Influential Filmmakers of the 1970s: Sidney Lumet


An Actors’ Director, Meticulous Craftsman, Social Commentator

Sidney Lumet was a highly regarded and prolific film director especially during the 1970s. Since his auspicious movie directorial debut in 1957, Lumet would often direct at least one film a year. He was known for being a meticulous, technical craftsman, dynamic storyteller and for taking a collaborative approach to filmmaking. He spent time rehearsing his actors and blocking his camera shots well before filming commenced. As a result, Lumet usually brought his films in under budget. He also had a reputation for being a well-respected humanitarian who instilled a sense of realism in his most noted films, which included themes of social justice and the Jewish experience in America.

Sidney Lumet – Festival de Cannes 2022

Sidney Lumet believed strongly in the importance of character development to the story. He had a reputation as an actors’ director and for getting exceptional performances from his cast. Lumet directed Ingrid Bergman, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch and Beatrice Straight in Oscar winning performances. He also directed the following performers in Oscar nominated roles: Katharine Hepburn, Rod Steiger, Al Pacino, Albert Finney, Chris Sarandon, William Holden, Ned Beatty, Peter Firth, Richard Burton, Paul Newman, James Mason, Jane Fonda and River Phoenix.

Lumet himself was nominated four times for the Best Director Oscar and once for Best Adapted Screenplay. He was awarded a honourary Oscar in 2005. He was also nominated seven times for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures by the Directors Guild of America (DGA). The organization awarded him a DGA Honorary Life Member Award in 1989 and presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.

Beginnings

Sidney Lumet began his directorial career directing Off-Broadway productions and later became a highly regarded director of episodic television and TV movies in the 1950s and early 1960s. His television movies included The Dybbuk (1960), The Iceman Cometh (1960) and Rashomon (1960). He also directed episodic television including the following: Playhouse 90 (1956-1961), The United States Steel Hour (1953-1963), The DuPont Show of the Month (1957-1961), Kraft Theatre (1947-1958), Studio One (1948-1958), Goodyear Playhouse (1951-1957), The Alcoa Hour (1955-1957), The Elgin Hour (1954-1955), The Best of Broadway (1954-1955), You Are There (1953-1972), and Danger (1950-1955).

Lumet made his feature film debut with 12 Angry Men (1957) featuring Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam , Lee J. Cobb, and E.G. Marshall. Lumet was nominated for his first Best Director Oscar for the movie and the film was also nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay. Other notable films in the 1960s included: The Fugitive Kind (1960) with Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani and Joanne Woodward; A View from the Bridge (1961) with Raf Vallone, Maureen Stapleton and Carol Lawrence; Long Day’s Journey into Night (1962) with Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson and Jason Robards; The Pawnbroker (1964) with Rod Steiger and Geraldine Fitzgerald; Fail Safe (1964) with Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau and Fritz Weaver; The Hill (1965) with Sean Connery, Harry Andrews and Ian Bannen; The Group (1966) with Candice Bergen, Joan Hackett and Elizabeth Hartman; The Deadly Affair (1967) with James Mason, Simone Signoret and Maximilian Schell; Bye Bye Braverman (1968) with George Segal, Jack Warden and Jessica Walter; The Sea Gull (1968) with James Mason, Vanessa Redgrave and Simone Signoret; and The Appointment (1969) with Omar Sharif and Anouk Aimée. Katharine Hepburn received her ninth Best Oscar nomination for Long Day’s Journey into Night and Rod Steiger received his first Best Actor nomination for The Pawnbroker.

Films of the Early 1970s

Sidney Lumet began with the 1970s with directing the black comedy The Last of the Mobile Hot Shots (1970) starring James Coburn, Lynn Redgrave and Robert Hooks. Based on a play by Tennessee Williams, the movie centres around a couple (Coburn and Redgrave) who marry on a game show and use the money to save the husband’s family planation in New Orleans. The movie was poorly received at the time by audiences and critics.

Warner Brothers Promotional Poster

Lumet’s next film was the crime thriller The Anderson Tapes (1971) with Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon and Martin Balsam. Based on the best-selling novel by Lawrence Sanders, the film tells the story of a newly released criminal (Connery) who devises a robbery plan with the help of the mafia and while unknowingly being under electronic surveillance. The film did well at the box office and received mostly good reviews.

Columbia Pictures Promotional Poster

Lumet then directed the psychological thriller Child’s Play (1972) with James Mason, Robert Preston and Beau Bridges. Based on the play by Robert Marasco, a young gym teacher (Bridges) at a posh boys’ academy is caught in the middle of a dark, twisted and deadly feud between a popular English teacher (Preston) and a despised Instructor of classical languages (Mason). The film received mixed reviews when it was first released. James Mason’s performance was uniformly praised and he was nominated for Best Actor by the New York Film Critics Circle.

Paramount Pictures Promotional Poster

Lumet’s next project was the British crime neo noir crime drama The Offence (1973) with Sean Connery, Trevor Howard, Vivien Merchant and, Ian Bannen. The film focuses on the consequences of a deadly interrogation of a suspected child molester (Bannen) by a stressed out police detective (Connery). Ian Bannen received a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA Film Award nomination for his role in the film. 

United Artists Promotional Poster

Lumet had a huge critical and commercial hit with the biopic Serpico (1973) with Al Pacino, John Randolph and Jack Kehoe. Based on a true story, the film covers the life of an undercover New York City police officer (Pacino) who is working to blow the whistle on the corruption within his own police force. The movie received two Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Al Pacino was nominated for Best Actor. The film was also nominated for a Best Motion Picture – Drama Golden Globe and Al Pacino won the Golden Globe for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. The film won Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium by the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Sidney Lumet received BAFTA and DGA nominations for Best Director for the movie and Al Pacino received BAFTA, National Society of Film Critics, and New York Film Critics Circle nominations for Best Actor. He was awarded Best Actor by the National Board of Review in a tie with Robert Ryan for The Iceman Cometh (1973).

Paramount Pictures Promotional Poster

Films of the Mid 1970s

Lumet next directed the drama Lovin’ Molly (1974) with Anthony Perkins, Beau Bridges, Blythe Danner, and Susan Sarandon. Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, the film tells the 40-year tale of the ongoing rivalry between two Texans (Perkins and Bridges) as they compete for the affections of a beautiful and independent woman (Danner) who refuses to marry them both.

Columbia Pictures Promotional Poster

Lumet had another commercial and critical hit with Murder on the Orient Express (1974) featuring an all-star cast that included Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Wendy Hiller, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Rachel Roberts, Richard Widmark, Michael York, and Colin Blakely. Based on the novel by Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot (Finney), a renowned Belgian detective, is stuck with other passengers on a snowbound train and ends up solving the murder of a wealthy American businessman (Widmark). The movie was nominated for six Academy awards including Best Actor (Finney), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design and Original Dramatic Score. Ingrid Bergman won her third Oscar, this time for Best Supporting Actress, for the movie. Sidney Lumet received BAFTA and DGA nominations for Best Director. The movie was nominated for nine BAFTA Film Awards including Best Picture, Actor (Finney), Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design and Film Editing. Ingrid Bergman won for Best Supporting Actress and John Gielgud won for Best Supporting Actor. The film also received a Writers’ Guild of Great Britain nomination for Best British Screenplay.

Paramount Pictures Promotional Poster

Lumet had another commercial and critical hit with his next project Dog Day Afternoon (1975) with Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, Chris Sarandon, Penelope Allen, James Broderick, Lance Henriksen, and Carol Kane. Based on a Life magazine article about a real-life crime in Brooklyn, a pair of would-be robbers (Pacino and Cazale) holds a group of bank employees hostage when their bank holdup attempt goes awry. Sidney Lumet received a Best Director Oscar nomination for the movie, as well as BAFTA, Golden Globe and DGA Best Director nominations. Lumet won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director. The film itself received a total of six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Actor (Pacino), Supporting Actor (Sarandon) and Film Editing. It won for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The movie was also nominated for six BAFTA Film Award nominations, including Best Picture, Screenplay and Soundtrack, and winning Best Actor (Pacino) and Film Editing. In addition, it was nominated for seven Golden Globes including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Actor – Motion Picture Drama (Pacino), Supporting Actor (Cazale and Durning), Screenplay and New Star of the Year – Actor (Sarandon). The movie won the WGA for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen.

Warner Brothers Promotional Poster

Lumet scored an even bigger commercial and critical hit with his next movie Network (1976) with Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, and Beatrice Straight. The film is a dark satirical dramedy about a struggling television network that the exploits the antics of its mentally unhinged news anchorman (Finch), promoting him to cult-like status in order to gain ratings. Sidney Lumet received a Best Director Oscar nomination for the movie, as well as BAFTA and DGA nominations. He won Best Director honours from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes) and Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The film itself was nominated for a total of ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Actor (Holden), Supporting Actor (Beatty), Cinematography and Film Editing. It won Oscars for Best Actor (Finch), Actress (Dunaway), Supporting Actress (Straight) and Original Screenplay. The film was also nominated for nine BAFTA Film Awards, including Best Picture, Actor (Holden), Actress (Dunaway), Supporting Actor (Duvall), Screenplay, Film Editing and Soundtrack, and winning Best Actor (Finch). In addition, it was nominated for five Golden Globes, winning Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama (Finch), Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama (Dunaway) and Screenplay. It was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama but did not win in that category. The movie won the WGA for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Promotional Poster

Films of the Late 1970s

Lumet followed the success of Network by directed the psychological drama Equus (1977) with Richard Burton, Peter Firth, Colin Blakely, Joan Plowright, Harry Andrews, Eileen Atkins, Jenny Agutter, and Kate Reid. Based on the play by Peter Shaffer, a psychiatrist (Burton) works to uncover the dark truth behind a disturbed and troubled young man (Firth)’s obsessive worship of horses. The movie received positive reviews and was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Actor (Burton), Supporting Actor (Firth) and Adapted Screenplay. The film won two Golden Globes for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama (Burton) and Supporting Actor (Firth). It was also nominated for five BAFTA Film Awards, including Best Supporting Actor (Blakely), Actress (Plowright), Screenplay and Music, and winning Best Supporting Actress (Agutter).

United Artists Promotional Poster

Lumet’s last movie of the 1970s was musical The Wiz (1978) with Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Lena Horne, and Richard Pryor. Based on the hit Broadway musical, the film is a re-visioning of The Wizard of Oz with an all-African American cast. Upon its initial release, the movie did not do well with critics and audiences, but has since become a cult classic. The Wiz was nominated for four Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Art Direction-Set Decoration, Costume Design, and Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score.

Universal Pictures Promotional Poster

Later Years

In the 1980s, Lumet continued to be a prolific film director and was nominated for two more Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay for Prince of the City (1981), starring Treat Williams and Jerry Orbach, and for Best Director for The Verdict (1982) with Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, and James Mason. The Verdict was nominated for a total of five Oscars including Best Picture, Actor (Newman), Supporting Actor (Mason) and Adapted Screenplay.

Other 1980s films that Lumet directed included: Deathtrap (1982) with Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve and Dyan Cannon; Daniel (1983) with Timothy Hutton, Mandy Patinkin and Lindsay Crouse; Garbo Talks (1984) with Anne Bancroft, Ron Silver and Carrie Fisher; The Morning After (1986) with Jane Fonda, Jeff Bridges and Raul Julia; Power (1986) with Richard Gere, Julie Christie and Gene Hackman; Running on Empty (1988) with Christine Lahti, River Phoenix and Judd Hirsch; and Family Business (1989) with Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick. Jane Fonda received her sixth Best Actress Oscar nomination for The Morning After. River Phoenix received his only Oscar nomination for Running on Empty and the film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay.

Lumet continued to direct movies in the 1990s to the mid 2000s. His last film was Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, and Albert Finney.

In his personal life, Sidney Lumet was married four times including to heiress and entrepreneur Gloria Vanderbilt. He had two daughters two daughters. Lumet died at the age of 86 on April 9, 2011 in Manhattan from lymphoma.

Legacy

Lumet’s influence on filmmaking continues to be recognized today with his movies 12 Angry Men (1957), The Pawnbroker (1964), Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Network (1976), as well as his documentary King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis (1970), being selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

~Terry Gale

Influential Filmmakers of the 1970s: Alan J. Pakula


Alan J. Pakula was a prolific film director in the 1970s known for his dark conspiracy thrillers, including his “paranoia trilogy.” In particular, Pakula was interested in exploring man’s psyches when faced with fear. He also had a reputation for being an actor’s director who directed Jane Fonda, Jason Robards and Meryl Streep in Oscar winning performances. He also directed Liza Minnelli, Jane Alexander, Richard Farnsworth, Jill Clayburgh and Candice Bergen in Oscar nominated roles.

Alan J. Pakula on set

Pakula began his career working as an assistant to the head of the cartoon department at Warner Brothers. He later became an assistant producer at MGM before moving to Paramount Pictures. By the 1960s, Alan J. Pakula was a well-established film producer who was nominated for an Oscar for producing Best Picture nominee To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

He made his directorial debut with The Sterile Cuckoo (1969), which was nominated for two Oscars for Best Actress (Liza Minnelli) and Best Original Song (Come Saturday Morning). Minnelli was also nominated for a Best Actress – Drama Golden Globe. The movie tells the story of a love affair between two inexperienced college freshmen, a neurotic young woman (Minnelli) and a reserved young man (Wendell Burton).

Paramount Pictures Promotional Poster

Pakula then directed the first of his three 1970s conspiracy thrillers Klute (1971). The movie was nominated for two Oscars with Jane Fonda winning her first Best Actress Oscar. The film was also nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Fonda also won the Best Actress – Drama Golden Globe. In addition, the film was nominated for a Best Screenplay Golden Globe. Klute was also nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen. The film’s story focuses on a private detective (Donald Sutherland) who is investigating a missing person case and becomes involved with a high-priced prostitute (Fonda) being stalked by a killer.

Warner Brothers Promotional Poster

Pakula next directed a romantic dramady Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing (1973). The movie follows the story of a young American (Timothy Bottoms) on a bicycle tour of Europe who meets and falls in love with an older English woman (Maggie Smith).

Columbia Pictures Promtional Poster

He followed this movie with directing the second of his conspiracy thrillers The Parallax View (1974). The film was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium. The film is about a news reporter (Warren Beatty) who is investigating a conspiracy connected to the assassination of a senator and the shady dealings of a multinational corporation.

Paramount Pictures Promotional Poster

Pakula received his only Best Director Oscar nomination for his next project, which was the third of his 1970s conspiracy thrillers All the President’s Men (1976). He also received a Directors Guild of America and a Best Director Golden Globe nomination for the movie. The film was a commercial and critical success. It was nominated for a total of eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Jane Alexander) and Film Editing. It won four Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Jason Robards), Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction and Sound. The movie also received a Writers Guild of America nomination for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium. In addition, it received four Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Robards) and Screenplay.  Based on a best-selling novel, the movie tells the true story of investigative journalists Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) as they uncover the illegal activities surrounding the Watergate scandal, ending the presidency of Richard Nixon.

Warner Brothers Promotional Poster

Pakula moved away from the thriller genre with his next film Comes a Horseman (1978). The movie is a western about a 1940’s struggling rancher woman (Jane Fonda) who refuses to sell her family’s land to a ruthless land owner (Jason Robards) buying up her neighbours’ properties in the quest for oil. The movie resulted in Richard Farnsworth receiving his first Oscar nomination (in this instance for Best Supporting Actor Oscar). Farnsworth was a former movie stunt man who transitioned in later life to a successful career as an acclaimed film actor.

United Artists Promtional Poster

Pakula’s last movie in the 1970s was the romantic comedy Starting Over (1979). The film was nominated for two Oscars with Jill Clayburgh receiving her second Best Actress Oscar nomination and Candice Bergen received her first Best Supporting Actress nomination. The movie was also nominated for four Golden Globes, including Best Actor – Comedy (Burt Reynolds), Best Actress – Comedy (Clayburgh), Best Supporting Actress (Bergan) and Best Original Song (Better Than Ever). In addition, the movie received a Writers Guild of America nomination for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium. The movie follows a newly separated man (Reynolds) as he tries to create a new life for himself while juggling relationships with an independent school teacher (Clayburgh) and his cheating songwriter wife (Bergan).

Paramount Pictures Promotional Poster

Pakula continued to direct motion pictures in the 1980s. His most notable achievement during this time period was Sophie’s Choice (1982), for which Pakula received his last Oscar nomination (in this instance for Best Adapted screenplay). The movie was nominated for a total of five Oscars with Meryl Streep receiving her first Best Actress Oscar for the movie.  

In the 1990s, Pakula directed a number of notable films. These movies included the thrillers Presumed Innocent (1990) with Harrison Ford and Raul Julia, and The Pelican Brief (1993) with Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. Pakula’s last movie was The Devil’s Own (1997) with Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt.

In his personal life, Pakula was married twice. His first marriage was to actress Hope Lange who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Peyton Place (1958). She was best known for her two-time Emmy winning Best Actress in a Comedy role in The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1968-1970), which was highly popular in syndication.

Alan J. Pakula died on November 19, 1998 at age 70 following a freak motor vehicle accident. Another car struck a metal pipe on the roadway sending the pipe through Pakula’s windshield and hitting him in the head. He then smashed his car into a fence. Upon arrival at the hospital, Pakula was pronounced dead.

Pakula’s influence on the filmmaking continues to be recognized today with his films All the President’s Men and To Kill a Mockingbird both being selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

~Terry Gale

Best Dustin Hoffman Movies


Dustin Hoffman is my favourite actor of the 1970’s. In many of his earlier roles, he seemed to be cast as the outsider at odds with society. Nominated for many awards over the years, he has now matured into one the screen’s great character actors. Hoffman has won the Best Actor Oscar twice and has been nominated seven times.

In order, here are my favourite Dustin Hoffman Movies:

  1. The Graduate (1967) 
  2. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
  3. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
  4. Rain Man (1988)
  5. Tootsie (1982)
  6. Marathon Man (1976)
  7. All the President’s Men (1976)
  8. Lenny (1974)
  9. Papillon (1973)
  10. Straw Dogs (1971)
  11. Wag the Dog (1997)
  12. Finding Neverland (2004)
  13. Sleepers (1996) 
  14. Hero (1992)
  15. Little Big Man (1970)
  16. Moonlight Mile (2002)
  17. Last Chance Harvey (2008)
  18. Runaway Jury (2003)
  19. Hook (1991)
  20. Dick Tracy (1990)
Favourite Dustin Hoffman Quotes:
  • So when I told my parents I wanted to go into acting because I was flunking out of my first year of junior college, they were relieved that I had picked something other than joining the army. But I can’t imagine how they had high hopes for me.
  • There’s a rebirth that goes on with us continuously as human beings. I don’t understand, personally, how you can be bored. I can understand how you can be depressed, but I just don’t understand boredom.