Sidney Lumet 1924-2011

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?

  • patrik

    Gone before his time. RIP..

  • Just watched NETWORK. what a film!really appealed to my baser instants. Sort of similar to Glengarry Glen Ross in that it was filled with amazing lines delivered by magnificent actors. Really superior stuff. Quite enjoyed the love story and thought LUMET directed it masterfully. Direction seemed similar to THE KING’S SPEECH in some ways.

    Great stuff. I have much more to explore. Sad this auteur is gone. Too many young directors do not understand direction.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Lumet.

  • Maopheus

    I read his book “Making Movies” and it was really good. Rare to see a working filmmaker who would be that open and honest about his craft. But you never got the feeling that Lumet was some kind of arrogant, egotistical auteur like so many others. He just kept working, and making films, and a wide variety of them at that. He’s definitely underrated, but still legendary in his own right.

  • Brett

    My favorites are Dog Day Afternoon, Network and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. The first two are nearly perfect movies, in my opinion.