a small Southern town and falls in with unhappy women along the way. Based on Arthur Miller”s drama, 1961”s A View from the Bridge was an Italian-French co-production, but shot mostly on location in Brooklyn, starring Italian Raf Vallone and Frenchman Jean Sorel. The film adaptation of Eugene O”Neill”s autobiographical Long Walk into Night (1962), starring Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson and Jason Robards, was a particular success. The story centres on a family on the brink of disintegration, with the parents and two sons unable to help each other or themselves, all trapped by self-pity. The Pawnbroker (1964) stars a Holocaust survivor who is unable to escape the haunting memories of the past. Rod Steiger gave a memorable performance in the title role. Bombproof (1964) is in some ways a parallel to Stanley Kubrick”s satire Dr. Strangelove, or I Realised I Shouldn”t Be Afraid of the Bomb, which can be lovingly paralleled. In Lumet”s film, a military computer malfunctions, causing nuclear bombers to fly towards Moscow. The President tries in vain to turn the planes back, but the bomb-proof defence system won”t allow it. The Hill (1965) is a harrowing film version of Ray Rigby”s novel, also published in Hungarian, set in a military penal colony. Sean Connery, as the protagonist Joe Roberts, was given the opportunity to step out of his then regular role as British super-agent James Bond and show his versatile acting skills in a very different kind of film. Based on the novel by John le Carré, Wake the Dead (1966) is a thriller. The Group (1966) is a drama based on excellent acting performances and a glimpse into middle-class life in 1930s America. One of Chekhov”s most famous works, The Seagull, was filmed by Lumet in 1968. A tragic love story The Encounter (1969), starring Anouk Aimée, Omar Sharif and Kurt Weill”s widow Lotte Lenya.

A decade of success

In the 1970s, Lumet clearly rose to the top. His films of this period were not only financially successful, but also professionally successful, winning numerous awards. The Anderson Magnum Tapes (1971) is a gripping crime story starring Sean Connery and Martin Balsam, with certain motifs that foreshadow Francis Ford Coppola”s masterpiece The Conversation 3 years later. Based on a true story, Serpico (1973), starring Al Pacino as a policeman who fights corruption within the police force, was also a follow-up to the film. Murder on the Orient Express (1974), an atmospheric and elegant film version of Agatha Christie”s crime thriller, features one of the biggest star parades of the 1970s. Like 12 Angry Men, the plot takes place in a single location (the first-class carriage of the express train of the title), where Hercule Poirot must find out as quickly as possible who killed one of the passengers with 12 knife wounds. It”s not an easy task, because it turns out that all the passengers in the carriage had a motive for the murder, and each of them has something to hide. The Belgian master detective was played by Albert Finney and the passengers included stars such as Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Wendy Hiller, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael York, Jacqueline Bisset, Rachel Roberts, Anthony Perkins and Sean Connery. The Afternoon in the Heat (1975) again starred Al Pacino, and was considered by many to be the actor”s best performance. The film also tells a true story, as does Serpico, in which Pacino”s protagonist robs a bank so that his friend (John Cazale), who has gender identity disorder, can have a sex-change operation. The robbery, which is scheduled to last 10 minutes, turns into a hostage drama lasting several hours and is broadcast live on television. The next film, The Network (1976), is about television itself and the power of the media in general. Howard Beale, an elderly TV man already described by his superiors, suddenly becomes the subject of enormous interest after he announces that he is going to commit suicide on live television. The media moguls, desperate for ratings, let the mentally unstable man back on screen, but when ratings for his new show plummet, he is murdered on air at the instigation of an unscrupulous hostess to launch another show, this time about terrorists. Lumet himself, as we have heard, began his career as a television director and knew the world of television inside out, which gave his media criticism a special edge. At the time, many people thought that The Network was half-science fiction, but the decades since its release have unfortunately confirmed much of what they saw in the film. The Network also has a sad record: Peter Finch, who played Beale, did not live to see its premiere and was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award. Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight also won Oscars, but William Holden and Robert Duvall should also be mentioned in the cast. Equus (1977), starring Richard Burton and Peter Firth, was adapted from Peter Shaffer”s play Equus, which was not unknown in Hungary, and they had previously performed their film roles on stage to great acclaim. Martin Dysart (Burton), a psychiatrist, is asked by a friend to deal with Alan (Firth), a 17-year-old boy accused of a terrible crime: brutally blinding six horses. Dysart tries to uncover the motives behind the crime, and in the course of his work is forced to confront the problems and lies of his own life. Wiz (1978) is a modernised remake of the classic fairy tale film The Wizard of Oz (1939), with a colourful cast including singing star Diana Ross, a child Michael Jackson and comedian Richard Pryor. The concept was undeniably remarkable, the execution not unimpressive, but the reception was cool: the film was a failure.

From the 1980s to the present

In the early 1980s, Lumet returned to his established themes and locations. The drama The Prince of the City (1981), in which the policeman protagonist (Treat Williams) battles the New York drug mafia, was reminiscent of Serpico, but it is not easy to remain honest among the criminals. Based on the play by Ira Levin, Death Trap (1982) is a crime film set in virtually a single location and starring Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve and Dyan Cannon. The subject matter was nothing new even then: a once-successful writer fails with his new work and seems destined for oblivion until he receives a manuscript from a former student that promises to be a sure-fire hit. The only thing is to get the young author out of the way… The Verdict (1982) is a courtroom drama starring Paul Newman as the alcoholic protagonist and Charlotte Rampling as his partner. The film was nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes in several categories, but despite this, Lumet was slowly becoming out of fashion. While he retained his professional virtues and continued to show them in his later films, he was unable or unwilling to innovate in his creative methods or his choice of subject matter. The alcoholic protagonist – this time played by Jane Fonda – is at the centre of the plot of The Next Morning (1986). Alex has no idea who the casual male acquaintance is who he finds in bed with a knife in his heart the next morning, and he has no idea who committed the murder and why. But a detective played by Jeff Bridges helps to unravel the mystery. The Empty Doorway (1988) is set in the 1960s, as the Pope family travels across the United States on the run from the FBI, and in their constant flight, the family slowly falls apart. The big surprise of the film was the tragic River Phoenix, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. In The Family Affair (1989), the three generations of the McMullen family plan a joint bank robbery, but needless to say, the plan is simple, the execution is not. Starring Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick.

The Stranger Among Us (1992), starring Melanie Griffith, is actually a variation on the idea behind Peter Weir”s hit film The Little Witness (1985). Burning in Sin (1993) is another courtroom story with a touch of eroticism. Rebecca De Mornay and Don Johnson star in this crime thriller with predictable twists and turns, which many critics found unconvincing. The lawyer is also the main character in the film drama Night Falls on Manhattan (1997), but the cast is better this time, with Andy Garcia, Richard Dreyfuss, Lena Olin and Ian Holm in the lead roles. The story brings back the theme of The Prince of the City, with the intertwining of the police and the drug mafia at the centre of events. An embarrassing flop was the remake of John Cassavetes” nearly 20-year-old gangster film Gloria (1999), in which Sharon Stone played the role once played by Gena Rowlands. Gloria, who has a criminal past and is not particularly fond of children, takes under her wing a young boy whose family has been slaughtered, but whose gangster father entrusted him with a compromising floppy disk before his death. The underworld will do anything to get the disk, but Gloria is no easy opponent. Among Lumet”s films of the new millennium, Hungarian audiences have also seen Védd magaid sich! (2006), another courtroom film. The story is set in the 1980s and deals with the longest-running mafia scandal in the United States. Vin Diesel, who plays the lead role, has been praised by many critics, but the actor has never won any awards for his performance.

Lumet has been married four times. He was married to actress Rita Gam from 1949 to 1954. In 1956 he married another actress, Gloria Vanderbilt, but this marriage also ended in divorce in 1963. Lumet was married for 15 years, from 1963 to 1978, to Gail Lumet Buckley (Gail Jones), who bore him two children, Amy (* 1964), a sound engineer, and Jenny (* 1967), an actress. The director married for the fourth time in 1980, to Mary Gimbel, who has been his wife for over a quarter of a century.

American Directors Association Award

Venice Film Festival


  1. Sidney Lumet
  2. Sidney Lumet
  3. ^ “Say How: L”. National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. Retrieved June 20, 2022.
  4. ^ “Director Sidney Lumet wins honorary Oscar”. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
  5. ^ a b Siegel, Scott and Barbara. The Encyclopedia of Hollywood (2004) Checkmark Books, 256
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. “Sidney Lumet: In memory” Chicago Sun Times, April 9, 2011
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Rapf, Joanna E. Sidney Lumet: Interviews, Univ. Press of Mississippi (2006)
  8. vgl. Pflaum, H. G.: Im Zweifel gegen den Ankläger. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 18. Juni 1997, S. 14.
  9. a b c d vgl. Sidney Lumet. In: Internationales Biographisches Archiv 23/2009 vom 2. Juni 2009 (aufgerufen am 10. April 2011 via Munzinger Online).
  10. a b c d vgl. Coyle, Jake: US filmmaking great Sidney Lumet dies in NY at 86. The Associated Press State & Local Wire, 10. April 2011, 3:07 AM GMT (aufgerufen via LexisNexis Wirtschaft).
  11. a b c vgl. Vallance, Tom: Sidney Lumet. In: Independent Extra, 11. April 2011, S. 8.
  12. vgl. Messias, Hans: Tödliche Entscheidung – Before the Devil knows you”re dead. In: film-dienst, 8/2008 (aufgerufen via Munzinger Online).
  13. «Obituary: Sidney Lumet». BBC News. 9 de abril de 2011. Consultado el 19 de septiembre de 2022.
  14. «Film Obituaries; Sidney Lumet». The Daily Telegraph (London). 9 de abril de 2011. Archivado desde el original el January 11, 2022. Consultado el 19 de septiembre de 2022.  Parámetro desconocido |url-status= ignorado (ayuda)
  15. a b French, Philip (10 de abril de 2011). «Sidney Lumet, giant of American cinema, dies at 86 | Film | The Observer». The Observer (London: Guardian Media Group). Consultado el 19 de septiembre de 2022.
  16. Honeycutt, Kirk (9 de abril de 2011). «Sidney Lumet Made New York City Star of His Films». The Hollywood Reporter. Archivado desde el original el 19 de septiembre de 2022. Consultado el 19 de septiembre de 2022.
  17. Ανακτήθηκε στις 10  Ιουλίου 2019.
  18. Ανακτήθηκε στις 4  Μαρτίου 2021.
  19. Ανακτήθηκε στις 11  Δεκεμβρίου 2020.
  20. 6,0 6,1 6,2 Darryl Roger Lundy: (Αγγλικά) The Peerage.
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