Have you seen the fantastic film 12 Angry Men directed by Sidney Lumet? If so, you’ll remember it as a classic work of American cinema that wasn’t just entertaining but also deeply poignant. It followed 12 jurors all battling with each other to decide whether the accused was innocent or guilty.
It taught us the importance of believing that someone is innocent before proven guilty. It taught us the importance of looking at all the evidence and discussing the case before determining someone’s fate.
It’s a film that’s constantly watched by cinephiles, actors, directors, screenwriters, whether they’re established or amateurs. Yet, no matter how many times you’ve seen 12 Angry Men – you probably haven’t seen it all.
Join FactsVerse to look back at some of the hidden details in 12 Angry Men you probably didn’t notice…
FROM THE JUROR’S ROOM TO THE FILM SET
While many of us have some idea of how a court case operates and we can all imagine what happens behind the tightly closed doors of a jurors room, few of us have the opportunity to serve as a juror ourselves.
12 Angry Men was written by Reginald Rose, who served as a juror in a manslaughter case in 1954 – 3 years before the film was released. While in the jurors room, he clearly got the inspiration that this very situation could be turned into an entertaining story.
Not much is known as to what happened in the jurors room that Reginald Rose was in. One wonders if he was the Henry Fonda character in the jurors room! Nevertheless, Reginald Rose was inspired by his experience and was able to pen the fantastic screenplay that made the film.
No doubt, Sidney Lumet must have consulted Reginald Rose during the filmmaking process to create the most authentic film as possible.
When a writer experiences the real world, their work will exponentially be better and 12 Angry Men is a testament to that statement.
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MINIMALISM YET SUSPENSEFUL
Most of 12 Angry Men takes place in the jurors room and consists mostly of the 12 actors just talking to each other.
As a result, if you explain this to someone who hasn’t even heard of the film, they’ll likely think it’s boring and will have no interest in watching it. So, how exactly did a rather minimalist script and concept become such a suspenseful film?
This came down to the genius of Sidney Lumet – who made his directorial debut with this film.
For much of the film, the jurors are seated at the table and aren’t moving much. As a result, to make up for the lack of movement that we usually see in cinema, Sidney Lumet used more camera movement than was normal for the time.
The film’s cinematographer was Boris Kauffman who was one of the most accomplished cinematographers in the industry and won an Oscar for his work on the film On The Waterfront. They worked on creating a tight and claustrophobic atmosphere with the camera and this added to the tension of the film.
There’s also very little editing in the film and much of it comes toward the end of the film. By being fixated on an actor is such a tight frame, it adds to our unease and increases the suspense of the film.
IT FLOPPED…UNTIL IT BECAME A HIT
It’s now recognized as one of the greatest films of all time, but 12 Angry Men was hardly a success when it was released.
The film cost $400,000 to make and then earned $1 million at the box office. So while it did make money, it was a moderate success rather than a major one. For many, it would be considered a major flop.
Yet, the 1950s and 1960s was also the age when television was becoming popular in the United States as more Americans began owning TV sets. The film would show on TV and its minimalist format was perhaps suited better for the smaller screen.
65 years later, 12 Angry Men is a classic and its made a lot more money via remakes, adaptations, television reruns, online streaming, and DVD sales. Not a bad feat for a film about 12 men arguing in one small room?
ANGRY MEN ACROSS THE GLOBE
As mentioned in the previous section, 12 Angry Men has been remade and adapted quite a few times. Reginald Rose’s experience of a jurors room in 1954 seems to have struck a chord with us no matter where we live.
There was an American remake of 12 Angry Men directed by William Friedkin. In this version, Jack Lemmon plays the juror originally played by Henry Fonda while George C. Scott plays the juror originally played by Lee J. Cobb.
The first adaptation was a 1963 West German film called Die zwölf Geschworenen. The film was a huge hit – showing that Reginald Rose’s story could travel abroad and inspire, entertain, and perhaps frighten an audience speaking a different language and living in a different country.
In 1982, there was a Norwegian TV adaptation of the film which also became a huge hit. This was called Tolv edsvorne menn.
Four years later, a Hindi film version of 12 Angry Men was made and this is arguably the best foreign-language adaptation of the original film. The film, Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, is considered a masterpiece of Hindi cinema.
Although released as a TV movie, it featured a slew of great Indian actors with extensive experience in both cinema and television.
It featured Pankaj Kapur as Juror #3 – playing the Lee J. Cobb character in the original film with K.K. Raina as Juror #8 – the Henry Fonda character. This film is considered a masterpiece of acting and is often shown to aspiring actors in India who wish to master their craft.
It was remade again in Japan in 1991, Russia in 2007, France in 2010 and in China in 2014. And we certainly expect to see even more remakes in the coming years!
THE INTENSE PREPARATION
For such an intense film, there had to be intense preparation. Sidney Lumet was making his film debut with 12 Angry Men but this was by no means his first foray into working with actors.
He came from a theater background and had a similar approach with this film and indeed with most of his future films. He demanded that his cast rehearse the film which is not always practiced in the film industry.
The actors would rehearse their lines for several hours in the very jurors room when the cameras weren’t rolling. They must have felt that it would be better for Sidney Lumet to film them in case the footage would turn out to be great.
But without a doubt, all the endless and presumably exhausting rehearsals caused the film to be a massive success. If you watch 12 Angry Men and any of Sidney Lumet’s films you’ll notice that the actors are, without a doubt, giving some of the best performances of their careers. The intense rehearsal process definitely has something to do with this!
THE ACCUSED’S BACKGROUND
Not too much is discussed about the accused boy’s heritage though its implied at times that he is Puerto Rican. Regardless, its clear that he’s ethnically different from any of the jurors and this played into their prejudice – particularly with the Lee J. Cobb character.
While we don’t know again if this is the experience that Reginald Rose had when he was in the jurors room but it gives an interesting spin to the tale. We must remember that 12 Angry Men takes place in the 1950s when prejudice and racism was still a huge part of American life. Decades later, such problems still exist all over the world and the ethnicity of the accused has become a point of discussion in many remakes and adaptations of 12 Angry Men.
No doubt the bigger picture forces us to re-examine our own prejudice to show how it can cloud our judgment.
SO, WAS HE INNOCENT?
We know that by the end of the film, Juror #8 manages to convince the other 11 jurors that the accused is indeed innocent. The film ends with the accused being declared innocent and the jurors going their separate ways.
It isn’t really important on whether the accused is innocent or guilty as that’s not the main messaging of the film. We are just supposed to accept that the jurors did in fact make the correct decision.
But there have been numerous debates onto whether he was actually innocent or guilty and whether Juror #8 was able to convince his fellow jurors by presenting the truth or by manipulating their emotions.
This is why this classic film must be viewed on multiple occasions so you can judge for yourself.
12 Angry Men is not only a great film but it represents an important American institution. It teaches us to challenge our prejudices, to examine facts, and to always believe in the innocence of our fellow man until the facts prove him otherwise.
Now, let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of 12 Angry Men? How many times have you watched the original film?
In fact, here’s what we’d like to know:
Do you think that the film has taught audiences about the importance of asking questions and emphasizing innocence?
Or do you think that it needs to be re-introduced to newer audiences today?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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