One of my all time favorite film directors, Sidney Lumet died of lymphoma at the age of 86.
One of my top 5 favorite movies was “Network”, a film Lumet directed. The movie would also be my inspiration to get into the television business.
Written by Paddy Chayefsky [Oscar winner], Lumet winkling insisted the dark tragicomedy wasn’t an exaggeration of the TV business but mere “reportage.” The film proved to be Lumet’s most memorable and created an enduring catch phrase.
The crazed newscaster Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch who also received an Oscar postumously, exhorts people in his audience to raise their windows and shout: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
Beale is ultimately assassinated by his network bosses (played by Faye Dunaway [Oscar winner] and Robert Duvall) on live television with the line, “the first known instance of a man who was killed because of lousy ratings.” Lumet called such a scene, “the only part of ‘Network’ that hasn’t happened yet, and that’s on its way.”, referring to Faux News and other similar networks.
Looking back at his career, there were some memorable films that stood the test of time. Many of his films could be considered for all-time favorites.
Here’s a few of my favorite films by Sidney Lumet. R.I.P.!
1. Network (1976) (see above)
2. 12 Angry Men (1957) – There were many versions of this film, on film, Broadway and on TV, but Lumet’s version (his first film) showed us what was to come in his illustrious career. Outstanding acting by everyone, including Henry Fonda as juror number 8.
3. The Pawnbroker (1964) – Before Schindler’s List, this film showed us the horror of the Holocaust through the eyes of a survivor. The first of many New York-based films created by Lumet, it earned international acclaim for the film’s star, Rod Steiger, and was one of the first American movies to feature nudity. It would spark the creation of the MPAA ratings list four years later.
4. Fail-Safe (1964) – Of the two nuclear crisis films that were released that year (the other, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove…), Fail-Safe was the much better of the two. The film was so effective, Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential campaign featured a shot similar to the final scene from the movie, with a smash zoom into the face of a young girl playing.
5. Serpico (1972) – Based on the real-life New York City cop,the film is about Frank Serpico, who went undercover to expose the corruption of his fellow officers, after being pushed to the brink at first by their distrust and later by the threats and intimidation they leveled against him.
6. Dog Day Afternoon (1974) – Inspired by P.F. Kluge’s Life magazine article, “The Boys in the Bank”, it tells the story of the robbery of a Brooklyn bank in 1972. The film’s star was Al Pacino screaming out “Attica! Attica!” really made this movie!
7. Prince of the City (1981) – Lumet continued his police corruption theme when he created this film. In an interview, Lumet felt guilty about the two-dimensional way he had treated cops in Serpico and said that “Prince of the City” was his way to rectify this depiction. Despite the movie’s length, 167 minutes, I found this movie to be much more engaging than Serpico.
8. The Verdict (1982) – This courtroom drama film tells the story of a down-on-his-luck alcoholic lawyer, played by Paul Newman in the performance of his career, who pushes a medical malpractice case in order to improve his own situation, but discovers along the way that he is doing the right thing.