Lumet, ‘Serpico’ and ‘Network’ director, dies

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He directed a highly successful Agatha Christie mystery, the all-star “Murder on the Orient Express,” as well.

Other popular Lumet films included “Running On Empty,” ”Equus,” ”Family Business’ and “The Wiz.”

The director was born June 25, 1924, in Philadelphia to a pair of Yiddish stage performers, and he began his show business career as a child actor, appearing on radio at age 4.

He made his Broadway debut in 1934 with a small role in Sidney Kingsley’s acclaimed “Dead End,” and he twice played Jesus, in Max Reinhardt’s production of “The Eternal Road” and Maxwell Anderson’s “Journey to Jerusalem.”

After serving as a radar repairman in India and Burma during World War II, Lumet returned to New York and formed an acting company. In 1950, Yul Brynner, a friend and a director at CBS-TV, invited him to join the network as an assistant director. Soon he rose to director, working on 150 episodes of the “Danger” thriller as well as other series.

The advent of live TV dramas boosted Lumet’s reputation. Like Arthur Penn, John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann and other directors of television drama’s Golden Age, he smoothly made the transition to movies.

Lumet continued directing features into his 80s, and in 2001 he returned to his television roots, creating, writing, directing and executive producing a cable series, “100 Centre Street.” It was filmed in his beloved New York.

In 2006, he brought out “Find Me Guilty,” starring Vin Diesel and based on a true story about a mob trial in New Jersey. His final film was 2007’s “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei.

Lumet once claimed he didn’t seek out New York-based projects.

“But any script that starts in New York has got a head start,” he said in 1999. “It’s a fact the city can become anything you want it to be.”

His first three marriages ended in divorce: to actress Rita Gam, heiress Gloria Vanderbilt and Lena Horne’s daughter, Gail Jones. In 1980, he married journalist Mary Gimbel.

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Thomas reported from Los Angeles.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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