Sidney Lumet, the award-winning director of such acclaimed films as Network, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and 12 Angry Men, hasdied.He was 86.

Lumet's death was confirmed Saturday by Marc Kusnetz, who is the husband of Lumet's stepdaughter, Leslie Gimbel. He said Lumet died overnight, and had suffered from lymphoma. 

A Philadelphia native, Lumet moved to New York City with his family as a child, and it became the location of choice for more than 30 of his films.


Sidney Lumet, right, receives an honorary Oscar in 2005 from actor Al Pacino, who starred in Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

Such dramas as Prince of the City, Q&A, Night Falls on Manhattan and Serpico looked at the hard lives and corruptibility of New York police officers. Dog Day Afternoon told the true-life story of two social misfits who set in motion a chain of disastrous events when they tried to rob a New York City bank on an oppressively hot summer afternoon.

"It's not an anti-L.A. thing," Lumet said of his New York favouritism in a 1997 interview. "I just don't like to live in a company town."

Although he didn't work in Los Angeles, the director maintained good relations with the Hollywood studios, partly because he finished his pictures under schedule and budget. His television beginnings had schooled him in working fast, and he rarely shot more than four takes of a scene.

He was nominated four times for Academy Awards for directing, and although he never won, Lumet did receive an honorary Oscar in 2005 for lifetime achievement. He also received the Directors Guild of America's prestigious D.W. Griffith Award for lifetime achievement in 1993.

Al Pacino, who produced memorable performances for Lumet in both Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, introduced the director at the 2005 Academy Awards.

"If you prayed to inhabit a character, Sidney was the priest who listened to your prayers, [and] helped make them come true," the actor said.

Accepting the award, Lumet thanked the many directors who had inspired him, then added, "I guess I'd like to thank the movies." 

Launched career with 12 Angry Men

Lumet immediately established himself as an A-list director with his first theatrical film, 1957's 12 Angry Men, which took an early and powerful look at racial prejudice as it depicted 12 jurors trying to reach a verdict in a trial involving a young Hispanic man wrongly accused of murder. The film, now a classic, garnered him his first Academy Award nomination. 


Actor Peter Finch in a scene from 1976's Network, the role garnered him a posthumous best acting Oscar. (MGM Studios/Getty)

Other Oscar nominations were for Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976) and The Verdict (1982).

Network, a scathing view of the television business, proved to be Lumet's most memorable film and created an enduring catch phrase when crazed newscaster Peter Finch exhorted his audience to raise their windows and shout, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

It won Academy Awards for Paddy Chayefsky for best screenplay, Finch as best actor (presented posthumously) and Faye Dunaway as best actress.

Although best known for his hard-bitten portrayals of urban life, Lumet's resume also included films based on noted plays: Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge. He also dealt with such matters as the Holocaust (The Pawnbroker), nuclear war (Fail-Safe) and the convicted Soviet spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (Daniel).

He directed a highly successful Agatha Christie mystery, the all-star Murder on the Orient Express, Running On Empty, Equus, Family Business and The Wiz.

Born to stage performers

The director was born on June 25, 1924, in Philadelphia to a pair of Yiddish stage performers, and he began his show business career as a child actor, appearing on radio at age 4.

He made his Broadway debut in 1934 with a small role in Sidney Kingsley's acclaimed Dead End.  


Lumet and his second wife, Gloria Vanderbilt, Aug. 27, 1956. Lumet married four times. (Anthony Camerano/Associated Press)

After serving as a radar repairman in India and Burma during the Second World War, Lumet returned to New York and formed an acting company. In 1950, Yul Brynner, a friend and a director at CBS-TV, invited him to join the network as an assistant director. Soon he rose to director, working on 150 episodes of the Danger thriller as well as other series.

The advent of live TV dramas boosted Lumet's reputation and he continued directing features into his 80s. In 2001, he returned to his television roots, creating, writing, directing and executive producing a cable series,100 Centre Street. It was filmed in his beloved New York.

His final film was 2007's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Marisa Tomei.

Lumet's personal life was just as dramatic. His first three marriages — to actress Rita Gam, heiress Gloria Vanderbilt and Lena Horne's daughter, Gail Jones — ended in divorce. In 1980, he married journalist Mary Gimbel.

He had two daughters with Jones,  Amy and Jenny. In addition to his wife and daughters, he is survived by his stepdaughter Leslie Gimbel; a stepson, Bailey Gimbel; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.