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12 Angry Men by Sidney Lumet

Essay by   •  December 10, 2010  •  Book/Movie Report  •  871 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,866 Views

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Directed by Sidney Lumet and adapted by Reginald Rose from his 1954 teleplay which was originally broadcast on CBS on 20 September, the film was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. In all of these categories, the film was eclipsed by The Bridge on the River Kwai, which won seven Academy Awards that year. At the Berlin International Film Festival, the film won the Golden Bear Award. The cinematographer, Boris Kaufman, who hailed from Europe and collaborated with French film director Jean Vigo on Zйro de conduite (1933) and L'Atalante (1934), was a previous Academy Award winner for his work in On the Waterfront (1954), but was not nominated in 1957. Lumet and Kaufman went on to collaborate successfully in The Fugitive Kind (1959), Long Day's Journey into Night (1962), and The Pawnbroker (1964). Fonda, who had received his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor The Grapes of Wrath (1940), was not nominated for his acting. (But as producer, he would have received the Oscar had the film won the Best Picture award).

Lumet, whose prior directorial credits included dramas for television productions such as the Alcoa Hour and Studio One, was recruited by Fonda and Rose to direct Rose's teleplay for the big screen. 12 Angry Men was, therefore, Lumet's first feature film, and for Fonda and Rose, who co-produced the film (Fonda later stated that he would never again produce a movie), it was their first and only roles as film producers. Although 12 Angry Men has garnered critical acclaim and is viewed as a "classic" today, at the time of its release the advent of color and wide-screen productions contributed to its disappointing box office performance.

When it was released, A. H. Weiler reviewed the film for The New York Times. "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."

The filming of 12 Angry Men was completed, after a short but rigorous rehearsal schedule, in less than three weeks on a budget of about $350,000. It begins with the use of cameras positioned above eye level and mounted with wide-angle lenses to give the appearance of greater depth between subjects, and 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, states that his intention in using these techniques was to create a nearly palpable claustrophobia, and by most accounts he and Kaufman succeeded admirably.

The screenplay was initially produced for television, and was broadcast on the program Studio One in 1954. A complete kinescope of that performance, which had been missing for years and feared lost, was finally discovered in 2003. 12 Angry Men was remade for television in 1997 and starred George C. Scott, James Gandolfini, Tony Danza and Jack Lemmon. In this production the judge



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