I’ve been really looking forward to this movie, as I’ve always heard of it in such awed tones. We watched the trailer, and I have to say I doubt it would have urged me to the theaters. It’s overly dramatized and under represents this subtle and powerful film.
I also believe it’s the only Henry Ford movie I’ve seen, other than On Golden Pond, and I loved him in that. How could you not?
It also stars Jack Klugman, (who I’ve had a crush on since Quincy), Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall and Ed Begley’s Jr’s dad, Ed Begley. Obviously there are other men in the movie, but these are the actors that I recognized from other movies.
Last but not least of those recognizable, is the man whose face I didn’t recognize but his voice is one I could never forget. John Fiedler is unforgettable as the voice of the sweet and lovable Piglet in all those Winnie the Pooh movies you’ve seen. In checking his IMDB page, I’m sad to say he passed away in 2005.
As for the movie itself, the first thing thing of note was the way many of the jury members stared down the accused. It’s pretty clear their minds were already made up on his guilt. As they file into the room in orderly fashion, we see these formal men relax and get comfy in the deliberation room.
We are immediately introduced to the camaraderie of the jury room, save for one lone man standing by the window. Henry Fonda stands separate from the rest, smoking a cigarette. It’s a simple yet powerful way to differentiate him from the others. Most of them, maybe all, are already stating the defendant’s guilt and he stands silently at the window.
Many times during the film I was struck by the casual and friendly interaction between the men, other than when they were in conflict over the votes to decide guilt. It makes me wonder if that was always the way it was when white men were gathered together. It almost seems as if there was a short hand based on their apparent standing in society.
The balance of tension in this film is masterful, ranging from a tangible suspense that is broken up with some hilarious one-liners. The casting is meticulous and the actors are completely immersed in their roles. They are completely believable as one by one the jurors change their votes after various personal epiphanies regarding the case. One of the most powerful scenes is when one of the jurors raves about how despicable the lower class is, in his opinion. Seeing almost every man silently stand against his comments was a powerful statement in this group of men that at once seemed so unified.
I’m thrilled to see a film that unquestionably belongs on this list, and I won’t be too surprised if this movie is higher on my personal ranking than 87. If you haven’t seen the film, I cannot recommend it highly enough. There are no car chases or sex scenes, but it is a purely enjoyable film with great depth.
Favorite line: “He’s a common, ignorant slob. He don’t even speak good English.” Another gem is “Let’s throw it on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up.”
On a related subject, Christiana Ellis started a 24 hour gaming session in support of The Children’s Miracle Network. I can think of no better person to take on this challenge and OWN IT. So far, she’s raised $696 for this amazing and deserving charity. If you can spare a couple bucks, please make a donation to the cause. While gaming for 24 hours straight sounds awesome, it’s no easy feat, and I applaud her efforts.
And if you haven’t yet, check out the podcast that Christiana and Mike Meitin are doing as they go through the AFI Top 100 Movies. They are the inspiration for this blog series after all!
Now, pardon me as I go through culture shock. Chooch has fired up the next disc in our mainlining of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The title of the episode is “Who Pooped the Bed.” Yup, you read that right.