One of the Last Major Movie Directors Who Came to Feature Films After Learning How to Direct in the Early Days of TV Passes Away. Sidney Lumet, 86, Is Dead

Apr 11, 2011  •  Post A Comment

Director Sidney Lumet, who was nominated for an Academy Award for best director after the release of his first feature film—a remake of an episode of “Studio One” that had been first shown live on TV—died Saturday, April 9, 2011.

He was 86 and died of lymphoma, according to a number of media accounts.

According to The New York Times, Lumet once wrote, “While the goal of all movies is to entertain, the kind of film in which I believe goes one step further. It compels the spectator to examine one facet or another of his own conscience. It stimulates thought and sets the mental juices flowing.”

That was certainly evident in the first feature film he made, “12 Angry Men,” which was based on an Emmy-winning TV drama written by Reginald Rose. And while Lumet directed a lot of 1950s TV shows, it was the late Franklin Schaffner—who later also directed a number of hit feature films—who directed the TV version.

Other feature films Lumet directed include “Serpico,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “The Verdict” and “Network,” to name a few,  The Times notes. Nearly all of Lumet’s work was filmed primarily in New York.

[To see TVWeek Open Mic blogger Chuck Ross’ recent assessment of “Network,” written by Paddy Chayefsky, please click here.]

Lumet got his start directing TV shows in 1950, when Yul Brynner, then directing the TV series “Danger,” a live dramatic anthology on CBS that was broadcast from New York, gave him a call and asked Lumet to become his assistant director. Brynner soon left the show to star in the stage production of “The King and I,” and Lumet became the director of “Danger.”

In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Lumet said of those early days directing live TV, “The pressure was wonderful, because it wasn’t insane. The pressure was ‘can we do it?’ Because nobody knew what we could do and what we couldn’t do. Nobody could say ‘no’ to you because nobody knew. It was literally learning to walk. So from a technical point of view, anything we wanted to try we could try.”

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