12 Angry Men (1957 film)
|12 Angry Men|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sidney Lumet|
|Screenplay by||Reginald Rose|
|Story by||Reginald Rose|
|Music by||Kenyon Hopkins|
|Edited by||Carl Lerner|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$1,000,000 (rentals)|
12 Angry Men is a 1957 American drama film adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. Written and co-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: out of 96 minutes of run time, only three minutes take place outside of the jury room.
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 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". The film was selected as the second-best courtroom drama ever by the American Film Institute during their AFI's 10 Top 10 list and is the highest courtroom drama on Rotten Tomatoes's Top 100 Movies of All Times.
In a New York City courthouse a jury commences deliberating the case of an 18-year-old boy from a slum, on trial for allegedly stabbing his father to death. If there is any reasonable doubt they are to return a verdict of not guilty. If found guilty, the boy will receive a death sentence.
In a preliminary vote, all jurors vote "guilty" except Juror 8 (Henry Fonda), who argues that the boy deserves some deliberation. This irritates some of the other jurors, who are impatient for a quick deliberation.
Juror 8 questions the accuracy and reliability of the only two witnesses, and the prosecution's claim that the murder weapon, a common switchblade, was "rare." Juror 8 argues that reasonable doubt exists, and that he therefore cannot vote "guilty," but concedes that he has merely hung the jury.
Juror 8 suggests a secret ballot, from which he will abstain, and agrees to change his vote if the others still agree. A new "not guilty" vote appears. An angry Juror 3 (Lee J. Cobb) accuses Juror 5, who grew up in a slum, of personal bias, but Juror 9 (Joseph Sweeney) reveals it was he that switched, agreeing there should be some discussion.
Juror 8 argues that the noise of a passing train would have obscured the verbal threat that one witness claimed to have heard the boy make to his father, and notes that such threats are also rarely sincere. Juror 5 then changes his vote. Juror 11 (George Voskovec) also changes his vote, believing the boy would not likely have tried to retrieve the murder weapon from the scene if it had been cleaned of fingerprints.
Jurors 5, 6 and 8 question the witness' claim to have seen the defendant fleeing 15 seconds after hearing the father's body hit the floor, since he was physically incapable of reaching an appropriate vantage point in time. Juror 8 states that he merely assumed it was the defendant running. An angry Juror 3 shouts that they are losing their chance to "burn" the boy. Juror 8 accuses him of being a sadist, not interested in the facts of the case. Juror 3 shouts "I'll kill him!" and lunges at Juror 8, but is held back. Juror 8 says, "You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?" proving his earlier point. Jurors 2 (John Fiedler) and 6 (Edward Binns) then change their votes, tying the vote at 6–6.
Juror 4 (E. G. Marshall) doubts the boy's alibi, because he could not recall it in much detail. Juror 8 tests how well Juror 4 remembers previous days, which he does, with difficulty. Juror 8 asserts that the boy would have been under significant emotional stress when questioned, and his recall would have been significantly worse
Several jurors then change their votes when Juror 5 relates growing up amidst knife fights in his neighborhood, and states that the boy would not have stabbed his father in a downwards motion, as the prosecution asserts, since his father was significantly taller.
Increasingly impatient, Juror 7 changes his vote to hasten the deliberation, which earns him the ire of other jurors for voting frivolously. Juror 7 eventually admits that he now truly believes the defendant is innocent.
Jurors 12 (Robert Webber) and 1 (Martin Balsam) then change their votes, leaving only three dissenters: Jurors 4, 10, and 3. Juror 10 then vents a torrent of condemnation of slum-born people. All but one of the jurors successively turn their backs on him as his diatribe wanes, leaving only Juror 4, who tells him not to speak again.
When the remaining "guilty" voters are pressed to explain themselves, Juror 4 notes the woman who saw the murder from her bedroom window across the street. Juror 12 then reverts his vote, making the vote 8–4.
Juror 9, seeing Juror 4 rub his nose (which is being irritated by his glasses), realizes that the woman who allegedly saw the murder had impressions in the sides of her nose, indicating that she wore glasses, but did not wear them in court. Juror 9 says that she would not have been wearing them while trying to sleep, and points out that on her own evidence the attack happened so swiftly that she wouldn't have had time to put them on. Jurors 12, 10 and 4 then change their vote to "not guilty", leaving only Juror 3.
Juror 3 gives a long and increasingly tortured string of arguments, building on earlier remarks that his relationship with his own son is deeply strained, and a resulting wish to find the defendant guilty. He finally breaks down and tears up a photo of him and his son, 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.
The twelve jurors in the order in which they are referred to. They are seated in this order in the movie.
- Martin Balsam as 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 American football coach. He is the ninth to ultimately vote "not guilty".
- John Fiedler as a meek and unpretentious bank worker who is at first dominated by others, but as the climax builds up, so does his courage. He is the fifth to ultimately vote "not guilty".
- Lee J. Cobb as a businessman and distraught father, opinionated, disrespectful, and stubborn with a temper. The main antagonist and most passionate advocate of a guilty verdict throughout the film, he is the last to vote "not guilty".
- E. G. Marshall as a rational, unflappable, self-assured and analytical stock broker who is concerned only with the facts. He is the eleventh to ultimately vote "not guilty".
- Jack Klugman as a man who grew up in a violent slum, does not take kindly to insults about his upbringing. He is the third to ultimately vote "not guilty".
- Edward Binns as a house painter, tough but principled and respectful. He is the sixth to ultimately vote "not guilty".
- Jack Warden as a salesman and New York Yankees fan, who is so eager to leave in order to attend a baseball game, that he becomes impatient with the deliberations, despite the fact that the defendant's life is at stake. He is the seventh to ultimately vote "not guilty".
- Henry Fonda as an architect and the first to vote "not guilty". At the end of the film he reveals to Juror 9 that his name to be Davis, one of only two jurors to reveal their name.
- Joseph Sweeney as a wise and observant retiree. He is the second to vote "not guilty". At the end of the film he reveals to Juror 8 that his name to be McCardle, one of only two jurors to reveal their name.
- Ed Begley as a garage owner; a pushy and loudmouthed bigot. He is the tenth to ultimately vote "not guilty".
- George Voskovec as a European watchmaker and naturalized American citizen. He is polite and makes a point of speaking with proper English grammar. He is the fourth to ultimately vote "not guilty".
- Robert Webber as a wisecracking, indecisive advertising executive. He is the only Juror to change his vote more than once during deliberations, initially voting "guilty", changing three times until he is the eighth to ultimately vote "not guilty".
- Rudy Bond as the judge
- James Kelly as the guard
- Billy Nelson as the court clerk
- John Savoca as the accused
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.
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 (equivalent to $2,865,000 in 2015).
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.
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." However, the film was a box office disappointment. The advent of color and widescreen productions may have contributed disappointing box office performance. It was not until its first airing on television that the movie finally found its audience.
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". 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. As of January 2015, the film holds a 100% approval rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. In 2011, the film was the second most screened film in secondary schools in the United Kingdom.
American Film Institute lists:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 88
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains: Juror No. 8 – No. 28 Hero
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – No. 42
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – No. 87
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – No. 2 Courtroom Drama
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.
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. 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 (assuming, of course, that applicable law permitted the content of jury deliberations to be revealed).
The movie has had a number of adaptations. 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 normal Japanese people grappling with their responsibility in the face of Japanese cultural norms. The 1987 Indian film Ek Ruka Hua Faisla ("a pending decision") is a remake of the film, with an almost identical storyline. Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov also made a 2007 adaptation, 12. A 2015 Chinese adaptation, 12 Citizens, follows the plot of the original 1957 American movie while including characters reflecting contemporary Beijing society, including a cab driver, guard, businessman, policeman, a retiree persecuted in a 1950s' political movement, and others. The detective drama television show Veronica Mars, which like the film includes a theme of class issues, featured an 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. In 1997, a television remake of the film under the same title was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
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". The sketch revolves around the twelve jurors' deliberations over whether comedian and actress Amy Schumer is attractive enough to be on television. John Hawkes stars as Juror No. 8, Jeff Goldblum as Juror No. 1, Paul Giamatti as Juror No. 10, Vincent Kartheiser as Juror No. 4 and Dennis Quaid as the weary judge. The episode received widespread praise for its humor, dissection of cultural standards of beauty, and emulation of the visual style and tone of the original. BBC Radio comedy Hancock's Half Hour, starring Tony Hancock and Sid James, written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, broadcast a half-hour parody on October 16, 1959, also known as Twelve Angry Men. The Flintstones story "Disorder in the Court" and The Simpsons story "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" similarly feature the respective patriarchs of both families playing holdout jurors. The American sitcom Happy Days also features a similar story when Howard Cunningham and Fonzie get picked for a jury, with Fonzie being the lone hold-out for innocence and swaying the rest of the jury in the season 5 episode "Fonzie for the Defense".
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