Lumet, Sidney

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Lumet, Sidney

Sidney Lumet (lōō-mĕt´), 1924–2011, one of the great American film directors of the 20th cent., b. Philadelphia. A child actor in New York's Yiddish radio and theater and (1935–41) on Broadway, he entered (1950) television after service in World War II. During the early 1950s he directed some of the classic dramas of "the golden age of television." Lumet won acclaim for his first motion picture, the juryroom drama Twelve Angry Men (1957), which, like many of his finest films, centered on an ethical dilemma. His more than 40 films frequently portray an outsider pitted against a corrupt majority, and are often set in—and have their mood set by the gritty reality of—New York City. Among his New York films are The Pawnbroker (1964), the story of a Holocaust survivor; The Anderson Tapes (1971), a tale of intrigue and surveillance; Serpico (1973) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975), both starring Al Pacino, the first as a morally upright undercover cop, the second as a bumbling bank robber; and two other police dramas, Prince of the City (1981) and Night Falls on Manhattan (1996). Lumet's masterpieces are widely considered to be Dog Day Afternoon and Network (1976), a bleak satire of televsion news that earned four Academy Awards. His other outstanding movies include A View from the Bridge (1961), Fail-Safe (1964), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Equus (1977), The Verdict (1982), Daniel (1983), Gloria (1999), and his bleak and gripping final film, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007). Lumet also was a screenwriter and producer. His only Academy Award was a 2005 honorary Oscar for distinguished lifetime achievement.

See his Making Movies (1995); J. E. Rapf, ed., Sidney Lumet: Interviews (2005); studies by J. Boyer (1993) and F. R. Cunningham (2001).

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