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A day’s worth of deliberations is illuminated by a pacing that is deceptively quick and, improbably, completely riveting.Nothing much seems to be happening—more sweat dripping, more heads swelling with doubt—and yet everything is happening.
One can only imagine the pitch to a Hollywood executive: “Twelve angry, sweaty, impatient men stand in judgment of a teenage boy accused of killing his father.
It’s summer, and the men are holed up in a jury room without even a fan.
Without anyone’s necessarily realizing it at the time, 12 Angry Men was among the first films to signal a shift away from the influence and sensibility of the Hollywood studio system. Cobb, Jack Klugman, and Jack Warden—known, if at all, for their New York stage and television work.
The movie was shot in New York and, with the exception of its star, Henry Fonda, was cast with actors, the eleven other jurors—an all-star roster of character actors, including E. This was typical of the so-called New York School of filmmaking—with its focus on social issues, urban settings, and moral decay—which came to define an era of social consciousness and realism in cinema, stretching from On the Waterfront (1954) to Midnight Cowboy (1969) and into the 1970s.
He was nominated for five Oscars before receiving one for lifetime achievement in 2005.
And yet in the minds of many, 12 Angry Men is the film that defined his career, one that so memorably, if not obsessively, focused on social justice and moral inquiry.All the impassioned turmoil in the film somehow gave it a long life.While the jury’s anger dissipates, the deep emotion kept on humming.The ease of adaptation didn’t spell commercial success, however.12 Angry Men was no blockbuster, despite the fact that it featured Fonda.And the movie is shot completely in black and white.” Movie audiences in 1957 expected to see gunfights in the mountainous Wild West or leading men and women falling in love in exotic places—widescreen and in Technicolor.What’s cinematic about twelve ordinary men, beleaguered by prejudice and moral conflict, nearly suffocating in a drab jury room for the entire length of a movie? Though well received critically—with three Academy Award nominations, for best picture, best director, and best adapted screenplay, for Reginald Rose, from his own teleplay (The Bridge on the River Kwai won in all three categories)—it took years for 12 Angry Men to find its audience and emerge as a classic, one of the treasured films in Hollywood history.He recognizes the moral duty to deliberate, and slowly shatters the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses, one by one.The jury is transformed as opinions shift, factions emerge, and prejudices are revealed.He marshals the facts in support of reasonable doubt, pushing back against the fury of the mob.A mild-mannered architect, he proves himself to be a better lawyer than the court-appointed defense counsel.