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The 1950s hit play "12 Angry Men" was turned into a movie in the mid-50s starring Henry Fonda as a holdout juror in a murder trial. If you haven't seen it lately (or ever) the movie was unique in that the entire film was shot in the jury deliberation room. It tanked at the box office despite a star-studded cast of heavyweight actors of the time (Lee J. Cobb, Jack Warden, Robert Webber, E.G. Marshall, Jack Klugman and some great charactor actors).

Whether or not 1950s movie audiences could tolerate what was largely a filmed play with lots of close-ups is debatable. But the fact is that the movie worked dramatically.

And it worked dramatically because of the intense conflict among and between the characters.

None of the men know each other. None of them like or dislike each other. They're just 12 men on a jury who're congregating to judge the defendant in a murder trial.

The title comes into play because in the course of the tale there's lots of anger. Some more than others. There are a couple of heavies who are filled with their own stuff and inner conflicts and there are others who are more passive and only take small verbal jabs, but the overall effect of the movie is that we are rivetted by what the men are saying.

We are told nothing about them, but we learn much from what each man says and does. We don't necessarily find out their jobs or where they live or what their favorite foods are, but we discover who they are as men--as human beings--through their words.

As in all stories, some of the characters go on a personal journey and have an arc by story's end. Others don't. But what we learn as screenwriters is the value of strong charactors in conflict over a life and death issue.

Check it out. And if you haven't seen in it a while, watch it again.

P.S. There was a remake of "12 Angry Men" on Showtime a few years back which I didn't see, but it had a great cast too, so if you can't find the original check out this one


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