|A scene from 12 Angry Men (1957), directed by Sidney Lumet.|
From 1981 to 1989, I was assistant producer and co-host of the radio show On the Arts at CJRT-FM in Toronto. With the late Tom Fulton, who was the show's prime host and producer, we did a half-hour interview program where we talked to artists from all fields. In 1994, after I had gone to CBC, I had an idea to collate an interview anthology from some of the more interesting discussions I'd had with guests from that period. Since they all took place during the eighties, I thought I could edit the collection into an oral history of the decade from some of its most outspoken participants. The book was assembled from interview transcripts and organized thematically. I titled it Talking Out of Turn: Revisiting the '80s. With financial help from the Canada Council, I shaped the individual pieces into a number of pertinent themes relevant to the decade. By the time I began to contact publishers, though, the industry was starting to change. At one time, editorial controlled marketing. Now the reverse was taking place. Acquisition editors, who once responded to an interesting idea for a book, were soon following marketing divisions concerned with whether the person doing it was hot enough to sell it.
|Tom Fulton, host and producer of On the Arts.|
One area of the book concerned the legacy of the sixties. My thinking was (and still is) that it’s difficult taking into consideration the political landscape of the eighties without examining aspects of the sixties. Many ghosts from that period (i.e., Vietnam, the Cold War, civil rights) continued to linger as unresolved arguments that underscored political and cultural actions in the eighties. If cynicism became more the common coin twenty years after the idealism sparked by JFK’s 1960 inaugural address, the voices included in this chapter of Talking Out of Turn set out to uncover what the political lessons of the sixties were. This section included, among others, poet Allen Ginsberg, novelist Ann Beattie (Love Always, Chilly Scenes of Winter), and filmmaker Sidney Lumet.
Director of movies such as 12 Angry Men (1957), The Pawnbroker (1964), Serpico (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and Network (1976), Sidney Lumet would make many political films in his career, but few of them in the eighties did very well. This includes Running on Empty, a movie that dealt with sixties-era fugitives from the law in the 1980s, that had just been released when I sat down with the director in 1988. In our conversation Lumet ruminates on the problems of making political movies – especially ones that confronted the 1960s – during the Reagan era. Sidney Lumet passed away in 2011 at the age of 86.
– Kevin Courrier.
Here is the full interview with Sidney Lumet as it aired on CJRT-FM in 1988.
– Kevin Courrier is a freelance writer/broadcaster, film critic and author (Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World of Zappa, Randy Newman's American Dreams, 33 1/3 Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, Artificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles Utopian Dream). Courrier teaches part-time film courses to seniors through the LIFE Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto and other venues. His forthcoming book is Reflections in the Hall of Mirrors: American Movies and the Politics of Idealism.