Traveling with Reginald Rose. By Phil Rosenzweig. Fordham University Press; 314 pages; $ 27.95 and £ 22.99
MeN 1954 A The young screenwriter received a jury service subpoena in New York. For the rest of his life, he explained how he sat down with his peers in the murder and helped discuss convictions from manslaughter to assault. The accused hit a loudmouth with a knife at the bar, and after being hit, fell and hit his head. Reginald Rose recalled that he left the courtroom, sat down on a typewriter, and wrote the script for the groundbreaking movie “12 Angry Men.”
However, a little research reveals that he may not have been a jury. The author of this fascinating book on Rose’s masterpiece, Phil Rosenzweig, searched court records and found the most similar case. The names of all 12 juries and both agents are listed. Rose is not in it. Still, the crime was too vague to know beyond the courtroom. The best explanation, Rosenzweig wrote, is that Rose was summoned but fired and probably watching over the trial.
Anyway, something inspired him. Alongside “Killing Mockingbird” and “Death of a Salesman,” the other two mid-century dramas, “Twelve Angry Men,” have become a staple of American civil entertainment. Like them, it emerged in several forms: first as a live television show, later as a movie starring Henry Fonda, and during a long life on stage. Made in 1957, the film depicts a jury’s room full of white men from various disciplines struggling to reach an agreement in a murder case. Fonda’s only holdout eventually convinces others to participate in the acquittal verdict. In the process, they confront the sharp edges of stigma, suitability, class, and legal system.
Rosenzweig spends plenty of space on Rose’s life and work, but the book puts the most effort into making classic films. The task of the script was to “devise a proceeding against the defendant strong enough for almost all juries to vote guilty and strip the evidence.” A two-week rehearsal was held prior to the shoot. As the cast members ran through their lines, director Sidney Lumet “moved through the room to imagine each shot.” Early on, he raised the camera and gradually lowered it closer to action to build claustrophobic tension.
Most of the 12 actors had a theatrical background and the shoot had a repertoire feel. “You didn’t ruin Hank Fonda’s set,” said the assistant director. However, the atmosphere was much more friendly than what was depicted on the screen, and Lumet’s praise enlivened everyone’s spirit. At the time, “it was full of kisses, hugs, and screams of delight,” said Rose, a quiet writer in an enthusiastic show business type. “The actor has never been loved as much as he was loved by Sidney Lumet.”
The hugely successful and popular movie in Europe was bombed in the United States at the time of its release and couldn’t stand the blockbusters such as “The Ten Commandments”, “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. .. However, over the years, his height has grown and has been rebuilt several times. The American Film Institute now recognizes it as one of the best films of the 20th century. There aren’t many sacred things in American public life anymore. The jury himself is one of the holdouts. ■■
This article was published in the Printed Books and Arts section under the heading “What if they were wrong?”
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