Sidney Lumet was an American actor, director and film maker. He was honored with an honorary ‘Academy Lifetime Award’ for the contributions he made to Hollywood and many other awards. He was one of the directors of the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema’ who continuously made pertinent and polished films on the condition of the society prevailing at that time. Though he was a prolific film maker and a classic example of ‘less is more’ in cinema he never received the recognition which he really deserved. He won four ‘Academy Award’ nominations for Best Director’ while 14 of his films were nominated for various Oscars. He started making movies from the late 1930s and made over 45 movies and television serials during his entire career. Many of the movies he made were quite outstanding and created quite a stir among the audience while quite a few turned out to be duds. Despite making a number of flop movies he remained a prolific director.
Childhood and Adolescence
Sidney Lumet was born on June 25, 1924, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Baruch Lumet, his father, and Eugenia Wermus, his mother, were both well-known Yiddish theatrical actors. During his childhood, he featured in a number of theater shows as a child actor. He went to the ‘Professional Children’s School’ before transferring to ‘Columbia University.’ He joined the US Army Signal Corps after finishing college and was stationed in Burma and India during WWII.
Career of Sidney Lumet
Sidney Lumet made his cinematic debut in 1939 with the picture “One Third of a Nation.” He also appeared on Broadway in a number of productions, including ‘Journey to Jerusalem’ in 1940, in which he played Jesus.
After the war ended Lumet played numerous parts on the Broadway stage until 1950 when he joined the ‘CBS Network’ as a trainee television director.
‘film director’ career started in 1957 with the hugely successful picture ’12 Angry Men’ based on a TV version with Henry Fonda in the starring role. His second picture, ‘Stage Struck,’ released in 1958 and starring Henry Ford, was a middling success.
In 1959, he directed ‘That Kind of Woman,’ starring Sophia Loren, which was far superior to his previous attempt.
His following picture, ‘The Fugitive Kind,’ starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani and scripted by Tennessee Williams, was likewise a disappointment.
In 1962, he directed the Franco-Italian film ‘Vu du Pont,’ which was based on Arthur Miller’s book, which was controversial due to its gay subject. With the 1962 picture ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night,’ starring Ralph Richardson and Katharine Hepburn, Lumet re-established himself as a popular filmmaker. It was based on the book by Eugene O’Neil.
In 1964, he added to his triumph by starring Henry Fonda in the Cold War drama ‘Fail Safe.’ In 1964, he released ‘The Pawnbroker,’ a film about a Jewish businessman’s Holocaust experiences, starring Rod Steiger. In 1965, he traveled to England to shoot ‘The Hill,’ which starred Sean Connery as a POW in a German holding camp in North Africa during WWII.
In 1966, Lumet returned to New York to film ‘The Group.’ It was based on a novel by Mary McCarthy. In 1966, he returned to England to shoot ‘The Deadly Affair,’ based on a John le Carre novel that evolved into a bleak picture starring James Mason. In 1968, Lumet’s second picture, ‘The Sea Gull,’ based on Chekov’s novel, stars James Mason once more.
In 1971, he directed a popular documentary about Martin Luther King, Jr., and in 1972, he directed the picture ‘The Offense,’ starring Sean Connery. In 1974, he directed another memorable picture, ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ which starred Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, and Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot and was based on Agatha Christie’s novel. His next two films, ‘Serpico,’ starring Al Pacino as a New York cop, and ‘Dog Day Afternoon,’ both released in 1973, were box office smashes.
In 1977, the film ‘Network’ was a great smash, receiving ten Oscar nominations and winning four. In 1977, he struggled with the ‘Equus.’ The performances of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Lena Horne in 1978’s ‘The Wiz,’ based on the ‘Wizard of Oz,’ helped to redeem the film. In 1982, he directed ‘Verdict,’ starring Paul Newman and James Mason, while ‘Daniel,’ released in 1983, was a disappointment.
The Morning After, starring Jane Fonda, was released in 1986 and was a middling hit, followed by ‘Running on Empty,’ in 1988. ‘Family Business’ was released in 1989, followed by ‘Q & A’ in 1990, ‘A Stranger Among Us’ in 1992, ‘Night Falls on Manhattan’ in 1996, and ‘Critical Care’ in 1997. In 2001, he returned to television with the series ‘100 Center Street.’ In 2007, he released ‘Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead,’ a remarkable return to form.
Major Projects of Sidney Lumet
In 1995, Sidney Lumet published his book ‘Making Movies.’
Achievements & Awards
For the films ’12 Angry Men’ (1957), ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ (1975), ‘Network’ (1976), and ‘The Verdict,’ Sidney Lumet received four ‘Academy Award’ nominations for ‘Best Director’ (1982). In 1957, he was awarded the ‘Golden Bear Award for Best Film’ at the Berlin International Film Festival for his film ’12 Angry Men.’
For ‘Prince of the City,’ he earned the ‘New York Film Critics Circle Award’ for Best Direction in 1981. He was also nominated for a number of BAFTA and NYFCC awards, as well as various other awards at the Berlin, Cannes, and Venice Film Festivals. In 2005, he was given an honorary Oscar for his contributions to cinema during his career.
Personal History and Legacy
He married actress Rita Gam in 1949 and divorced her on August 15, 1955. On August 27, 1956, he married Gloria Vanderbilt, a socialite, and divorced her on August 24, 1963. He married Lena Horne’s daughter Gail Jones Buckley on November 23, 1963 and divorced her in 1978. He has two children, Amy and Jenny from this marriage. Leslie, his stepdaughter, and Bailey, his stepson, were his children. He married Mary Gimbel in 1980, and they remained together till his death. At the age of 86, Sidney Lumet died of cancer in Manhattan, New York City, USA on April 9, 2011.
Estimated Net Worth
Sidney is one of the wealthiest directors and one of the most well-known. Sidney Lumet’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
He shot most of his films in and around New York rather than Hollywood.