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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sidney Lumet 1925-2011

Hollywood has lost one of its giants. Just days after the world mourned the passing of the legendary Elizabeth Taylor, now comes the news of the death of one of the greatest directors of all time, Sidney Lumet. Lumet, 86, died on Saturday at his home in New York.

Many directors would be happy to have a couple of successful, well-known or well-loved movies, but Lumet transcended mere "success" to create a handful of movies that are considered "iconic".

Some of Lumet's best known movies include
"Long Day's Journey Into Night", "The Pawnbroker",
"Murder on the Orient Express", "The Wiz", "The Fugitive Kind" and "The Verdict"; a list which would make most directors very proud. But Lumet also directed three films which set new standards of filmmaking and are now considered "classics": "Network", (1976), "12 Angry Men", (1957) and "Dog Day Afternoon", (1975). Personally, we also consider 1973's "Serpico" a "minor classic".

(peter finch as 'howard beale' in "network")

"Network", which won 4 Oscars and earned nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, correctly predicted the melding of the news and entertainment industries, and Howard Beale's "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" wild-eyed lament has become one of the most famous lines in Hollywood history.

(lumet, far right, with gloria vanderbilt and photographer richard avedon)

Lumet's movies earned dozens of Oscar nominations over the years and even managed to win a few, mostly for writing and acting. (We still can't believe "Rocky" beat "Network" for the 1976 Best Picture Oscar.) Lumet himself was nominated for Best Director four times, as well as a Screenplay nomination for 1981's "Prince of the City", but shockingly, he never won a competitive Oscar. Finally, in 2005, he won an Honorary Oscar for his life's work.

We miss the kind of movies that Lumet made, real adult dramas for real adults. His stories were often gritty and sometimes controversial, but always real. He even scored a big one for the gay community with "Dog Day Afternoon" which featured the then shocking story of a gay man, (Al Pacino), who was robbing a bank to get the money for his lover's sex change operation. For 1975, that was strong stuff. "Attica! Attica! Attica!"

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