Filmmaking legend Sidney Lumet has passed away at the age of 86 from lymphoma. With a career spanning over five decades, Lumet has long been held high as one of the great filmmakers of all time by many of the great filmmakers of our time.
Starting out as a director of off-Broadway productions and then a highly respected TV director, he’s one of the most prolific directors ever with a knack for not just working well with actors but shooting extremely quickly which allowed for a high turnover of work.
Throughout the 50’s he directed hundred of episodes of television series like “Danger” and “You Are There” along with a similar amount of TV play adaptations for anthology series like “Playhouse 90” and “Studio One”. Thus by the time of his first feature film, he was already extremely experienced behind the camera.
That first film also became arguably his signature work – “12 Angry Men”. The 1957 drama, based on the Reginald Rose teleplay, dealt with a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or innocence of a defendant. Though not a commercial success, today it’s considered one of the great classics of American cinema.
However that was far from Lumet’s only classic effort. Amongst his more noted efforts were “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Serpico,” “Network,” “The Verdict,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “The Pawnbroker,” “The Fugitive Kind,” “The Sea Gull,” “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” “The Prince of the City,” “View from the Bridge,” “The Hill,” “Night Falls On Manhattan,” “Equus,” “Q&A,” “The Wiz” and his last work “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”.
Lumet’s realism-driven style can be seen heavily in modern day procedurals be it cop drama or courtroom thriller, and he was as identifiable as Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen in the way he turned New York City into a cinematic character all its own.
Lumet was very much a proponent of quality work, namely good scripts and performances, and was meticulous in his preparation and rehearsals which lead to his productions consistently staying on time and budget.
It also meant he shot most of his scenes in just one or two takes, he avoided being too ‘artsy’ or editing in a way that drew attention to itself. He was the quintessential all rounder – great with actors, had a good nose for strong material, he wasn’t afraid to try things, and he worked his ass off. He’s a great man and artist who will be sorely missed.