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Oscar bows in honour of director Sidney Lumet

Oscar paid homage Sunday to veteran Hollywood filmmaker Sidney Lumet by giving him an honorary Academy Award.
By Agence France-Presse | PTI, Hollywood
UPDATED ON FEB 28, 2005 09:38 AM IST

Oscar paid homage Sunday to veteran Hollywood filmmaker Sidney Lumet, director of

Dog Day Afternoon

and

Network

, by giving him an honorary Academy Award.

The special Oscar honors the 80-year-old Lumet -- seen as one of the most significant directors in American cinema -- who has been nominated five times but has never won in a career that has spanned more than 50 years, with almost as many movies.

The honour was presented by actor Al Pacino at the 77th-annual Academy Awards, in recognition of what the Academy dubbed Lumet's "brilliant services to screenwriters, performers and the art of the motion picture."

"If you prayed to inhabit a character, Sidney was the priest who listened to your prayers and helped them come true," Pacino said.

After receiving his award and a standing ovation, Lumet said: "I'd like to thank the movies."

"I've got the best job in the best profession in the world," he said, thanking those "who've paid more dues than I have."

Lumet has been nominated for four Oscars for best director and one for best adapted screenplay during his long career, but has never taken home one of cinema's highest honours -- until Sunday, that is.

"Lumet is one of the most important film directors in the history of American cinema," said Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organises the Oscars.

"His work has left an indelible mark on both audiences and the history of film itself. It was a great personal pleasure and professional honor to call Sidney to tell him he'd won his profession's highest honor," Pierson said earlier.

Lumet was born in Philadelphia in 1924 to an actor father and a dancer mother and made his stage acting debut at New York's Yiddish Art Theater at the age of four, before turning to television directing in the 1950s.

He is best known for movies such as the 1975 crime thriller "Dog Day Afternoon," starring Pacino as a bank robber in what has become a signature role, and 1976's wrenching drama "Network," starring Peter Finch as a television anchor who goes mad on the air after being sacked.

Lumet won back-to-back best director Oscar nominations for the films, which marked the high point of his career.

He made his feature film debut in 1957 with the acclaimed movie "12 Angry Men," which earned him an Oscar nod for directing at the age of 33.

He went on to pick up further Oscar nods for "The Verdict," starring Paul Newman, in 1982, as well as a nomination for the adapted screenplay of "Prince of the City" in 1981.

Lumet's more than 40 films also include another Pacino hit, "Serpico" (1973), "Running on Empty" (1988), the "Wizard of Oz" remake "The Wiz" (1978), with Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, and 1977's drama "Equus."

He also made "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974), "Fail-Safe," "The Pawnbroker" and a movie version of Eugene O'Neill's classic play "Long Day's Journey into Night" in 1962.

Last year's recipient of the prestigious honorary Oscar -- viewed by many as the Academy's way of making up for past competitive awards oversights involving movie legends -- went to "Pink Panther" creator Blake Edwards.

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