US filmmaking great Sidney Lumet dies in NY at 86

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“The Verdict” lost to “Gandhi” in 1983, a year in which “E.T.” also finished as an also-ran.

Early on, Lumet showed a nimbleness in material and a reluctance for showy directing. In his 1995 filmmaking guide “Making Movies,” he called style “the most misused word since love.”

“Good style is unseen style,” wrote Lumet. “It is style that is felt.”

Although Lumet was best known for his hard-bitten portrayals of urban life, his resume also includes some of the finest film adaptations of noted plays: Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” Chekhov’s “The Sea Gull” and Tennessee Williams’ “Orpheus Descending,” which was made into “The Fugitive Kind,” starring Marlon Brando.

In an interview with director Peter Bogdanovich, Lumet compared filmmaking to “making a mosaic.”

“You take each little tile and polish and color it, and you just do the best you can on each little individual tile, and it’s not until you’ve literally glued them all together that you know whether or not you’ve got something good,” he said.

Some did not turn out well, such as 1992’s “A Stranger Among Us,” with Melanie Griffith, and perhaps his greatest bomb, 1978’s “The Wiz,” an adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz” featuring black actors.

The composer Quincy Jones, who scored music for five of Lumet’s films, said he was devastated to learn of his death. He said that Lumet gave him his start in movies with “The Pawnbroker.”

Sidney was a visionary filmmaker whose movies made an indelible mark on our popular culture with their stirring commentary on our society,” Jones said. “Future generations of filmmakers will look to Sidney’s work for guidance and inspiration, but there will never be another who comes close to him.”

Lumet received the Directors Guild of America’s prestigious D.W. Griffith Award for lifetime achievement in 1993.

Pacino, who produced memorable performances for Lumet in “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Serpico,” introduced the director at the 2005 Academy Awards.

“If you prayed to inhabit a character, Sidney was the priest who listened to your prayers, helped make them come true,” the actor said.

He said he would remember the director as “the most civilized of humans and the kindest man I have ever known.”

Other popular Lumet films included “Running On Empty” and “Murder on the Orient Express.”

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.

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