Sidney Lumet: The Prince of the City
On Saturday morning, director and screenwriter Sidney Lumet died at his home in Manhattan. He was 86.
His first movie, 12 Angry Men (1957) took us into the jury room where one lone juror, Henry Fonda, stood alone against the pressure of his 11 colleagues for a man who turned out to be innocent.
The classics followed with Serpico (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975) The Pawnbroker (1964), and dozens of others. For Lumet, New York City was the main character in his films.
In a 2007interview, the iconic director revealed that “locations are characters in my movies” stating “the city is capable of capturing the mood a scene requires”.
In 1981the critically acclaimed “Prince of The City”, which Lumet co-wrote, demonstrated his true brilliance. Treat Williams plays a New York City detective who goes undercover to expose departmental corruption, but ends up being manipulated by prosecutors with their own agendas.
His films had a thread that ran through all of them exploring issues of prejudice, corruption, and social injustice. But it was the individual who gathered the courage to stand, and prevail, against the system who was celebrated in the end.
But it was Lumet’s 1982 classic “the Verdict” that influenced me. Paul Newman played a down and out Irish lawyer, Frank Galvin, who stood up against the powerful institutions in a Malpractice action and won. It showed what an earnest lawyer can accomplish if a cause is just.
The following year I enrolled in Law school.
John O’Hara is an attorney. He lives in Brooklyn.
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