Some sad news today; director Sidney Lumet has passed away at age 86. According to his stepdaughter, the cause of death was lymphoma. After receiving his start in television, the prolific director’s career spanned over 60 years and included classics like 12 Angry Men, Network, and Dog Day Afternoon, among others. His films often focused on social issues, stating that he wanted to make audiences “examine one facet or another of [their] own conscience. It stimulates thought and sets the mental juices flowing.” Lumet may not be as well known a name as contemporaries like Robert Altman or Stanley Kubrick; most likely due to his workman-like style. In his book Making Movies, he summed up his thoughts on direction by stating, “Good style, to me, is unseen style. It is style that is felt.” Through all his years of hard work, Lumet turned out many impressive films, ranging from courtroom dramas to musicals to satire and pretty much everything in between.
When people talk about New York City filmmakers, they often cite Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and Woody Allen, but Lumet was equal among them. I think our cinematic vision of New York is more informed by Lumet’s films than most people realize. Well over half of his films take place there and the city becomes a character itself. Starting early on, shooting on location mattered heavily for Lumet and he helped usher in the movement away from studio soundstages.
Although he never won an Academy Award in a competitive category despite being nominated five times, Lumet won an honorary Oscar a few years ago. He is survived by his wife, Mary, along with four children, 9 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Some of Lumet’s other films include: Fail-Safe, A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Hill, Murder On the Orient Express, The Verdict, Running On Empty, and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. What are some of your favorites from Lumet’s filmography?