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Sidney Lumet Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (8) | Trivia (28) | Personal Quotes (20)

Overview (3)

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

Mini Bio (1)

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 (1972) 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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Karl Rackwitz <rackwitz.karl@gmx.de>

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)

Trade Mark (8)

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

Trivia (28)

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.
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).

Personal Quotes (20)

There's no such thing as a small part. There are just small actors.
If a director comes in from California and doesn't know the city at all, he picks the Empire State Building and all the postcard shots, and that, of course, isn't the city.
All great work is preparing yourself for the accident to happen.
[from 1973] All I want to do is get better and quantity can help me to solve my problems. I'm thrilled by the idea that I'm not even sure how many films I've done. If I don't have a script I adore, I do one I like. If I don't have one I like, I do one that has an actor I like or that presents some technical challenge.
(Oct. 2007) Melodrama is a much maligned genre. And I hope we can bring it back into fashion. I always think of melodrama as the thing we are all capable of that's swept under the rug.
[Oct 2007] Anything you can do with film, I can do with HD.
[on Christopher Reeve] What seemed such a nice, simple, artless performance in "Superman" was the finest kind of acting. Reeve's timing -- and humor -- has to be just about perfect to make the character come off.
[on Paul Newman] Paul's always been one of the best actors we've got, but there was that great stone face and those gorgeous blue eyes and a lot of people assumed he couldn't act. He got relegated to leading man parts and he wasn't using a quarter of his talent. Now he's able to cut loose and do sensational work.
[on Tab Hunter] Also talented, but primarily a character actor, yet always used as a leading man because he's so pretty. I've seen him do character parts in which he's really great. But, as a leading man, he tightens up. Mostly, he turned to character work in American television when his Hollywood career started going sour. Then, he played the roles of psychotic killers and so forth, and his talent became clear.
[on Ralph Richardson] There's no secret about the fact that Ralph is terrified of the camera. But, at the same time, he is unquestionably a great actor. Yet, he looks to a director, too.
[on Akira Kurosawa] Kurosawa never affected me directly in terms of my own movie-making because I never would have presumed that I was capable of that perception and that vision.
While the goal of all movies is to entertain, the kind of film is which I believe goes one step further. It compels the spectator to examine one facet or another of his own conscience. It stimulates thought and sets the mental juices flowing.
Look, on a movie, we're all giving each other something precious. No bullshit, I can't think of a better job. It's not a technique. I'm not a fool. I think I'm a talented man. But then there's luck. I think there's a reason luck doesn't always happen to others. They don't know how to prepare the groundwork for luck. I do.
(on actors): I understand what they're going through. The self-exposure, which is at the heart of all their work, is done using their own body. It's their sexuality, their strength or weakness, their fear. And that's extremely painful. And when they're not doing it in their performance, they pull back. They get shy. Paul Newman, who I worked with on The Verdict (1982), is one of the shyest men I've ever met. That's why rehearsal is so important.
[on being awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2007]: I wanted one, damn it, and I felt I deserved one.
[on the art of film]: I don't think art changes anything. I do it because I like it and it's a wonderful way to spend your life.
[on New York City]: Locations are characters in my movies. The city is capable of portraying a mood a scene requires.
While the goal of all movies is to entertain, the kind of film in which I believe goes one step further. It compels the spectator to examine one facet or another of his own conscience. It stimulates thought and sets the mental juices flowing.
If I'm moved by a scene, a situation... I have to assume that that's going to work for an audience.
In Hollywood, actors learn to act from watching television. In New York people learn to act by walking down the street.

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