Maura Spiegel – Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet: A Life is the first-ever biography of this seminal American director whose remarkable life traces a line through American entertainment history. His biography takes us from the world of Yiddish theater to Broadway spectacles, then inside the Federal Theatre, the Group Theatre, the Actors Studio, and the early “golden age” of television – all of which precede Lumet’s astonishing five-decades-long adventure in movie making.

Acclaimed as the ultimate New York movie director, Lumet began his directing career with the now classic Twelve Angry Men, and there followed such landmark New York films as Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network. Most noted for contemporary urban dramas, his remarkably varied output included award-winning adaptations of plays by Anton Chekhov, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Eugene O’Neill, whose Long Day’s Journey into Night featured Katharine Hepburn and Ralph Richardson in their most devastating performances.

His renown as an “actor’s director” attracted an unmatched roster of stars, among them: Henry Fonda, Sophia Loren, Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Newman, Al Pacino, Ethan Hawke, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, accruing 17 Oscar nods for his actors along the way.

His personal life was full of surprises, with four marriages to remarkable women, all of whom opened their living rooms to Sidney’s world of artists and performers, from Marilyn Monroe to Leonard Bernstein and Michael Jackson. With the help of exclusive interviews with family, colleagues, and friends, author Maura Spiegel provides a vibrant picture of the extraordinary life and work of a director whose influence is felt through generations. This is an audiobook that anyone interested in American film of the 20th century will not want to miss.

Author: Maura Spiegel
Narrator: Kate Mulligan
Duration: 14 hours 13 minutes
Released: 19 Oct 2012
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Language: English

User Review:

walkway mutilated

Having left an unfinished memoir before his death, Maura Spiegel approaches her biography of Sidney Lumet as a look into the director’s personal life that he was unable or unwilling to complete himself. The end results are mixed, so here are the strengths and weaknesses:

– Spiegel does an admirable job of delving into his childhood, marriages, and personal relationships through extensive secondary research and interviews.
– The early chapters about his parents and Yiddish theatre are detailed and compelling.
– Good insight into Lumet’s political viewpoints.

– The book is laid out chronologically, but Spiegel’s asides and tangents are often disorienting.
– Largely relies on brief, surface engagement with his films.
– With a few exceptions, most of his work only elicits a brief synopsis and roundup of contemporary reviews. It’s like reading a patchwork of Wikipedia entries.
– Spiegel has an annoying tendency of using first person to interject herself into the story via her experiences conducting interviews.

This is a worthwhile read for anyone curious about Lumet’s personal life, but if you want to learn anything of value about his films you’ll need to look elsewhere. I say read because, well, this is a poorly narrated audiobook. In addition to ample mispronunciations and a stiff delivery, the narrator has an off-putting staccato in her consonants. It’s a tough listen and I’ll likely be unpacking the trauma of how she says Manhattan for years to come.