Tag Archives: Lee J. Cobb

12 Men, One Room and a Question

I’m assuming a lot of people have seen this film but I felt compelled to say something about it. It’s one of those pictures that had been in my collection for months but getting round to it had always been blocked by something. About 5 weeks ago I put it on and, before the credits even started to roll, I got a huge pang of guilt because I hadn’t seen Kurosawa’s RASHOMON (1950) so that went on…. More on that later. A few weeks later I stuck it in a bag, amongst some others to take through to Jamie Stone’s with the intention of watching it on his projector, to give it some big screen respect. Much to my delight we ended up watching THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) which was very fitting for the shoot we were doing but, again, prevented me from watching it. Last night I was about to start watching 3 COLOURS: BLUE (1993) (which again, is a picture I’m ashamed not to have seen) when this movie demanded to be seen….. the film I speak of is, of course, Sidney Lumet’s 12 ANGRY MEN (1957).

Never before did I think a picture set in one room be so absolutely riveting. All facets of American life and society are around the table as part of a jury given the task of deciding if a kid is guilty of 1st degree murder. Henry Fonda plays Juror number 8…. we never find out his name, or most of their names. Fonda is the only man to vote not guilty in the first round of voting. Names do not matter in this scenario, all that matters is what each man represents and how that representation forms his opinion of the case. The film is beautifully shot by Boris Kaufman who also captured the natural anger of Lee J. Cobb in ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) his camera movements (and choice of lenses) during the exchanges at the table are such that, as the picture progresses we are drawn closer and closer to this claustrophobic situation.

This movie is probably on a million “movies to see before you die” lists…. For once I agree with them. The scene below is a great exchange between Fonda and Cobb. I’ll not say to much about it as the action speaks well enough for itself.