12 Angry Men (1957 film)

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12 Angry Men
12 angry men.jpg
Original film poster
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Produced by Henry Fonda
Reginald Rose
Written by Reginald Rose
Starring Henry Fonda
Lee J. Cobb
E. G. Marshall
Martin Balsam
Jack Warden
John Fiedler
Jack Klugman
Edward Binns
Joseph Sweeney
Ed Begley
George Voskovec
Robert Webber
Music by Kenyon Hopkins
Cinematography Boris Kaufman
Edited by Carl Lerner
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • April 13, 1957 (1957-04-13)
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $340,000[1][2]
Box office $1,000,000 (rentals)[3]
Movie trailer

12 Angry Men is a 1957 American drama film adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose.[4][5] Written and produced by Rose himself and directed by Sidney Lumet, this trial film tells the story of a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt. In the United States, a verdict in most criminal trials by jury must be unanimous. The film is notable for its almost exclusive use of one set: with the exception of the film's opening, which begins outside on the steps of the courthouse followed by the judge's final instructions to the jury before retiring, a brief final scene on the courthouse steps, and two short scenes in an adjoining washroom, the entire movie takes place in the jury room. The total time spent outside the jury room is three minutes out of the full 96 minutes of the movie.

12 Angry Men explores many techniques of consensus-building, and the difficulties encountered in the process, among a group of men whose range of personalities adds intensity and conflict. No names are used in the film: the jury members are identified by number until two of them exchange names at the very end, the defendant is referred to as "the boy", and the witnesses as "the old man" and "the lady across the street".

In 1997 a remake of the film under the same title was released by MGM.

In 2007, 12 Angry Men was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[6]

Story[edit]

The story begins in a New York City courthouse, where an 18-year-old Jewish boy from a slum is on trial for allegedly stabbing his father to death. Final closing arguments having been presented, a visibly tired judge instructs the jury to decide whether the boy is guilty of murder. The judge further informs them that a guilty verdict will be accompanied by a mandatory death sentence.[7]

The jury retires to a private room, where the jurors spend a short while getting acquainted before they begin deliberating. It is immediately apparent that the jurors have already decided that the boy is guilty, and that they plan to return their verdict without taking time for discussion—with the sole exception of Juror 8 (Henry Fonda), who is the only "not guilty" vote in a preliminary tally. He explains that there is too much at stake for him to go along with the verdict without at least talking about it first. His vote annoys the other jurors, especially Juror 7 (Jack Warden), who has tickets to a baseball game that evening; and Juror 10 (Ed Begley), who believes that most people from slum backgrounds are more likely to commit crimes.

The rest of the film's focus is the jury's difficulty in reaching a unanimous verdict. While several of the jurors harbor personal prejudices, Juror 8 maintains that the evidence presented in the case is circumstantial, and that the boy deserves a fair deliberation. He calls into question the accuracy and reliability of the only two witnesses to the murder, the "rarity" of the murder weapon (a common switchblade, of which he has an identical copy), and the overall questionable circumstances. He further argues that he cannot in good conscience vote "guilty" when he feels there is reasonable doubt of the boy's guilt.

Having argued several points and gotten no favorable response from the others, Juror 8 reluctantly agrees that he has only succeeded in hanging the jury. Instead, he requests another vote, this time by secret ballot. He proposes that he will abstain from voting, and if the other 11 jurors are still unanimous in a guilty vote, then he will acquiesce to their decision. The secret ballot is held, and a new "not guilty" vote appears. This earns intense criticism from Juror 3 (Lee J. Cobb), who blatantly accuses Juror 5 (Jack Klugman) – who had grown up in a slum – of switching out of sympathy toward slum children. However, Juror 9 (Joseph Sweeney) reveals that he himself changed his vote, feeling that Juror 8's points deserve further discussion.

Juror 8 presents a convincing argument that one of the witnesses, an elderly man, who claimed to have heard the boy yell "I'm going to kill you" shortly before the murder took place, could not have heard the voices as clearly as he had testified due to an elevated train passing by at the time; as well as stating that "I'm going to kill you," is often said by people who do not literally mean it. Juror 5 changes his vote to "not guilty". Soon afterward, Juror 11 (George Voskovec) questions whether the defendant would have reasonably fled the scene before cleaning the knife of fingerprints, then come back three hours later to retrieve the knife (which had been left in his father's chest); then changes his vote.

Juror 8 then mentions the man's second claim: upon hearing the father's body hit the floor, he had gone to the door of his apartment and seen the defendant running out of the building from his front door in 15 seconds. Jurors 5, 6 and 8 question whether this is true, as the witness in question had had a stroke, limiting his ability to walk. Upon the end of an experiment, the jury finds that the witness would not have made it to the door in enough time to actually see the killer running out. Juror 8 concludes that, judging from what he claims to have heard earlier, the witness must have merely assumed it was the defendant running. Juror 3, growing more irritated throughout the process, explodes in a rant: "He's got to burn! He's slipping through our fingers!" Juror 8 takes him to task, calling him a "self-appointed public avenger" and a sadist, saying he wants the defendant to die purely for personal reasons, not the facts. Juror 3 shouts "I'll kill him!" and starts lunging at Juror 8, but is restrained by two others. Juror 8 calmly retorts, "You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?", proving his previous point.[6]

Jurors 2 (John Fiedler) and 6 (Edward Binns) also decide to vote "not guilty", tying the vote at 6–6. Soon after, a rainstorm hits the city, threatening to cancel the baseball game Juror 7 has tickets to.

Juror 4 (E. G. Marshall) states that he doesn't believe the boy's alibi, which was being at the movies with a few friends at the time of the murder, because the boy could not remember what movie he had seen three hours later. Juror 8 explains that being under emotional stress can make you forget certain things, and tests how well Juror 4 can remember the events of previous days. Juror 4 remembers, with some difficulty, the events of the previous five days, and Juror 8 points out that he had not been under emotional stress at that time, thus there was no reason to think the boy could remember the movie that he had seen.[8]

Juror 2 calls into question the prosecution's claim that the accused, nearly a foot shorter than the victim, was able to inflict the downward stab wound found on the body. Jurors 3 and 8 conduct an experiment to see if it's possible for a shorter person to stab downward into a taller person. The experiment proves the possibility, but Juror 5 then explains that he had grown up amidst knife fights in his neighborhood, and shows, through demonstrating the correct use of a switchblade, that no one so much shorter than his opponent would have held a switchblade in such a way as to stab downward, as the grip would have been too awkward and the act of changing hands too time-consuming. Rather, someone that much shorter than his opponent would stab underhanded at an upwards angle. This revelation augments the certainty of several of the jurors in their belief that the defendant is not guilty.

Increasingly impatient, Juror 7 changes his vote just so that the deliberation may end, which earns him the ire of Jurors 3 and 11, both on opposite sides of the discussion. Juror 11, an immigrant who has repeatedly displayed strong patriotic pride, presses Juror 7 hard about using his vote frivolously, and eventually Juror 7 claims that he now truly believes the defendant is not guilty.[9]

The next jurors to change their votes are Jurors 12 (Robert Webber) and 1 (Martin Balsam), making the vote 9–3 and leaving only three dissenters: Jurors 3, 4 and 10. Outraged at how the proceedings have gone, Juror 10 goes into a rage on why people from the slums cannot be trusted, of how they are little better than animals who gleefully kill each other off for fun. His speech offends Juror 5, who turns his back to him, and one by one the rest of the jurors start turning away from him. Confused and disturbed by this reaction to his diatribe, Juror 10 continues in a steadily fading voice and manner, slowing to a stop with "Listen to me. Listen..." Juror 4, the only man still facing him, tersely responds, "I have. Now sit down and don't open your mouth again." As Juror 10 moves to sit in a corner by himself, Juror 8 speaks quietly about the evils of prejudice, and the other jurors slowly resume their seats.

When those remaining in favor of a guilty vote are pressed as to why they still maintain that there is no reasonable doubt, Juror 4 states his belief that despite all the other evidence that has been called into question, the fact remains that the woman who saw the murder from her bedroom window across the street (through the passing train) still stands as solid evidence. After he points this out, Juror 12 changes his vote back to "guilty", making the vote 8–4.

Then Juror 9, after seeing Juror 4 rub his nose (which is being irritated by his glasses), realizes that, like Juror 4, the woman who allegedly saw the murder had impressions in the sides of her nose which she rubbed, indicating that she wore glasses, but did not wear them to court out of vanity. Juror 8 cannily asks Juror 4 if he wears his eyeglasses to sleep, and Juror 4 admits he doesn't – nobody does.[10] Juror 8 explains that there was thus no logical reason to expect that the witness happened to be wearing her glasses while trying to sleep, and he points out that the attack happened so swiftly that she would not have had time to put them on. After he points this out, Jurors 12, 10 and 4 all change their vote to "not guilty".

At this point, the only remaining juror with a guilty vote is Juror 3. Juror 3 gives a long and increasingly tortured string of arguments, ending with, "Rotten kids, you work your life out—!" This builds on a more emotionally ambivalent earlier revelation that his relationship with his own son is deeply strained, and his anger over this fact is the main reason that he wants the defendant to be guilty. Juror 3 finally loses his temper and tears up a photo of himself and his son, then suddenly breaks down crying and changes his vote to "not guilty", making the vote unanimous.

As the jurors leave the room, Juror 8 helps the distraught Juror 3 with his coat in a show of compassion. The film ends when the friendly Jurors 8 (Davis) and 9 (McCardle) exchange names, and all of the jurors descend the courthouse steps to return to their individual lives.[11]

Cast of characters[edit]

Juror # Character Actor Order that juror votes 'not guilty'
1/Mr. Foreman The jury foreman, somewhat preoccupied with his duties and never gives any reason for changing his vote; proves to be helpful to others. An assistant high school football coach. Balsam, MartinMartin Balsam 9th
2 A meek and unpretentious bank worker who is at first dominated by others, but finds his voice later in the story. Fiedler, JohnJohn Fiedler 5th
3 The antagonist, a businessman and distraught father, opinionated, disrespectful, and stubborn with a temper. Cobb, Lee J.Lee J. Cobb 12th
4 A rational, unflappable, self-assured and analytical stock broker who is concerned only with the facts, and avoids any small talk. Marshall, E. G.E. G. Marshall 11th
5 A man who grew up in a violent slum, a Baltimore Orioles fan. A paramedic. Klugman, JackJack Klugman 3rd
6 A house painter, tough but principled and respectful. Binns, EdwardEdward Binns 6th
7 A salesman, sports fan, superficial and indifferent to the deliberations. Warden, JackJack Warden 7th
8 An architect, the first dissenter and protagonist. Fonda, HenryHenry Fonda 1st
9 A wise and observant elderly preacher. The co-protagonist Sweeney, JosephJoseph Sweeney 2nd
10 A garage owner; a pushy and loudmouthed bigot. Begley, EdEd Begley 10th
11 A European watchmaker and naturalized American citizen. Very polite and makes wordy contributions. Voskovec, GeorgeGeorge Voskovec 4th
12 A wisecracking, indecisive advertising executive. Webber, RobertRobert Webber 8th

Uncredited

Production[edit]

Reginald Rose's screenplay for 12 Angry Men was initially produced for television (starring Robert Cummings as Juror 8), and was broadcast live on the CBS program Studio One in September 1954. A complete kinescope of that performance, which had been missing for years and was feared lost, was discovered in 2003. It was staged at Chelsea Studios in New York City.[12]

The success of the television production resulted in a film adaptation. Sidney Lumet, whose prior directorial credits included dramas for television productions such as The Alcoa Hour and Studio One, was recruited by Henry Fonda and Rose to direct. 12 Angry Men was Lumet's first feature film, and for Fonda and Rose, who co-produced the film, it was their first and only role as film producers. Fonda later stated that he would never again produce a film.

The filming was completed after a short but rigorous rehearsal schedule in less than three weeks on a tight budget of $340,000, or approximately $2.9 million (in 2014) when adjusted for inflation.

At the beginning of the film, the cameras are positioned above eye level and mounted with wide-angle lenses to give the appearance of greater depth between subjects, but as the film progresses the focal length of the lenses is gradually increased. By the end of the film, nearly everyone is shown in closeup using telephoto lenses from a lower angle, which decreases or "shortens" depth of field. Lumet, who began his career as a director of photography, stated that his intention in using these techniques with cinematographer Boris Kaufman was to create a nearly palpable claustrophobia.[13]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

On its first release, 12 Angry Men received critical acclaim. A. H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote "It makes for taut, absorbing, and compelling drama that reaches far beyond the close confines of its jury room setting." His observation of the twelve men was that "their dramas are powerful and provocative enough to keep a viewer spellbound."[14] However, the film was a financial disaster.[15][16] The advent of color and widescreen productions resulted in a disappointing box office performance.[15] It wasn't until its first airing on television that the movie finally found its audience.[17]

Legacy[edit]

The film is today viewed as a classic, highly regarded from both a critical and popular viewpoint: Roger Ebert listed it as one of his "Great Movies".[18] The American Film Institute named Juror 8, played by Henry Fonda, 28th in a list of the 50 greatest movie heroes of the 20th century. AFI also named 12 Angry Men the 42nd most inspiring film, the 88th most heart-pounding film and the 87th best film of the past hundred years. The film was also nominated for the 100 movies list in 1998.[19] In June 2008, it revealed AFI's 10 Top 10—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. 12 Angry Men was acknowledged as the second best film in the courtroom drama genre.[citation needed] The film is ranked #8 on the IMDb top 250. As of January 2011, the film holds a 100% approval rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[20] In 2011, the film was the second most screened film in secondary schools in the United Kingdom.[21] In the 54 Best Legal Films of all-time,[22] 12 Angry Men received 11 of a possible 15 votes.[23]

American Film Institute lists:

Awards[edit]

The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing of Adapted Screenplay. It lost to the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai in all three categories. At the 7th Berlin International Film Festival, the film won the Golden Bear Award.[24] It won the prestigious[peacock term] Grand Prix of the Belgian Film Critics Association.[citation needed]

Cultural influences[edit]

Speaking at a screening of the film during the 2010 Fordham University Law School Film festival, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that seeing 12 Angry Men while she was in college influenced her decision to pursue a career in law. She was particularly inspired by immigrant Juror 11's monologue on his reverence for the American justice system. She also told the audience of law students that, as a lower-court judge, she would sometimes instruct juries to not follow the film's example, because most of the jurors' conclusions are based on speculation, not fact.[25] Sotomayor noted that events such as Juror 8 entering a similar knife into the proceeding, doing outside research into the case matter in the first place, and ultimately the jury as a whole making broad, wide ranging assumptions far beyond the scope of reasonable doubt (such as the inferences regarding the "Old Woman" wearing glasses) would never be allowed to occur in a real life jury situation, and would in fact have yielded a mistrial[26] (assuming, of course, that applicable law permitted the content of jury deliberations to be revealed).

The movie has also had an impact beyond the United States. A 1991 homage by Kōki Mitani, 12 Nin no Yasashii Nihonjin: 12 Gentle Japanese, posits a Japan with a jury system and features a group of "normal" Japanese people grappling with their responsibility in the face of Japanese cultural norms.

Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov also made a 2007 adaptation, 12.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Box Office Information for 12 Angry Men. The Numbers. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  2. ^ Anita Ekberg Chosen for 'Mimi' Role Louella Parsons:. The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) [Washington, D.C] 08 Apr 1957: A18.
  3. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
  4. ^ Variety film review; February 27, 1957, p. 6.
  5. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; March 2, 1957, page 35.
  6. ^ a b "National Film Registry". National Film Registry (National Film Preservation Board, Library of Congress). September 12, 2011. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  7. ^ "12 Angry Men (1957) – Memorable quotes". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "12 Angry Men (1957) – Memorable quotes". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "12 Angry Men (1957) – Memorable quotes". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 22 July 2013. 
  10. ^ "12 Angry Men (1957) – Memorable quotes". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  11. ^ "12 Angry Men (1957)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 29 August 2012. 
  12. ^ New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York – Richard Alleman – Broadway (February 1, 2005) ISBN 978-0-7679-1634-9
  13. ^ Evolution of TWELVE ANGRY MEN, Webarchive
  14. ^ Weiler, A.H. (April 15, 1957). "Twelve Angry Men (1957) Movie Review". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b 12 Angry Men Filmsite Movie Review. AMC FilmSite. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  16. ^ 12 Angry Men at AllMovie. Rovi. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  17. ^ Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Making 12 Angry Men Featurette on Collector's Edition DVD
  18. ^ "12 Angry Men Movie Reviews, Pictures". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 13, 2010. Retrieved August 17, 2010. 
  19. ^ http://www.afi.com/Docs/100Years/movies400.pdf
  20. ^ "12 Angry Men Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved August 6, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Top movies for schools revealed". BBC News. December 13, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2012. 
  22. ^ http://www.oklahomalegalgroup.com/oklahoma-criminal-defense/best-legal-movies-of-all-time
  23. ^ http://www.oklahomalegalgroup.com/bestlegalmovies
  24. ^ "7th Berlin International Film Festival: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved December 28, 2009. 
  25. ^ Semple, Kirk (October 18, 2010), "The Movie That Made a Supreme Court Justice", The New York Times, retrieved October 18, 2010 
  26. ^ "Jury Admonitions In Preliminary Instructions (Revised May 5, 2009)1" (PDF). Retrieved June 23, 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Making Movies, by Sidney Lumet. (c) 1995, ISBN 978-0-679-75660-6
  • Ellsworth, Phoebe C. (2003). "One Inspiring Jury [Review of ‘Twelve Angry Men’]". Michigan Law Review 101 (6): 1387–1407. JSTOR 3595316.  In depth analysis compared with research on actual jury behaviour.
  • The New York Times, April 15, 1957, "12 Angry Men", review by A. H. Weiler
  • Readings on Twelve Angry Men, by Russ Munyan, Greenhaven Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-7377-0313-9
  • Chandler, David. “The Transmission model of communication” Communication as Perspective Theory. Sage publications. Ohio University, 2005.
  • Lanham, Richard. “Introduction: The Domain of Style analyzing prose”. (New York, NY: Continuum, 2003)

External links[edit]