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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Twelve Angry Men (1954)

Twelve jurors, all male, must decide the fate of a young boy, a product of the slums, accused of murdering his father ... beyond a reasonable doubt. This teleplay was quite popular winning three Emmys and turned into a film in 1957 directed by Sidney Lumet which has an inexplicable following. The plot is terribly contrived and each character is a stereotype: the loud mouthed racist, the immigrant praising the American way of justice, the dithery senior citizen, the nice young man who overcame his slum upbringing, the meek bank clerk, etc. They pontificate and squabble, each wearing their particular idiosyncrasy like a badge. Every thing is tied up at the end in a neat little ribbon which, I suppose, may account for its popularity. This live production, directed by Franklin Schaffner, has a few assets over the 1957 film. At one hour, it's mercifully 36 minutes shorter than the insufferable Lumet film, Franchot Tone doesn't chew up the scenery the way Lee J. Cobb does and while Robert Cummings is as bad as Henry Fonda was, it's in a different way. He seems to confuse making faces and twitching with acting (poor Cummings never did get the hang of it) while Fonda was a pillar of inertia. With Edward Arnold, Norman Fell, Lee Philips, Walter Abel and George Voskovec and Joseph Sweeney who were the only actors to repeat their roles in the 1957 film.

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