- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Speaking in his office above the Broadway theaters where he performed as a child, director Sidney Lumet was typically unpretentious in discussing his films, a body of work numbering more American classics than most have a right to contemplate.

“God knows I’ve got no complaints about my career,” Lumet said in 2006. “I’ve had a very good time and gotten some very good work done.”

An eminent craftsman, Lumet always referred to his more than 40 films as simple, understated “work.” Raised as an actor and molded in live television, he was a pragmatic director, eschewing ostentatious displays of style for sure-handed storytelling.

He rarely did more than two or three takes and usually cut “in the camera” _ essentially editing while shooting _ yet his efficient ways captured some of the greatest performances in American cinema: Al Pacino as Sonny Wortzik in “Dog Day Afternoon,” Peter Finch as Howard Beale in “Network,” Paul Newman as Frank Galvin in “The Verdict.”

His actors, with whom he always rehearsed for at least two weeks before starting production, were nominated for 17 Oscars for their performances in his films; several, including Faye Dunaway and Ingrid Bergman, won. The director was, in four nominations, always shut out until he was given a lifetime achievement award in 2005.

“I guess I’d like to thank the movies,” the director said in accepting the award.

Lumet, 86, died early Saturday in his Manhattan home after suffering from lymphoma.

He was always closely associated with New York, where he shot many of his films, working far from Hollywood. The city was frequently a character in its own right in his films, from the crowds chanting “Attica!” on the hot city streets of “Dog Day Afternoon” to the hard lives and corruptibility of New York police officers in “Serpico,” “Prince of the City” and “Q&A.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Lumet “one of the great chroniclers of our city.”

“It’s not an anti-L.A. thing,” Lumet said of his New York favoritism in a 1997 interview. “I just don’t like a company town.”

Fellow New York director Woody Allen called Lumet “definitely the quintessential New York filmmaker,” though Allen noted he considered one film Lumet made elsewhere _ 1965’s “The Hill,” shot in Spain _ his finest.

“I’m constantly amazed at how many films of his prodigious output were wonderful and how many actors and actresses had their best work under his direction,” Allen said Saturday. “Knowing Sidney, he will have more energy dead than most live people.”

Martin Scorsese said Lumet’s death “marks the end of an era.” Scorsese said Lumet “was a New York filmmaker at heart, and our vision of the city has been enhanced and deepened by classics like `Serpico,’ `Dog Day Afternoon’ and, above all, the remarkable `Prince of the City.’”

He said it would be difficult to imagine “there won’t be any more new pictures by Sidney Lumet.”

“All the more reason,” he said, “to take good care of the ones he left behind.”

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