Sydney Lumet is one of the most prolific directors of the modern era, making more than one movie per year on average since his directorial debut in 1957.
Roger Ebert described Sydney Lumet as “one of the finest craftsmen and warmest humanitarians among all film directors.” Some have has called him an “actor’s director,” having worked with the best of them during his career. He was noted by Turner Classic Movies for his “strong direction of actors”, “vigorous storytelling” and the “social realism” in his best work.
In addition to films, Lumet directed many television series and documentary specials throughout his career. In this three-hour interview conducted by Dr. Ralph Engleman on October 28, 1999 and posted by Archive of American Television, Mr. Lumet reflects on:
- His work on the television series Danger (1950-55), and You Are There (1953-57) both live dramatic shows of the time.
- The use of blacklisted writers on these shows and how the material they wrote often reflected the era of McCarthyism.
- Other television dramatic anthology series he directed for including Omnibus, Goodyear Playhouse, The Alcoa Hour, Studio One , and Kraft Television Theatre.
- His direction of the well-known television special The Sacco-Vanzetti Story and The Play of the Week: The Iceman Cometh both of which aired in 1960.
- He spoke of his transition to a feature film director with 12 Angry Men in 1957 and his work on such other feature films as the Paddy Chayefskys satire, Network (1976).
Watch all 6 Parts of this Sydney Lumet interview at the Archive of American Television website here. The summary is below:
On his early years and influnces; on his early political awareness; on the start of his work ethic; on being a young actor; on his World War II military service; on being part of the Actors Studio
On his experiences at Actors Studio; on his transition to directing; on joining CBS television as an assistant director; on the state of early television at the time; on his work on the series Danger; on the technical challenges of early television
On the early technical challenges of live TV; on working on Danger and You Are There; on working with Charlie Russell; on working with actors; on his encounters with the Blacklist.
On his encounters with the Blacklist (continued); on directing theatre; on working on The Aloca Hour.
On directing for The Alcoa Hour; on Twelve Angry Men (the original television version vs. his feature film version); on Studio One; on the process of directing for television; on being known as “an actor’s director”; on directing for Kraft Television Theatre.
On directing the television movie The Sacco-Vanzetti Story; on the end of the “golden age” of televion sion; on directing feature films; on directing Network; on then-current television; on his advice to aspiring directors; on his legacy.