12 Angry Men

Talkie of the Week: 12 Angry Men

USA 1957, 96 minutes, black & white, MGM. Director: Sidney Lumet, Written by Reginald Rose, Based on his teleplay. Cast: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, John Fiedler, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney, Ed Begley, George Voskovec and Robert Webber.

Plot summary: Twelve jurors discuss the case of a young man they were chosen to adjudicate on. Together, they examine evidence and testimonies to reach an unanimous verdict.

Review: Originally produced live and broadcast on CBS in 1954, 12 Angry Men was a success with critics and TV audiences before the teleplay was brought to the big screen to win three Academy Award nominations. Starring Henry Fonda as famed juror #8 whose intellectual curiosity saves a young defendant from being convicted upon neglect, the motion picture adaptation offered an atmosphere of density and literal anger, mixed with an almost tangible heat that added fuel to a starting fire. Relying on a stellar cast of character actors, 12 Angry Men was shot in a claustophobic setting, a juror’s room with only a restroom serving as a possible escape. Suspense erupted from the men and their tingling aggression brought on by prejudices, disinterest and their own personal struggles.

Fifty-five years ago, the film captivated audiences on the big screen but wasn’t completely successful until it found its way back to American TV. Today, the film is every bit as entertaining and tension-packed as it was upon release. Benefitting from vivid dialog and a darkish quality in black and white, 12 Angry Men is the kind of classic that will never grow old. Available on DVD and Bluray, the film has the potential to attract a whole new generation of movie buffs who – like their parents and grandparents – will find themselves engrossed in the plot as soon the jurors are in session.

Have a look at impressions from the movie here.

Sorry, Wrong Number

Talkie of the Week: Sorry, Wrong Number

USA 1948, 89 minutes, black & white, Paramount Pictures. Director: Anatole Litvak, Written by Lucille Fletcher, Based on the radio play “Sorry, Wrong Number” by Lucille Fletcher, Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey, Harold Vermilyea, Ed Begley, Leif Erickson, William Conrad, John Bromfield, Jimmy Hunt, Dorothy Neumann, Paul Fierro

Plot summary: Leona Stevenson overhears two men plotting a murder of a woman who turns out to be herself.

Review: Today, the lovely Barbara Stanwyck would have celebrated her 105th birthday. In dear memory of an unforgettable leading lady, I have thus decided to present Sorry, Wrong Number, a film noir for which she received her fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1949.

Originally a radio play that featured Agnes Moorehead in a solo performance in 1943, Sorry, Wrong Number was turned into a screenplay by Lucille Fletcher, the playwright herself, and conquered the silver screen in the fall of 1948. Starring Barbara Stanwyck as invalid Leona Stevenson who overhears two men plotting a murder on the phone, the story is dark and suspenseful in writing, as well as in effect. Told in real time with the use of explanatory flashbacks, Leona’s desperate attempt to inform the authorities are as futile as her effort to reach her husband. The phone, as her only medium of communication with the outside world, turns into a beacon of hope and sorrow when she finally realizes
that the victim is going to be herself. Haunting in her desperation, Barbara Stanwyck’s performance is never quiet but rather striking in its fierceness and color. Supported by an excellent co-star, Burt Lancaster, as Henry Stevenson and an overall convincing cast, Ms. Stanwyck’s fear and constriction reaches an almost tangible level with every phone call she places, every secret she learns. Her face reflects the horrid situation she finds herself trapped in, the mere panic she begins to absorb. It is the music by Franz Waxman and the expert use of shadows and light which does the rest, affecting the audience with a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Reclaiming her role as Leona on CBS’ Lux Radio Theater in 1950, Barbara Stanwyck showed her full range of emotions in a part that was the last to get her the attention from the Motion Picture Academy until she finally received an Honorary Oscar in 1981. As one of her many films that left a mark until today, Sorry, Last Number is a classic that never gets old but has the potential to attract an entire new generation of fans. With its enthralling style and Ms. Stanwyck’s powerhouse performance, the film is perfect to bring sunshine to an autumn-like July and a beautiful way to honor her today.

Available on DVD, CD and as radio podcast.