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Sidney Lumet

  • დაბადების თარიღი: 1924-06-25

Though not as consistent as Martin Scorsese or Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet is nevertheless a master of cinema. Known for his technical knowledge and his skill at getting first-rate performances from his actors -- and for shooting most of his films in his beloved New York -- Lumet has made over 40 movies, often emotional, but seldom overly sentimental. He often tells intelligent, complex stories. Although his politics are somewhat left-leaning and he often treats socially relevant themes in his films, he doesn't want to make political movies in the first place, and some of them (Serpico (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Prince of the City (1981), Q & A (1990)) are atmospherically comparable to the gritty, intense films of Scorsese. Born on June 25, 1924, in Philadelphia, the son of actor Baruch Lumet and dancer Eugenia Wermus Lumet, he made his stage debut at age four at the Yiddish Art Theater in New York. He played many roles on Broadway in the 1930s (such as "Dead End"), and his acting debut in films came in ...One Third of a Nation... (1939). In 1947 he started an off-Broadway acting troupe that included such future stars as Yul Brynner and Eli Wallach, and other former members of Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio who had become unsatisfied with Strasberg's concepts. Lumet made his stage directing debut in 1955. However, he had been directing television shows since 1950, beginning at CBS, and soon became regarded as an important TV director. He piloted about 150 episodes of the crime series "Danger" (1950) and 26 episodes of "You Are There" (1953) (he was still directing successful TV teleplays as late as 1960, long after he had become an established film director). He made his feature film directing debut with the critical and financial hit 12 Angry Men (1957), which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay, and is justly regarded as one of the most auspicious directorial debuts in film history. It takes place almost entirely in a jury room (in several Lumet films you can find the motif of the closed space). His second and third films, Stage Struck (1958) and That Kind of Woman (1959) respectively, are considered less important. Lumet directed Marlon Brando in the imperfect but very good The Fugitive Kind (1959), an underrated, financially unsuccessful adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "Orpheus Descending". Afterwards he directed the French-Italian Arthur Miller adaptation Vu du pont (1962) ("A View From the Bridge"), which is considered a solid film. The first half of the 1960s was one of Lumet's most artistically successful periods. Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962), a masterful, brilliantly photographed adaptation of the Eugene ONeill play, is one of several Lumet films about families. It earned Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Dean Stockwell and Jason Robards deserved acting awards in Cannes and Hepburn an Oscar nomination. Lumet's next film, Fail-Safe (1964), a tense drama about the Cold War, suffered a little in comparison to Stanley Kubrick's great, thematically equal satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), which was released shortly before. Afterwards Lumet directed the masterful drama The Pawnbroker (1964), about a Holocaust survivor who lives in New York and can't overcome his experiences in the Nazi concentration camps. Rod Steiger's unforgettable performance in the title role earned an Academy Award nomination. Lumet's intense character study The Hill (1965), about inhumanity in a military prison camp, was expertly directed and featured superb performances by Sean Connery (with whom Lumet has made five films up to now) and Harry Andrews, among others. Lumet made the soapy, overly talky but watchable drama The Group (1966) about young upper-class women in the 1930s, and the good spy thriller The Deadly Affair (1966) (with a fine cast including James Mason, Maximilian Schell and Simone Signoret). The late 1960s was a rather unsuccessful time in Lumet's career. The comedy Bye Bye Braverman (1968) and the Anton Chekhov adaptation The Sea Gull (1968) got mixed reviews. The Appointment (1969) and Last of the Mobile Hot Shots (1970) were disappointing. Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed the Oscar-nominated documentary film King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis (1970) about Martin Luther King's civil-rights work in the Deep South. Lumet's The Anderson Tapes (1971) (starring Connery again), an unusual but satisfying caper movie, was a box-office hit. After the flop Child's Play (1972) Lumet directed the British film The Offence (1972), an interesting if somewhat slow-moving character study. Connery delivered a fine performance in this worthwhile but commercially unsuccessful movie. The terrific cop thriller Serpico (1973), the first of his films about police corruption in New York City, featured a fascinating Al Pacino and was the beginning of the most successful phase of Lumet's career. It was also one of his biggest critical and financial successes. Pacino won the Golden Globe, and the picture earned two Oscar nominations. After the less acclaimed Lovin' Molly (1974), Lumet's British adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (1974) was another success, a very good, exquisitely photographed murder mystery with an all-star cast (including Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Connery and Ingrid Bergman). It earned six Oscar nominations, and Bergman won her third Academy Award. Then Lumet directed the hit Dog Day Afternoon (1975), a complex masterpiece about a bungled bank robbery in New York City. Pauline Kael called it "one of the best "New York" movies ever made." It starred a wonderful Al Pacino and earned six Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture, Director and Actor) and won the Academy Award for Frank Pierson's Original Screenplay. Lumet's following film is one of his most famous: the media satire Network (1976). It earned ten Academy Award nominations (including Picture and Director) and won in four categories (Best Actor for Peter Finch, Best Actress for Faye Dunaway, Best Original Screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, Best Supporting Actress for Beatrice Straight). Lumet won the Golden Globe for his direction (he won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards for his direction in Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Network (1976). Both pictures won LAFCA awards for Best Picture, too). Lumet's Equus (1977), an overly naturalistic adaptation of Peter Shaffer's stage play, earned Oscar nominations for Richard Burton and Peter Firth and for Shaffer's screenplay. The musical The Wiz (1978) earned four Oscar nominations, but was a critical and commercial misfire. The strange comedy Just Tell Me What You Want (1980) featured a fine Alan King performance and had funny moments, but was uneven overall. Lumet won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for his terrific direction in Prince of the City (1981), one of his best and most typical films. It's about police corruption, but hardly a remake of Serpico (1973). Starring a powerful Treat Williams, it's an extraordinarily multi-layered film. In his highly informative book "Making Movies" (1995), Lumet describes the film in the following way: "When we try to control everything, everything winds up controlling us. Nothing is what it seems." It's also a movie about values, friendship and drug addiction and, like "Serpico", is based on a true story. It was adapted by Lumet himself and Jay Presson Allen from Robert Daley's book. Their screenplay earned an Academy Award nomination, and the picture, Lumet and Williams earned Golden Globe nominations. After his less important but entertaining thriller Deathtrap (1982) Lumet directed another masterful courtroom drama, The Verdict (1982), starring Paul Newman, James Mason, Jack Warden and Charlotte Rampling. The picture, Lumet, Newman, Mason and David Mamet's Adapted Screenplay earned well-deserved Academy Award nominations. The next in Lumet's filmography is the controversial drama Daniel (1983) with Timothy Hutton, an adaptation of E.L. Doctorow's "The Book of Daniel" about two young people whose parents were executed during the McCarthy Red Scare hysteria in the 1950s for alleged espionage. Lumet writes in "Making Movies": "Despite its critical and financial failure, I think it's one of the best pictures I've ever done." After this film, though, Lumet's reputation fell a bit. The comedy Garbo Talks (1984), is considered a watchable film. Power (1986) and The Morning After (1986) (which earned Jane Fonda an Oscar nomination) were too uneven and a little too pretentious to be successful. Then he made another real masterpiece: Running on Empty (1988). Although it is one of his lesser known films, thematically similar to "Daniel", it's story concerns a family on the run from the FBI, because the parents (played by Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch) committed a bomb attack on a napalm laboratory in 1971 to protest the war in Vietnam. The son (played by River Phoenix) gets into an inner conflict: he loves a girl (Martha Plimpton) and wishes to stay with her and study music, but that would destroy the family, and he knows that his parents need him. The film features magnificent performances by all the actors. Phoenix earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his extraordinarily moving performance. Lahti won the LAFCA award for her equally excellent interpretation. Naomi Foner's screenplay won the Golden Globe and earned an Oscar nomination. The film earned four other Golden Globe nominations as well (Picture, Director, Lahti and Phoenix). After the entertaining, well-acted, but still disappointing gangster comedy Family Business (1989) (with Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick) Lumet directed the underrated cop thriller Q & A (1990) with fine performances by Nick Nolte, Timothy Hutton, Armand Assante and others. Though a bit overly constructed at times, it is still a very good and complex film about corruption and racism. In the beginning of the 1990s Lumet directed two unsatisfying films: A Stranger Among Us (1992), which is basically a variation on Peter Weir's Witness (1985) and not a particularly good one, and the rather sterile courtroom thriller Guilty as Sin (1993). However, he staged a comeback of sorts with his imperfect but fascinating crime drama Night Falls on Manhattan (1996), which is thematically similar to "Serpico", "Prince of the City" and "Q&A". In 1993 Lumet received the D.W. Griffith Award from the Directors Guild of America.

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