Acclaimed director Sidney Lumet took center stage at Dartmouth last month when he was presented with the Dartmouth Film Award from the Dartmouth Film Society (DFS). Lumet, who recently received an Honorary Academy Award for his body of work and contributions to the film industry, has directed 17 Oscar-winning or nominated performances, earning four nominations of his own as Best Director.
Bill Pence, Director of Film at the Hopkins Center, presented a compilation of film clips and an onstage discussion with Lumet moderated by Chris Robinson '86, former DFS Director and current Ph.D. candidate in film theory. Hopkins Center Film Manager Sidney Stowe, who helped organize the event, called Lumet "the quintessential director; from 12 Angry Men to Network to The Verdict, his films speak to our national sense of justice and social conscience."
Lumet spent time with students while on campus, sitting in on a few classes with his longtime friend Walter Bernstein '40, a screenwriter. "Good work comes from inner conviction," Lumet said when asked about what makes a good movie. "The key is honesty."
"See as many movies as you can," said Bernstein. "Find out what attracts you, what repels you....And then you have to write, just write; write without any expectation of what might happen....Don't read screenplays; watch the movies and write." Bernstein, who was blacklisted in 1950, first worked with Lumet in live television, on a program called "Danger." They went on to work together on two films, That Kind of Woman (1959) and Fail-Safe (1964).
During one discussion with students, topics ranged from the level of control Lumet has over his films to how screenplays find their way to production. He spoke briefly about the effect of the musical score on his film Murder on the Orient Express (1974), saying that it helped add a lyrical, eccentric feel. He also discussed how his movie Daniel (1983), based on the E.L. Doctorow novel, was ignored by major media critics and described the subsequent impact on the film's distribution.
By GENEVIEVE HAAS and SUSAN KNAPP
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Last Updated: 5/30/08