Saturday, 9 April 2011

Sidney Lumet: 1924-2011

Director Sidney Lumet, whose gritty portraits of New York City earned him four Oscar nominations for Best Director for films such as Dog Day Afternoon and Network, died Saturday of lymphoma at his home in Manhattan; he was 86.

Synonymous with the New York filmmaking scene, Lumet prowled the streets of his adopted hometown in a wide variety of films, working in the nascent medium of television in the early 1950s before making his feature film directorial debut in 1957 with the cinematic adaptation of the jury room classic 12 Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda. That film earned Lumet his first Oscar nomination and started a prolific career that would take him through crime dramas, Broadway and literary adaptations, occasional Hollywood films, and lacerating satires.

Born in Philadelphia to parents who were in show business -- his father was an actor and director, his mother a dancer -- he appeared in numerous Broadway plays as a child and young adult before serving three years in the Army during World War II and returning to New York to direct. Lumet's directorial style, described as "lightning quick" in an era when American cinema was still burdened by the limitations of decorative and expensive Hollywood films, earned him a successful career in television, where he adapted numerous plays for such early shows as Playhouse 90 and Studio One, and worked with the young Walter Cronkite on the news series You Are There. He directed a TV version of 12 Angry Men before turning it into a successful 1957 film, starring Henry Fonda as the lone dissenting juror in a murder trial; the film earned three Academy Award nominations (Best Picture, Director and Screenplay) and singlehandedly established Lumet's cinematic directing career.

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