In today’s Wall Street Journal drama column, I write about the original 1954 live-TV version of Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men. Here’s an excerpt.
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Most people know “Twelve Angry Men,” in which Reginald Rose dramatized the contentious deliberations of a New York jury, from Sidney Lumet’s 1957 film version, whose screenplay was written by Rose and which featured a top-flight ensemble cast led by Henry Fonda, Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall and Jack Klugman. More recently, the Roundabout Theatre Company brought Rose’s stage adaptation of “Twelve Angry Men” to Broadway in 2004 for a successful run. To this day it is a regional-theater staple, as well as the sixth most frequently staged full-length play in American high schools (where it is performed with women in the cast and is known as “Twelve Angry Jurors”).
But many fans of the film are unaware that “Twelve Angry Men” began life as a live-TV drama directed by Franklin J. Schaffner that aired on CBS’ “Studio One” in 1954. It ranks alongside Paddy Chayefsky’s “Marty,” Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful,” Abby Mann’s “Judgment at Nuremberg,” JP Miller’s “Days of Wine and Roses,” and Rod Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight” as one of a small number of live-TV dramas from the 50’s that were subsequently turned into artistically and commercially successful movies.
I mention all this because it is now possible to watch the live-TV version of “Twelve Angry Men” on YouTube, meticulously restored from a surviving kinescope film of the original 1954 telecast—and you know what? It’s better than the movie. A lot better….
* * *Read the whole thing here.
The original Studio One telecast of Twelve Angry Men: