12 Angry Men – Sidney Lumet’s First Feature Film

12 Angry Men– Sidney Lumet’s First Function Film

This was television-trained director Sidney Lumet’s very first feature movie– a low-budget ($350,000) film shot in only 17 days from a screenplay by Reginald Rose, who based his script on his own teleplay of the same name. After the initial airing of the TV play in early 1954 on Studio One CBS-TV, co-producer/star Henry Fonda asked Rose in 1956 if the teleplay could be broadened to feature-film length (comparable to what occurred to Paddy Chayefsky’s TV play Marty (1955 )), and they became co-producers for the job (Fonda’s sole instance of movie production).

The jury of twelve ‘angry guys,’ entrusted with the power to send an uneducated, teenaged Puerto Rican, tenement-dwelling young boy to the electric chair for killing his father with a switchblade knife, are actually locked into a little, claustrophobic rectangular jury room on a stifling hot summertime day up until they create an unanimous choice– either guilty or not guilty. The compelling, provocative movie analyzes the twelve men’s deep-seated personal prejudices, perceptual predispositions and weaknesses, indifference, anger, personalities, unreliable judgments, cultural differences, ignorance and fears, that threaten to taint their decision-making capabilities, trigger them to ignore the real problems in the event, and possibly lead them to a miscarriage of justice.

Luckily, one brave dissenting juror votes ‘innocent’ at the start of the considerations due to the fact that of his reasonable doubt. Constantly and persuasively, he forces the other males to gradually reassess and evaluate the shaky case (and eyewitness testament) versus the endangered offender. He also chastises the system for offering the unfortunate offender an inefficient ‘court-appointed’ public defense attorney who “frowned at being appointed”– a case with “no cash, no magnificence, not even much possibility of winning”– and who inadequately cross-examined the witnesses. Heated discussions, the formation of alliances, the frequent re-evaluation and changing of opinions, votes and certainties, and the discovery of individual experiences, insults and outbursts fill the jury room.

[A few of the movie’s idiosyncracies: Even in the 50s, it would have been unlikely to have an all-male, all-white jury. However, it’s somewhat forgivable since the play made the jury and trial largely symbolic and metaphoric (the jurors were made to represent a cross-section of American mindsets towards race, justice, and ideology, and were not totally practical.) The introduction of details about the defendant’s previous juvenile crimes would not have actually been allowed.

Jurors # 3 and # 10 were so discriminative that their mindsets would have rapidly removed them from being picked throughout jury review. And it was incorrect for Juror # 8 to serve as a defense lawyer– to re-enact the old male’s walk to the front door or to examine on his own by buying a comparable knife. The ‘upset’ interactions in between some of the jurors appear overly individual and exaggerated.]

This classic, black and white film has actually been implicated of being stagey, fixed and dialogue-laden. It has no flashbacks, narration, or subtitles. The camera is essentially secured the enclosed space with the deliberating jurors for 90 of the movie’s 95 minutes, and the movie is basically shot in real-time in an actual jury room. Cinematographer Boris Kaufman, who had already demonstrated his on-location film-making skill in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterside (1954) in Hoboken, and Infant Doll (1956) in Mississippi, utilizes diverse cam angles (a couple of dramatic, grotesque closeups and mainly well-composed medium-shots) to brighten and energize the movie’s confined procedures.

Other Than for Henry Fonda, the ensemble character actors were selected for their experience in the burgeoning art of tv.

The film was a monetary catastrophe when it initially opened (during a time of vibrant widescreen movie offerings), but it did get three Academy Award nominations (without any wins): Finest Photo, Best Director, and Finest Adjusted Movie Script. All 3 categories lost to David Lean’s Oscar-sweeping, extravagant impressive movie The Bridge on the River Kwai. Henry Fonda’s main role as a juror with undaunted care was un-nominated as Finest Star.

None of the jurors are called, and they do not officially present themselves to each other (except for 2 of them in the final brief ending). Jurors are labeled with numbers based upon their jury numbers and seats at a conference table in the jury room (in clock-wise order).

The Twelve Jurors:

A summary of the anonymous characters helps to flesh out their characters and backgrounds.

The order in which each ultimately chooses to vote “not guilty” is given in brackets:

– Juror # 1 (The Supervisor): (Martin Balsam) A high-school assistant head coach, doggedly concerned to keep the procedures official and preserve authority; quickly annoyed and sensitive when someone challenge his control; inadequate for the task as supervisor, not a natural leader and over-shadowed by Juror # 8’s natural management [9]

– Juror # 2: (John Fiedler) A wimpy, balding bank clerk/teller, easily convinced, meek, hesitant, supports the bulk, eagerly offers cough drops to other men during tense times of argument; much better memory than # 4 about film title [5]

– Juror # 3: (Lee J. Cobb) Runs a messenger service (the “Beck and Call” Company), a bullying, impolite and husky male, exceptionally opinionated and prejudiced, completely intolerant, forceful and loud-mouthed, temperamental and vengeful; estrangement from his own teenaged kid triggers him to be despiteful and hostile toward all young people (and the offender); conceited, quick-angered, quick-to-convict, and bold until the very end [12]

– Juror # 4: (E. G. Marshall) Well-read, smug and conceited, well-dressed stockbroker, probably rich; academic, methodical, has an incredible recall and grasp of the truths of the case; common-sensical, dispassionate, cool-headed and logical, yet stuffy and prim; frequently displays a stern glare; treats the case like a puzzle to be deductively resolved instead of as a case that may send out the accused to death; claims that he never ever sweats [10– tie]

– Juror # 5: (Jack Klugman) Naive, insecure, frightened, booked; grew up in a poor Jewish metropolitan neighborhood and the case resurrected in his mind that slum-dwelling upbringing; a guilty vote would distance him from his past; nicknamed “Baltimore” by Juror # 7 because of his support of the Orioles [3]

– Juror # 6: (Edward Binns) A typical “working guy,” dull-witted, experiences difficulty in comprising his own mind, a fan; most likely a manual laborer or painter; considerate of older juror and going to back up his words with fists [6]

– Juror # 7: (Jack Warden) Clownish, impatient salesperson (of marmalade the previous year), a flashy dresser, gum-chewing, consumed baseball fan who wishes to leave as quickly as possible to go to night video game; tosses wadded up paper balls at the fan; uses baseball metaphors and recommendations throughout all his statements (he tells the supervisor to “remain in there and pitch”); does not have complete human issue for the defendant and for the immigrant juror; extroverted; keeps up entertaining banter and even impersonates James Cagney at one point; votes with the majority [7]

– Juror # 8: (Henry Fonda) A designer, instigates a thoughtful reconsideration of the case against the implicated; symbolically clad in white; a liberal-minded, patient truth-and-justice candidate who utilizes soft-spoken, calm logical reasoning; balanced, good, brave, well-spoken and worried; considered a do-gooder (who is just wasting others’ time) by a few of the prejudiced jurors; called Davis [1]

– Juror # 9: (Joseph Sweeney) Eldest man in group, white-haired, thin, retiring and resigned to death but has a revival of life throughout deliberations; soft-spoken however observant, fair-minded; called McCardle [2]

– Juror # 10: (Ed Begley) A garage owner, who simmers with anger, bitterness, racist bigotry; nasty, repellent, intolerant, reactionary and accusative; segregates the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’; requires the assistance of others to reinforce his manic tirades [10– tie]

– Juror # 11: (George Voskovec) A watchmaker, talks with a heavy accent, of German-European descent, a current refugee and immigrant; expresses respect and regard for American democracy, its system of justice, and the infallibility of the Law [4]

– Juror # 12: (Robert Webber) Well-dressed, smooth-talking company ad man with thick black glasses; doodles cereal box slogan and product packaging ideas for “Rice Pops”; shallow, easily-swayed, and easy-going; dithering, does not have deep convictions or belief system; uses marketing talk at one point: “run this idea up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it” [8]

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