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June 25: Sidney Lumet

June 24, 2015

The director of over fifty feature films, including 12 Angry Men (1957), The Pawnbroker (1964), Fail-Safe (1964), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Serpico (1973), Network (1976), The Verdict (1982), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007), and other socially conscious works about conscience and grit, often set in New York City, Sidney Lumet was born to a pair of Yiddish actors in Philadelphia on this date in 1924. His parents brought him onto the radio when he was 4 and onto the stage when he was 5. Lumet was a founding member of Actors Studio in New York, and began his directing career in Off-Broadway theater productions while teaching at the High School of Performing Arts. He then became a prolific, efficient, and innovative television director whose output included You Are There, a documentary series narrated by Walter Cronkite. Lumet became best known for translating stage plays into screenplays. Roger Ebert described Lumet as “one of the finest craftsmen and warmest humanitarians among all film directors.” He was widely known as a highly collaborative filmmaker who brought out the best in many actors. In 1996, he published a memoir, Making Movies. In 2011 he died at 86. To see the trailer for his first feature film, 12 Angry Men, look below.

“In drama, the characters should determine the story. In melodrama, the story determines the characters.” —Sidney Lumet