sidney lumet

one of the great “new york” directors has passed away. any words i have would pale in comparison to scenes from his work.




Filed under life, movies

4 responses to “sidney lumet

  1. For this and your previous post, I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

    His biggest impact on me was the movie Fail-Safe about nuclear brinksmanship between the US and the USSR. After several compounding failures in the early warning system, an American bomber nuked Moscow despite frantic attempts to call it back. As a desperate gesture to prevent global thermonuclear war, the US President ordered an atomic strike on New York City to “prove” that the attack on Moscow was an accident. With both leaders on the phone to New York when the bomb detonated, we are treated to a loud squeal over the line as proof the city was destroyed. That scene gave me nightmares for a long time. My simple logic at the time was that if the heat and radiation can cause a telephone to make that noise, it must be very unpleasant indeed.

    That and the numerous civil defense PSAs airing on TV at the time. One particularly impactful one for me had a cartoon character singing “Figaro” in the shower as the warning sirens went off. He quickly got out and retired to his fallout shelter. That one also gave me nightmares and I remained a bath kid instead of a shower kid for many years. If I did not take showers, I would not have to enact that scene, so I thought. The government sent every household a booklet on how to protect the family from nuclear fallout and I spent many hours studying it even though it scared the living daylights out of me.

    Several years later, we moved to Amarillo, Texas. For most of you who probably do not know, Amarillo is the location of Pantex, the final assembly plant for the nation’s nuclear weapons. More on that later.

    Until our house was ready for us to move in, we stayed at Dad’s parents’ place. While there, I observed an uncle and his friends building model rockets and I was intrigued. “I am going to do that when I get older,” I said. The other aspect of the Cold War, the Space Race was going full throttle at that time. Fascination about going to the moon diverted my obsessions from nuclear annihilation to the space program and probably saved me from becoming extremely neurotic over the nuclear cloud hanging overhead.

    Near the end of the eighth grade, we were required to fill in a “Four Year Plan” about our intended course of study in high school. Deep into rocketry at that time, I reasoned that aerodynamics and rocket science were complex enough that they will surely not be covered in Physics I, so I carefully laid out the schedule so that I had the prerequisites of math and other science classes in time to take Physics II as a Senior.

    All through public school, there was an annual survey given to children whose parent(s) worked for a company called Mason and Hanger. At first, I had no idea what that was all about and wondered what was so special about that one company when there were so many other employers in town. Later, it became widely known that Mason and Hanger was the company hired by the government to run the Pantex plant and exactly what it was they did out there.

    By the time I took Physics I, it was apparent that Physics II was going to be all about nuclear physics. Whether that was because of our proximity to Pantex, I will never know. But by that time, I had lost my fear of nuclear war and had become fascinated by nuclear physics. Our science club even had an annual field trip to New Mexico including a tour of the Los Alamos laboratories where the first atomic bomb was developed. I went and found it very interesting.

    So in the summer after high school, I was preparing to go to a famous place in Southern California where I was going to become a nuclear physicist. I was going to discover a new element and name it Karenium after Mom.

    On one sunny Friday fall afternoon in the first quarter of my freshman year, I was stuck in a basement physics lab counting clicks on a Geiger counter instead of outside enjoying the warm California sun when I suddenly decided that physics was not for me. It was well known that only the very best would succeed in physics and it sunk in for me that I did not love it enough to become the very best. On the following Monday was a trip to the office of the registrar to put in a change of major from Physics to Engineering and Applied Science, and I never looked back. So instead of becoming another Oppenheimer or Teller, I wound up with a front row seat on the personal computer revolution.


  2. some social commentary with a real wallop there. may he rest in peace.

    interesting personal tidbit from bill as well.

  3. You picked my favorite scenes from the first four movies, but I have never seen Failsafe… how moving and tragic. My heart was pounding at just that scene. I’ll need to look for it so I can watch the whole thing.
    What a fitting tribute to the fabulous Sidney Lumet – he will be missed.

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