Director Sidney Lumet Dies at 86

Sidney Lumet
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Veteran film director Sidney Lumet, the man behind such American classics as "Dog Day Afternoon," "Network," and "12 Angry Men" has died in his Manhattan home at the age of 86.

The cause of the director's death was lymphoma, according to his stepdaughter, Leslie Gimbel.

One of the top American filmmakers of the second half of the 20th century, Lumet's often controversial films dealt with major social upheaval and unrest while bringing some of the finest performances from the country's top actors onto the screen.

Though he was nominated five times for an Academy Award, he didn't walk away with a statue until the Academy handed him an honorary award in 2005. Lumet was nominated for the best director award for "12 Angry Men" (1957), "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975), "Network" (1976), "The Verdict" (1982), and for best screenplay for "Prince Of The City" (1981).

While exploring the modern American landscape, Lumet's features – of which he directed over 40 since the early 1950s – frequently touched the nerve of American culture while criticizing establishments like the media and justice system.

"Network," one of the most successful features of 1976, became a landmark cautionary tale on the power of the media with the classic line, uttered by Peter Finch's news anchor Howard Beale, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore."

In 2000 the film was added to the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, and the American Film Institute named it the 66th best film of all time in 2007.

"Network" immediately followed Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon," which follows Al Pacino's Sonny Wortzik as he robs a Brooklyn bank to pay for his lover's sexual reassignment operation. It is widely recognized, along with "The Godfather," as Pacino's star-making performance.

Both "Network" and "Dog Day Afternoon" take place in what was one of Lumet's favorite locations, New York City. Though he is not considered one of the city's major directors like Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen, his work is often associated with the Big Apple.

Sidney Lumet's Diverse Film Career

Lumet was the child of Yiddish theater actors, and appeared in plays himself from the age of five. He acted into his teenage years, and after a brief stint in the Army during World War II, he began to work with the Actors Studio in New York and launched a theater workshop.

Beginning his career as a director of off-Broadway shows, Lumet eventually fell into television directing on shows like "Danger" and "You Are There," which starred a young Walter Cronkite. Working in television helped him learn to work at the breakneck pace that led to his expansive body of work.

Lumet's first feature film was the critically lauded "12 Angry Men." The taut courthouse drama starring Henry Fonda helped establish Lumet as a film director especially skilled in bringing plays to the silver screen.

Later he would helm screen versions of classic plays "A View from the Bridge," Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh" and "The Fugitive Kind," based on the Tennessee Williams' "Orpheus Descending."

But one of his most famous adaptations was of O'Neil's "Long Day's Journey Into Night," which featured one of Katherine Hepburn's most memorable performances as the drug-addled Mary Tyrone.

Following the success of "Network" and "Dog Day Afternoon," his string of successful films continued into the 1980s with the Paul Newman courtroom vehicle "The Verdict" and the family drama "Running on Empty."

Though his filmography thinned out throughout the 1990s and 2000s, he did carry on working until the age of 83 when he completed his final film, the critically-praised "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," starring Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Lumet was married four times, first to actress Rita Gam in the early 1950s, then to socialite Gloria Vanderbilt in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Throughout most of the 1960s and 1970s he was married to Gail Jones, the daughter of actress Lena Horne. In 1980 Lumet married Mary Gimbel, with whom he remained until his death.

He is survived by Gimbel and the two daughters that he had with Jones - Amy Lumet and Jenny Lumet -- nine grandchildren and a great grandson.

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