12 Angry Men (1957 film)

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12 Angry Men
Poster depicting 12 jurors and an enlarged switchknife
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySidney Lumet
Screenplay byReginald Rose
Based onTwelve Angry Men
1954 teleplay on Studio One
by Reginald Rose
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyBoris Kaufman
Edited byCarl Lerner
Music byKenyon Hopkins
Production
company
Orion-Nova Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$337,000[3][4]
Box office$2 million (rentals)[5]

12 Angry Men is a 1957 American legal drama film directed by Sidney Lumet, adapted from a 1954 teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose.[6][7] The film tells the story of a jury of 12 men as they deliberate the conviction or acquittal of a teenager charged with murder on the basis of reasonable doubt; disagreement and conflict among them force the jurors to question their morals and values. It stars Henry Fonda (who also produced the film with Reginald Rose), Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E. G. Marshall, and Jack Warden.

12 Angry Men received acclaim from critics, despite a lukewarm box office performance. At the 30th Academy Awards, it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. It is regarded by many as one of the greatest films ever made. In 2007, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[8] Additionally, it was selected as the second-best courtroom drama ever (after 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird) by the American Film Institute for their AFI's 10 Top 10 list.[9]

Plot[edit]

On a hot summer day, a jury in the New York County Courthouse prepares to deliberate the case of an impoverished 18-year-old boy accused of killing his abusive father. The judge says that if there is any reasonable doubt, the jurors must return a verdict of "not guilty". If the defendant is found guilty, he will receive a mandatory death sentence via the electric chair. The verdict must be unanimous.

At first, the case seems clear. A neighbor testified to witnessing the defendant stab his father, from her window, through the windows of a passing elevated train. Another neighbor testified that he heard the defendant threaten to kill his father, and the father's body hitting the floor; then, as he ran to his door, he saw the defendant running down the stairs. The boy had recently purchased a switchblade of the same type that was found, wiped of fingerprints, at the murder scene, but claimed he lost it.

In a preliminary vote, all jurors vote "guilty" except Juror 8, who believes that there should be some discussion before the verdict is made. He says he cannot vote "guilty" because reasonable doubt exists. When his first few arguments seemingly fail to convince any of the other jurors, Juror 8 suggests a secret ballot, from which he will abstain; if all the other jurors still vote guilty, he will acquiesce. The ballot reveals one "not guilty" vote. Juror 9 reveals that he changed his vote; he respects Juror 8's motives, and agrees there should be more discussion.

Juror 8 argues that the noise of the passing train would have obscured everything the second witness claimed to have overheard. Juror 5 and Juror 11 change their votes. Jurors 5, 6, and 8 further question the second witness's story, and question whether the death threat was figurative speech. After looking at a diagram of the witness's apartment and conducting an experiment, the jurors determine that it is impossible the disabled witness could have made it to the door in time. Juror 3, infuriated, argues with and tries to attack Juror 8, yelling a death threat; 5, 6 and 7 physically restrain 3. Jurors 2 and 6 change their votes; the jury is now evenly split.

Juror 4 doubts the defendant's alibi based on the boy's inability to recall specific details. Juror 8 tests Juror 4's own memory to make a point. Jurors 2 and 5 point out the unlikelihood the father's stab wound was angled downwards, as the boy was shorter than his father. Juror 7 changes his vote out of impatience rather than conviction, angering Juror 11. After another vote, Jurors 12 and 1 also change sides, leaving only three "guilty" votes.

Juror 10 goes on a bigoted rant, causing Juror 4 to forbid him to speak for the remainder of the deliberation. When Juror 4 is pressed as to why he still maintains a guilty vote, he declares that the woman who saw the killing from across the street stands as solid evidence. Juror 12 reverts to a guilty vote.

After watching Juror 4 remove his spectacles and rub the impressions they made on his nose, Juror 9 realizes that the first witness was constantly rubbing similar impressions on her own nose, indicating that she also was a habitual glasses wearer, even though she chose not to wear her glasses in court. Juror 8 remarks that the witness, who was trying to sleep when she saw the killing, would not have had glasses on or the time to put them on, making her story questionable. Jurors 12, 10 and 4 all change their vote, leaving Juror 3 as the sole dissenter.

Juror 3 vehemently and desperately tries to convince the others of his argument, but realizes that his strained relationship with his own son makes him wish the defendant guilty. He breaks down in tears and changes his vote to "not guilty". As the others leave, Juror 8 graciously helps Juror 3 put on his coat. The defendant is acquitted off-screen, and the jurors leave the courthouse. Jurors 8 and 9 reveal their surnames to each other (Davis and McCardle, respectively) before parting.

Cast[edit]

The film's trailer
  • Martin Balsam as Juror 1, the jury foreman; a calm and methodical assistant high school football coach.
  • John Fiedler as Juror 2, a meek and unpretentious bank teller who is easily flustered, but eventually stands up for himself.
  • Lee J. Cobb as Juror 3, a hot-tempered owner of a courier business who is estranged from his son; the most passionate advocate of a "guilty" verdict.
  • E. G. Marshall as Juror 4, an unflappable, conscientious, and analytical stockbroker who is concerned only with facts, not opinions.
  • Jack Klugman as Juror 5, a Baltimore Orioles fan who grew up in a violent slum, and is sensitive to bigotry towards "slum kids".
  • Edward Binns as Juror 6, a tough but principled and courteous house painter who objects to others, especially the elderly, being verbally abused.
  • Jack Warden as Juror 7, a wisecracking salesman who is more concerned about the Yankees game he is missing than the case.
  • Henry Fonda as Juror 8 (Davis), a humane, justice-seeking architect and father of three; initially, the only one to question the evidence and vote "not guilty".
  • Joseph Sweeney as Juror 9 (McCardle), a thoughtful and intelligent elderly man who is highly observant of the witnesses' behaviors and their possible motivations.
  • Ed Begley as Juror 10, a pushy, loud-mouthed garage owner who is bigoted toward slum-life people.
  • George Voskovec as Juror 11, a polite European watchmaker and naturalized American citizen who demonstrates strong respect for democratic values such as due process.
  • Robert Webber as Juror 12, an indecisive and easily distracted advertising executive.
  • Rudy Bond as the Judge
  • Tom Gorman as the Stenographer
  • James Kelly as the Bailiff
  • Billy Nelson as the Court clerk
  • John Savoca as the Defendant
  • Walter Stocker as Man waiting for elevator

Themes[edit]

Professor of Law Emeritus at UCLA School of Law Michael Asimow referred to the film as a "tribute to a common man holding out against lynch mob mentality".[10] Gavin Smith of Film Comment called the film "a definitive rebuttal to the lynch mob hysteria of the McCarthy era".[11]

Business academic Phil Rosenzweig called the jury in 12 Angry Men being made up entirely of white men "especially important", writing: "Many of the twelve would have looked around the room, and, seeing other white men, assumed that they had much in common and should be able to reach a verdict without difficulty. As they deliberate, however, fault lines begin to appear—by age, by education, by national origin, by socioeconomic level, by values, and by temperament."[12]

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.[13]

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 the only producing credit for Fonda and Rose (under the production company, Orion-Nova Productions).[3] Fonda later stated that he would never again produce a film.

The film was shot in New York and completed after a short but rigorous rehearsal schedule, in less than three weeks, on a budget of $337,000 (equivalent to $3,511,000 in 2022). Rose and Fonda took salary deferrals.[3]

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 stated that his intention in using these techniques with cinematographer Boris Kaufman was to create a nearly palpable claustrophobia.[14]

Reception[edit]

Initial 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."[15] Variety called it an "absorbing drama" with acting that was "perhaps the best seen recently in any single film",[16] Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times declared it a "tour de force in movie making",[17] The Monthly Film Bulletin deemed it "a compelling and outstandingly well-handled drama",[18] and John McCarten of The New Yorker called it "a fairly substantial addition to the celluloid landscape".[19]

The film was a box office disappointment in the US[20][21] but did better internationally.[3] The advent of color and widescreen productions may have contributed to its disappointing box office performance.[20] It was not until its first airing on television that the movie finally found its audience.[22]

Legacy[edit]

The film is viewed as a classic, highly regarded from both a critical and popular viewpoint: Roger Ebert listed it as one of his "Great Movies".[23] 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.[24] In 2011, the film was one of the top 20 most screened films in secondary schools in the United Kingdom.[25] As of March 2023, the film holds a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 61 reviews, with a weighted average of 9.10/10. The site's consensus reads: "Sidney Lumet's feature debut is a superbly written, dramatically effective courtroom thriller that rightfully stands as a modern classic".[26]

American Film Institute lists:

Awards[edit]

The film was selected as the second-best courtroom drama ever by the American Film Institute during their AFI's 10 Top 10 list, just after To Kill a Mockingbird,[9] and is the highest rated courtroom drama on Rotten Tomatoes' Top 100 Movies of All Time.[27]

Award ceremony Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards March 26, 1958 Best Picture Henry Fonda and Reginald Rose Nominated [28]
Best Director Sidney Lumet Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Reginald Rose Nominated
British Academy Film Awards March 6, 1958 Best Film 12 Angry Men Nominated [29]
Best Foreign Actor Henry Fonda Won
Berlin International Film Festival July 2, 1957 Golden Bear Sidney Lumet Won [30]
Blue Ribbon Awards February 5, 1960 Best Foreign Film Won [31]
Edgar Awards 1958 Best Motion Picture Reginald Rose Won [32]
Étoiles de cristal April 1958 Prix International 12 Angry Men Won [33]
Golden Globe Awards February 22, 1958 Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated [34]
Best Director Sidney Lumet Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Henry Fonda Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Lee J. Cobb Nominated
National Board of Review December 1957 Top Ten Films 12 Angry Men Won [35]
Writers Guild of America Awards 1958 Best Written Drama Reginald Rose Won [36]

Legal analyses[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.[37] Sotomayor noted that events such as Juror 8 entering a similar knife into the proceeding; performing 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 woman wearing glasses) would not be allowed in a real-life jury situation, and would in fact have yielded a mistrial[38] (assuming, of course, that applicable law permitted the content of jury deliberations to be revealed).

In 2007, Michael Asimow argued that the jury in 12 Angry Men reached an incorrect verdict, writing that the amount of circumstantial evidence against the defendant should have been enough to convict him, even if the testimony of the two eyewitnesses was disregarded.[10]

In 2012, Mike D'Angelo of The A.V. Club also questioned the verdict of the jury in the film, writing: "What ensures The Kid's guilt for practical purposes, [...] is the sheer improbability that all the evidence is erroneous. You'd have to be the jurisprudential inverse of a national lottery winner to face so many apparently damning coincidences and misidentifications. Or you'd have to be framed, which is what Johnnie Cochran was ultimately forced to argue—not just because of the DNA evidence, but because there's no other plausible explanation for why every single detail points to O. J. Simpson's guilt. But there's no reason offered in 12 Angry Men for why, say, the police would be planting switchblades."[39]

Adaptations and parodies[edit]

There have been a number of adaptations of 12 Angry Men owing to its popularity and legacy.

A 1963 German TV production Die zwölf Geschworenen was directed by Günter Gräwert, and a 1973 Spanish production, Doce hombres sin piedad, was made for TV 22 years before Spain allowed jury trials, while a 1991 homage by Kōki Mitani, Juninin no Yasashii Nihonjin ("12 gentle Japanese"), posits a Japan with a jury system and features a group of Japanese people grappling with their responsibility in the face of Japanese cultural norms.

A 1970 episode of The Odd Couple television series (also co-starring Jack Klugman) entitled "The Jury Story" is reminiscent of 12 Angry Men, as it tells in a flashback the circumstances behind the meeting of roommates Oscar Madison and Felix Unger. Klugman (Madison) plays a juror on a panel during a supposedly open-and-shut case. Co-star Tony Randall (Unger) portrays the lone holdout who votes not guilty, eventually convincing the other eleven jurors.

A 1978 episode of Happy Days entitled "Fonzie for the Defense" contains a situation similar to 12 Angry Men when Howard Cunningham and Fonzie find themselves the only members of the jury who are not ready to convict the defendant just because he rides a motorcycle.

A 1986 episode of Murder, She Wrote entitled "Trial by Error" pays tribute to 12 Angry Men. The major twists are originally 10 jurors vote for "not guilty" due to self defense, Jessica votes "unsure" and another juror votes "guilty". Jessica and other jurors recall the evidence, as more and more jurors switch from "not guilty due to self defense" and come to a realization as to what actually occurred the night of the murder.

The 1987 Hindi film Ek Ruka Hua Faisla ("a pending decision") and 2012 Kannada film Dashamukha ("ten faces") are Indian remakes of the film, with almost identical storylines.

Season 1, episode 17a of the Nickelodeon cartoon Hey Arnold! (1996) is a parody of 12 Angry Men. In the episode, titled "False Alarm", Eugene is suspected and accused of pulling the fire alarm, and a student jury is assembled to vote on the verdict, but Arnold is the only one who believes Eugene is innocent. He has to convince the rest of his classmates that Eugene is not guilty of the crime. In this adaptation, it is proven that Eugene is not the criminal. In fact, a member of the student "jury" is the actual perpetrator.

In 1997, a television remake of the film under the same title was directed by William Friedkin and produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In the newer version, the judge is a woman and four of the jurors are black, but the overall plot remains intact. Modernizations include not smoking in the jury room, changes in references to pop culture and sports figures and income, references to execution by lethal injection as opposed to the electric chair, more race-related dialogue, and casual profanity.

The detective drama television show Veronica Mars, which like the film includes the theme of class issues, featured a 2005 episode, "One Angry Veronica", in which the title character is selected for jury duty. The episode flips the film's format and depicts one holdout convincing the jury to convict the privileged defendants of assault against a less well-off victim, despite their lawyers initially convincing 11 jury members of a not guilty verdict.

Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov also made a 2007 adaptation, 12, featuring a Chechen teen on trial in Moscow.

A 2015 Chinese adaptation, 12 Citizens, follows the plot of the original 1957 American film, while including characters reflecting contemporary Beijing society, including a cab driver, guard, businessman, policeman, a retiree persecuted in a 1950s political movement, and others.[40]

Juror 8 is a 2019 South Korean adaptation, directed by Hong Seung-wan.

The film has also been subject to parody. In 2015, the Comedy Central TV series Inside Amy Schumer aired a half-hour parody of the film titled "12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer".[41][42] The film was also parodied in the BBC Television comedy Hancock's Half Hour, starring Tony Hancock and Sid James, and written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, in the episode broadcast on October 16, 1959. Family Guy paid tribute to the film with its Season 11 episode titled "12 and a Half Angry Men", and King of the Hill acknowledged the film with their parody "Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men" in season 3.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "12 Angry Men – Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Archived from the original on July 9, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2018.
  2. ^ "New Acting Trio Gains Prominence". Los Angeles Times. April 9, 1957. p. 23.
  3. ^ a b c d Hollinger, Hy (December 24, 1958). "Telecast and Theatre Film, Looks As If '12 Angry Men' May Reap Most Dough As Legit Play". Variety. p. 5. Retrieved May 21, 2019 – via archive.org.
  4. ^ Parsons, Louella, "Anita Ekberg Chosen for 'Mimi' Role", The Washington Post and Times-Herald, Washington, D.C., April 8, 1957: A18.
  5. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, January 8, 1958: 30
  6. ^ Hollinger, Hy (February 27, 1957). "Film reviews: 12 Angry Men". Variety. p. 6. Retrieved June 7, 2019 – via archive.org.
  7. ^ "12 Angry Men". Harrison's Reports. March 2, 1957. p. 35. Retrieved June 7, 2019 – via archive.org.
  8. ^ "Librarian of Congress Announces National Film Registry Selections for 2007". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Archived from the original on November 21, 2017. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  9. ^ a b "AFI's 10 Top 10 Courtroom Drama". American Film Institute. June 17, 2008. Archived from the original on June 19, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  10. ^ a b Asimow, Michael (April 2007). "12 Angry Men: A Revisionist View". Chicago-Kent College of Law Review. 82 (2): 711–716. ISSN 0009-3599. Archived from the original on September 20, 2022. Retrieved April 14, 2022.
  11. ^ Rapf, Joanna E. (2005). Sidney Lumet: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 131. ISBN 978-1578067244.
  12. ^ Rosenzweig, Phil (2021). Reginald Rose and the Journey of 12 Angry Men. Empire State Editions. ISBN 978-0823297740.
  13. ^ Alleman, Richard (February 1, 2005). New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York. Broadway Books. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-7679-1634-9.
  14. ^ "Evolution of Twelve Angry Men". Playhouse Square. Archived from the original on January 6, 2009. Retrieved September 11, 2008.
  15. ^ Weiler, A.H. (April 15, 1957). "Twelve Angry Men (1957) Movie Review". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 30, 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  16. ^ "12 Angry Men". Variety. February 27, 1957. p. 6.
  17. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (April 11, 1957). "Audience Sweats It Out—Literally—With Jury". Los Angeles Times. Part II, p. 13.
  18. ^ "Twelve Angry Men". The Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 24, no. 281. June 1957. p. 68.
  19. ^ McCarten, John (April 27, 1957). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. p. 66.
  20. ^ a b 12 Angry Men Filmsite Movie Review. Archived May 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine AMC FilmSite. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  21. ^ 12 Angry Men at AllMovie. Archived March 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Rovi. Retrieved April 14, 2012.
  22. ^ Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Making 12 Angry Men featurette on Collector's Edition DVD
  23. ^ "12 Angry Men Movie Reviews, Pictures". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on September 13, 2010. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
  24. ^ "America's Greatest Movies" (PDF). American Film Institute. 2002. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 13, 2011. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  25. ^ "Top movies for schools revealed". BBC News. December 13, 2011. Archived from the original on January 9, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  26. ^ "12 Angry Men Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on February 28, 2009. Retrieved September 20, 2021.
  27. ^ "Top 100 Movies of All Time". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on July 19, 2014. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  28. ^ "The 30th Academy Awards | 1958". Oscars.org. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on September 12, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  29. ^ "Film Awards in 1958 | BAFTA Awards". bafta.org. British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Archived from the original on July 4, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  30. ^ "Prize & Honours 1957". berlinale.de. Berlin International Film Festival. Archived from the original on August 20, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  31. ^ "中村錦之助を長門裕之が逆転 史上最年少で主演賞に" [Hiroyuki Nagato beats Kinnosuke Nakamura, he is the youngest person in history to win the Best Leading Actor Award]. Cinema Hochi (in Japanese). Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  32. ^ "Best Motion Picture Award Winners". theedgars.com. Mystery Writers of America. Archived from the original on April 21, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  33. ^ "French Film Academy Tabs 'Angry Men' Best". Variety. April 16, 1958. p. 8. Retrieved May 8, 2023 – via Archive.org.
  34. ^ "12 Angry Men". goldenglobes.com. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on April 11, 2021. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  35. ^ "NBR Awards for 1957". nbrmp.org. National Board of Review. Archived from the original on December 11, 2007. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  36. ^ "WGA Awards Winners 1949–95". wga.org. Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2021.
  37. ^ Semple, Kirk (October 18, 2010), "The Movie That Made a Supreme Court Justice", The New York Times, archived from the original on October 18, 2010, retrieved October 18, 2010
  38. ^ "Jury Admonitions In Preliminary Instructions (Revised May 5, 2009)1" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on May 28, 2010. Retrieved June 23, 2011.
  39. ^ D'Angelo, Mike (August 2, 2012). "Did 12 Angry Men get it wrong?". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on April 24, 2022. Retrieved April 24, 2022.
  40. ^ Young, Deborah (June 23, 2015). "'12 Citizens' Shanghai Review". Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  41. ^ Lyons, Margaret. "Behold Inside Amy Schumer's Dead-On 12 Angry Men". Vulture. Archived from the original on May 7, 2015. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  42. ^ Homes, Linda. "Amy Schumer Puts Her Own Looks On Trial". NPR. Archived from the original on May 8, 2015. Retrieved May 6, 2015.

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