‘Life Is In Their Hands — Death Is On Their Minds!’
12 Angry Men is an American courtroom 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.
The movie 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, 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 twelve jurors in the order in which they are referred to, were played by:
- Martin Balsam (jury foreman)
- John Fiedler
- Lee J. Cobb
- E. G. Marshall
- Jack Klugman. When Klugman died in 2012, he was the last surviving juror.
- Edward Binns
- Jack Warden
- Henry Fonda, first to vote “not guilty”. At the end of the film he reveals to Juror #9 that his name is Davis, one of only two jurors to reveal his name.
- Joseph Sweeney, the second to vote “not guilty”. At the end of the film he reveals to Juror #8 that his name is McCardle, one of only two jurors to reveal his name.
- Ed Begley
- George Voskovec
- Robert Webber
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