April 10, 2011, - 11:04 pm
The showbiz world is chock full of lamentations over the death, yesterday, of legendary director Sidney Lumet. While he was a talented filmmaker, it’s been completely glossed over that most of his movies were liberal. They had viewpoints that weren’t necessarily flattering or good for America, and frankly, his films mostly looked down upon Americans. And it’s time for a reality check amidst the opium-laced fantasy about who Sidney Lumet really was.
Sidney Lumet: Proud to Be Liberal, Embarrassed to be Jewish
Whether we were portrayed as racist bigots in “Twelve Angry Men,” or war-mongering screw-ups in “Fail-Safe,” it’s clear that Lumet took a dark view on Americans. Yes, I’m sure there were plenty of racist juries back in the ’50s, but today, the racism is in the reverse, and yet, “12 Angry Men” is still hailed and tours the country in its onstage version. As a criminal defense attorney, I liked watching the machinations of the jury room, but as an American, it’s troubling to watch the outdated, stale portrayal of American juries as a monolith of old, fat White men who are racist dummies, but for the one smart person who convinces them to go beyond that. (Yes, Americans are sheep, but they bend over backward to show they aren’t bigots. If our Islamo-butt-kissing since 9/11 doesn’t show that, you’ve been living on Mars.)
Then, there is “The Verdict,” in which the hero is the ambulance chasing medical malpractice lawyer played by Paul Newman, and the villain is the Catholic Archdiocese running a hospital. “Dog Day Afternoon” makes clear who the hero is: a bank robber who screams, “Attica, Attica,” and becomes a folk hero during the day that he holds a bank and its employees hostage. “Find Me Guilty” (read my review), which I enjoyed as entertainment, also makes a hero out of a real-life mobster. Many Americans believe this point of view as reality. It isn’t. The same goes for “Daniel,” his fictional portrayal of a far left-wing activist son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the real-life spies who sold out America and deserved to be executed for it. In “Daniel,” they were unfairly charged.
Contrast Lumet’s choices of heroes–mobsters, criminals, sleazy plaintiffs’ lawyers, Communist traitors who betrayed America–with one of his most constant villains: the police. Sure there are corrupt police, including his based-on-a-true-story “Serpico,” but he didn’t just make one movie about the police being corrupt. In his world, almost all police were corrupt, whether it’s “Prince of the City,” or “Night Falls on Manhattan,” etc.
Lumet’s last movie, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (read my review), was an absolutely loathsome, pointless exercise in filth, evil, drugs, killing, and other despair. Watching a failing fat guy and his giant butt having sex from the rear was the opening scene, and it was downhill from that nadir. Yup, total garbage. But critics raved about it, because, hey, it’s Sidney Lumet, so it’s “magical” by osmosis . . . or something.
In his own personal life, Lumet had what I call “Napoleonstein Complex.” Although Lumet was known to be a Jewish director and suffered anti-Semitism in the various neighborhoods in which his parents raised him, his choice in women and uber-liberal topics made it clear that he was embarrassed to be a Jew, sort of a self-hating intra-anti-Semite who tried his best to escape it rather than embrace it and take pride. And in that respect, he’s not unlike so many other Hollywood liberals who’ve rejected Judaism (and other religions) for liberalism.
Except for acting very early in his career in Ben Hecht’s pro-Israel Play, “A Flag is Born,” Lumet never did anything pro-Israel that I can find. And almost all–perhaps all–of his four wives were Gentiles. Like Tiger Woods, he seemed to reject his heritage in the choice of bed partners and wives. Lumet married Gloria Vanderbilt and Lena Horne’s daughter, among others. It appears he rejected Judaism, though he was brought up by parents who were actors in the Yiddish theater. (Often those in the Yiddish theater were very secular, though, and had few ties to the religion but for the German-Hebrew hybrid language.)
While Lumet’s “A Stranger Among Us” was an aberration, in that it showed Orthodox Jews in a somewhat sympathetic, the movie seemed more of a very faintly smiling sentiment someone might have when looking upon a museum exhibit, rather than an endorsement.
In contrast, Lumet’s “The Pawnbroker,” while critically acclaimed by most critics, is one of the worst–if not THE worst–Holocaust survivor movies I’ve ever seen. It seemed as though Lumet was obsessed with turning the Holocaust survivor experience in America from something meaningful into a nutty film noir experience with Black mobsters, hookers, and dysfunctional relationships with women. America was, for the most part, a great opportunity and wonderful experience for those who survived the Holocaust, including my grandparents, who had it tough at first, but succeeded and flourished and were proud and happy of what they made of their lives here. They were patriots who loved this country and what it gave them after so much tragedy. But Lumet turned America into the post-Holocaust tragedy in this boring, waste of time movie.
I’ll never forget how upset my late father was when he learned of the movie, “Daniel.” But my father, drafted during Vietnam, was as proud to be American as he was proud to be Jewish: very, in both cases. Lumet, on the other hand, was equally embarrassed by both, it appears. Those who embrace and observe the Jewish religion tend to be conservative. Those who reject Judaism and replace it with empty politics are almost always liberal.
Sure, Lumet served America with three years in the U.S. Army during World War II and is to be congratulated for that. And I enjoyed some of Lumet’s films, including “Network.” But Hollywood needs a reality check and that include the conventional wisdom on Sidney Lumet.
Yes, he was talented and a master of cinematography, but that’s exactly the problem, as he often used his talents and skills to turn American on itself and on his own people… or at least try to.
Saying good-bye to Sidney Lumet means saying good-bye to a man who sometimes made trash. And when he didn’t, it was often a very high quality portrayal of crappy viewpoints, which is even worse because it has an impact.
Now, Sidney Lumet is gone. Sadly, far-left liberal film directors whose work preaches against America, its authority figures, and achievers are like dead Islamic terrorists:
There are plenty of replacements.
Tags: director, Jewish, liberal, Movie Reviews, Sidney Lumet