12 Angry Men (1957 film)
12 Angry Men is a 1957 American courtroom drama film directed by Sidney Lumet, adapted from a teleplay of the same name by Reginald Rose. This courtroom drama tells the story of a jury of 12 men as they deliberate the conviction or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt, forcing the jurors to question their morals and values. In the United States, a verdict in most criminal trials by jury must be unanimous. The defendant is a 19-year-old male and the witnesses are the lady across the street and the old man.
|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||$2,000,000 (rentals)|
12 Angry Men explores many techniques of consensus-building and the difficulties encountered in the process among this group of men whose range of personalities adds to the intensity and conflict. It also explores the power one person has to elicit change. No names are used in the film; the jury members are identified by number until two members exchange names at the end. The film forces the characters and audience to evaluate their own self-image through observing the personality, experiences, and actions of the jurors. The film is notable for its almost exclusive use of one set. Only three minutes take place that are not set in the jury room.
In 2007, the film 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' Top 100 Movies of All Time.
In a New York County Courthouse, the judge is instructing a jury who are to deliberate the case of an 18-year-old male from a slum who is 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, he will receive a death sentence.
In a preliminary vote, all jurors vote "guilty" except Juror 8, who argues that the accused deserves some deliberation. This irritates some of the other jurors, who are impatient for a quick deliberation, especially Juror 7 who has tickets to the evening's Yankees game, and Juror 10 who demonstrates blatant prejudice against people from slums. Juror 8 questions the accuracy and reliability of the only two witnesses, and the prosecution's claim that the murder weapon, a common switchblade of which he possesses an identical copy, was "rare". Juror 8 argues that he cannot vote "guilty" because reasonable doubt exists.
Conceding that he has merely hung the jury, Juror 8 suggests a secret ballot, from which he will abstain. He states that if all others are still agreed, he will acquiesce to their decision. The ballot reveals one "not guilty" vote. Juror 3 accuses Juror 5, who grew up in a slum, of changing his vote out of sympathy towards slum children. However, Juror 9 reveals it was he that changed his vote, 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 accused tell his father: "I'm going to kill you". Juror 5 then changes his vote. Juror 11 also changes his vote, believing the defendant would not likely have tried to retrieve the murder weapon from the scene if it had been cleaned of fingerprints. Juror 8 also points out that people who say "I'm going to kill you" do not often literally mean it.
Jurors 5, 6 and 8 question the witness's 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, having once suffered a stroke. An angry Juror 3 shouts that they are "letting him slip through our fingers" and that "he's got to burn". Juror 8 accuses him of being a sadistic public avenger. Juror 3 then tries to attack Juror 8, shouting "I'll kill him!" but is restrained by Jurors 5, 6 and 7. Juror 8 then calmly replies "You don't really mean you'll kill me, do you?" proving his previous point. Jurors 2 and 6 then change their votes, tying the vote at 6–6. When a thunderstorm begins, it is likely that Juror 7's baseball game will be cancelled.
Juror 4 doubts the alibi of being at the movies, because the accused could not recall it in much detail. Juror 8 tests how well Juror 4 remembers previous days, which he does, with difficulty. Juror 2 questions the likelihood that the accused, who was almost a foot shorter than his father, could have inflicted the downward stab wound found in the body. Jurors 3 and 8 then conduct an experiment to see whether a shorter person could stab downwards on a taller person. The experiment proves the possibility, but Juror 5, drawing on his experience growing up in a slum, then steps up and demonstrates the correct way to hold and use a switchblade, revealing that anyone skilled with a switchblade (as the boy would be) would always stab underhanded at an upwards angle against an opponent who was taller than them, as the grip of stabbing downwards would be too awkward and the act of changing hands too time consuming.
Increasingly impatient, Juror 7 changes his vote to hasten the deliberation, which earns him the ire of other jurors (especially 11) for voting frivolously; still he insists, unconvincingly, that he actually thinks the defendant is not guilty. Jurors 12 and 1 then change their votes, leaving only three dissenters: Jurors 3, 4 and 10. Juror 10 then vents a torrent of condemnation of slum people, claiming they are no better than animals who kill for fun. Most of the others turn their backs to him, with Juror 4, the only one still facing him, telling him "sit down and don't open your mouth again". Juror 10 then goes and sits in the corner by himself. Juror 8 reminds the rest that personal prejudice can cloud judgments as they retake their seats. When the remaining "guilty" voters are pressed to explain themselves, Juror 4 states that, despite all the previous evidence, the woman from across the street who saw the killing still stands as solid evidence. 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 probably wears glasses, but did not wear them in court out of vanity. Other jurors, including Juror 4, confirm that they saw the same thing. Juror 8 adds 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, which is ultimately why he wants the accused to be guilty. He finally loses his temper and tears up a photograph of him and his son. Breaking down, sobbing, he mutters "not guilty", making the vote unanimous. As the jurors leave, Juror 8 helps the distraught Juror 3 with his coat. Outside, Jurors 8 (Davis) and 9 (McCardle) exchange names, and all of the jurors descend the courthouse steps to return to their individual lives.
- Martin Balsam as Juror 1, the jury foreman, an assistant high school American football coach
- John Fiedler as Juror 2, a meek and unpretentious bank worker who is at first dominated by others
- Lee J. Cobb as Juror 3, the main antagonist and most passionate advocate of a guilty verdict throughout the film, the owner of his own messenger service
- E. G. Marshall as Juror 4, a rational, unflappable, self-assured and analytical stock broker
- Jack Klugman as Juror 5, a man who grew up in a violent slum, and does not take kindly to insults about his upbringing
- Edward Binns as Juror 6, a tough but principled house painter
- Jack Warden as Juror 7, a wisecracking salesman and Yankees fan
- Henry Fonda as Davis, Juror 8; an architect who initially is the only one to vote "not guilty" and openly questions nearly all of the seemingly clear evidence presented against the defendant
- Joseph Sweeney as McCardle, Juror 9; an observant senior
- Ed Begley as Juror 10, a pushy, loud-mouthed, and bigoted garage owner
- George Voskovec as Juror 11, a European watchmaker and naturalized American citizen who demonstrates strong patriotism
- Robert Webber as Juror 12, an easily distracted, indecisive advertising executive
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 the only producing credit for Fonda and Rose. 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 $3,033,000 in 2018).
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.
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." Variety called it an "absorbing drama" with acting that was "perhaps the best seen recently in any single film," Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times declared it a "tour de force in movie making," The Monthly Film Bulletin deemed it "a compelling and outstandingly well handled drama," and John McCarten of The New Yorker called it "a fairly substantial addition to the celluloid landscape."
However, the film was a box office disappointment. The advent of color and widescreen productions may have contributed to its disappointing box office performance. It was not until its first airing on television that the movie finally found its audience.
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". 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 March 2017[update], the film holds a 100% approval rating on the review aggregation 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 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; 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 (assuming, of course, that applicable law permitted the content of jury deliberations to be revealed).
The movie has had a number of adaptations. A 1963 German TV production ("Die Zwölf Geschworenen") was directed by Günter Gräwert, 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. 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 the 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 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 figures and income, references to execution by lethal injection as opposed to the electric chair, more race-related dialogue and profanity.
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". BBC Radio comedy Hancock's Half Hour, starring Tony Hancock and Sid James, and 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. 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. Sitcom Happy Days also features a similar story in the season 5 episode "Fonzie for the Defense", when Howard Cunningham and Fonzie are picked for a jury, and Fonzie is the lone hold-out for innocence, swaying the rest of the jury. Saturday Night Live parodied the film in 1984 in a sketch called First Draft Theater. The American TV situation comedy, The Odd Couple, starring Jack Klugman (juror 5 in the movie), satirizes the film in "The Jury Story".
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