Prince of the City (1981): Lumet’s Oscar-Nominated Policier, Starring Treat Williams


Sidney Lumet finally won the best Director kudo from the New York Film Critics Circle for his thematically complex, emotionally powerful policier, “Prince of the City.”

The tale, scripted by Jay Preston Allen (“Cabaret”) and Lumet, from Robert Daley’s well received book, is based on the true story about a cop in New York City Special Investigations Unit (played by Treat Williams), who blows the whistle on department corruption, but in the end, finds himself more a victim than a hero.

The film is extremely well directed and acted by the entire ensemble, with standout performances by Jerry Orbach, as a fellow cop, and James Tolkan as weasley prosecutor.

Some believe that the film’s extreme length (close to 3 hours) hurt its overall impact, and that it had too many details than really necessary in order to tell the story effectively.


It’s still a mystery why the handsome and talented Treat Williams never became a major Hollywood star. I the difficult and morally complex role as Daniel Ciello, he turns a compelling and authentic performance that holds the entire picture together.

As in Most Lumet’s movies, New York City functions as a main character in the story, with locations that add authenticity to this investigative look into the dirtier side of police work, which goes way beyond the issue of police corruption.

Oscar Nominations:

Screenplay (Adapted): Jay Preston Allen and Sidney Lumet

Oscar Awards:

The winner of the Adapted Screenplay Oscar was Ernest Thompson for “On Golden Pond,” which was also nominated for best Picture.

The cast also includes Lindsay Crouse, Bob Balaban, Lane Smith, and Lance Henriksen.

Running time: 167 Minutes