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Lumet, ‘Serpico’ and ‘Network’ director, dies
Question of the Day
NEW YORK (AP) — Sidney Lumet, the award-winning director of such acclaimed films as “Network,” ”Serpico,” ”Dog Day Afternoon” and “12 Angry Men,” has died. He was 86.
A Philadelphia native, Lumet moved to New York City as a child, and it became the location of choice for more than 30 of his films. Although he freely admitted to a lifelong love affair with the city, he often showed its grittier side.
Such dramas as “Prince of the City,” ”Q&A,” ”Night Falls on Manhattan” and “Serpico” looked at the hard lives and corruptibility of New York police officers. “Dog Day Afternoon” told the true-life story of two social misfits who set in motion a chain of disastrous events when they tried to rob a New York City bank on an oppressively hot summer afternoon.
“It’s not an anti-L.A. thing,” Lumet said of his New York favoritism in a 1997 interview. “I just don’t like to live in a company town.”
Although he didn’t work in Los Angeles, the director maintained good relations with the Hollywood studios, partly because he finished his pictures under schedule and budget. His television beginnings had schooled him in working fast, and he rarely shot more than four takes of a scene.
He was nominated four times for directing Academy Awards, and although he never won, Lumet did receive an honorary Oscar in 2005 for lifetime achievement. He also received the Directors Guild of America’s prestigious D.W. Griffith Award for lifetime achievement in 1993.
“If you prayed to inhabit a character, Sidney was the priest who listened to your prayers, helped make them come true,” the actor said.
Accepting the award, Lumet thanked the many directors who had inspired him, then added, “I guess I’d like to thank the movies (too).”
Lumet immediately established himself as an A-list director with his first theatrical film, 1957’s “12 Angry Men,” which took an early and powerful look at racial prejudice as it depicted 12 jurors trying to reach a verdict in a trial involving a young Hispanic man wrongly accused of murder. It garnered him his first Academy Award nomination.
Other Oscar nominations were for “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975), “Network” (1976) and “The Verdict” (1982).
“Network,” a scathing view of the television business, proved to be Lumet’s most memorable film and created an enduring catch phrase when crazed newscaster Peter Finch exhorted his audience to raise their windows and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
It won Academy Awards for Paddy Chayefsky for best screenplay, Finch as best actor (presented posthumously) and Faye Dunaway as best actress.
Although best known for his hard-bitten portrayals of urban life, Lumet’s resume also included films based on noted plays: Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” and Tennessee Williams’ “Orpheus Descending,” which was made into “The Fugitive Kind.” He also dealt with such matters as the Holocaust (“The Pawnbroker”), nuclear war (“Fail-Safe”) and the convicted Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (“Daniel”).
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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