Classic Cinema # 33: 12 Angry Men (1957) – By Jason S. Lockard

My Name is Jason S. Lockard and for me there is nothing like a film with real human drama. Such is the 1957 film, 12 Angry Men; directed by Sidney Lumet and featuring star of the month Henry Fonda.

Henry Jaynes Fonda was born on May 16, 1905 in Grand Island, Nebraska to William Brace and Elma Fonda. Fonda made his mark early as a Broadway actor, but would make his biggest splash in Hollywood in such great films as The Grapes of Wrath, The Ox-Bow Incident, Mister Roberts and our film this month 12 Angry Men.

12 Angry Men 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. The defendant is a teenage boy from a city slum who is accused of stabbing his father to death. The jury must weight all the facts because a guilty verdict will be accompanied by a mandatory death sentence. A young boy’s life hangs in the balance, the keys to life and death are held in the hands of 12 Angry Men.

The jurors featuring an ensamble of great actors staring off with our Star of the Month Henry Fonda, Jack Warden, Joseph Sweeney, Jack Klugman, Lee J. Cobb, George Voskovec, John Fiedler, Edward Binns, Robert Webber, Martin Balsam, E.G. Marshall and Ed Begley. Tempers flare in the claustrophobic juror room as time after time the jury can not unanimously decide on the guilt or innocence of this boy.

Does the film end in a hung jury? Do they the decide the boy is innocent? Does the young boy face the ultimate price for taking a life? These questions are all answered in 12 Angry Men!

The film was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing of Adapted Screenplay. It lost to the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai in all three categories; but won the Golden Bear at the 7th Berlin International Film Festival. In 2007, 12 Angry Men was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Later in Fonda’s career he would go back to the stage and appear in many TV shows. Than in 1981 the world was treated to what many critics called "his last and greatest role." The film, "On Golden Pond"; for which he would receive his only Oscar, he was the oldest recipient of the best actor award.

Fonda died at his Los Angeles home on August 12, 1982, from heart disease. Fonda’s wife Shirlee, his daughter Jane and his son Peter were at his side when he died. In 1999, he was named the sixth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the AFI. Than in May 2005, the United States Post Office released a 37-cent postage stamp with a drawing of Fonda as part of their "Hollywood legends" series.

Henry Fonda’s acting legacy lives on in DVDs of his great performances and with his children; daughter Jane Fonda, son Peter Fonda, granddaughter Bridget Fonda, and grandson Troy Garity.

Treat yourself to Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men or for that matter any Fonda film. You can’t go wrong!

Until next time this is Jason S. Lockard reminding you if you want to see a good film, check out a classic!

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Moral Rating: Nothing Offensive
Audience: All Audiences
Genre: Crime Drama
Length: 1 hr. 36 min.
Released: 1957
Our Rating: A