National Classic Movie Day Blogathon: 5 Favorite Films of the 1950s

Thank you Classic Film & TV Cafe for hosting this Blogathon!

Though it’s tantamount to utter absurdity to try and whittle all my personal favorites of the decade down to five choices (I might cheat a little), this is part of the fun of such lists, isn’t it? Each one is highly subjective. No two are the same. They change on whims; different today, tomorrow, and the next. But I will do the best to make a go of it.

If anything this is a humble beacon — a twinkling five-sided star — meant to shine a light upon my profound affinity for classic movies on this aptly conceived National Classic Movie Day. For those in need of gateway films, these are just a few I would recommend without deep analysis, solely following my most guttural feelings. Hopefully that is recommendation enough. Let the adulation begin!

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1. Singing In The Rain (1952):

Many classic film enthusiasts weren’t always so. At least, on many occasions, there was a demarcation point where the scales tipped and they became a little more frenzied in their pursuits. For someone like me, I didn’t always watch many movies. However, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds were household names even from my earliest recollections.

Singin’ in the rain with the giddy abandon of Don and bringing down the house with gags like Cosmo were childhood aspirations. Kathy, the young hopeful, aspired for big dreams, not unlike my own. They were idols because they made life and the movies — even song and dance — so very euphoric. It took me many years to know this was a part of a musical cottage industry or who Cyd Charisse was (because we’d always fast-forward through that risque interlude). Regardless of anything else, the film effects me in the most revelatory way. You can barely put words to it. You need simply to experience it firsthand.

After seeing it so many times it becomes comforting to return again and again. What’s even better is how the magic never dies. We lost Stanley Donen this year but this extraordinary piece of entertainment will live on for generations to come.

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2. Roman Holiday (1953)

I distinctly remember the first time I ever saw Roman Holiday. It was on an international flight to England. I was young and ignorant with not the slightest idea who Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck were. You can determine whether or not I was living under a rock or not. However, what did happen is a young kid was decisively swept off his feet by a film. Those were before the days I gave even a moderate consideration of directors like William Wyler, much less debated or bandied about terms like auteur.

What does become so evident is the chemistry between our stars, hardly manufactured, even as the setting, placed in living, breathing Rome, imbues a certain authentic vitality of its own. Vespa rides are exhilarating. The sites are still ones I want to see and haven’t. And of course, I’ve only grown in my esteem of both Audrey and Mr. Peck as I’ve gotten older.

It’s crazy to imagine my only point of reference for such a picture was Eddie Albert (having been bred on more than a few episodes of Green Acres). Any way you slice it, this is, in my book, the quintessential romantic comedy because it is part fairy tale and it comes with all the necessary trimmings, while still planting itself in the real world. I always exit the halls of the palace feeling rejuvenated. Each time it’s like experiencing wonderful memories anew.

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3. Rear Window (1954)

It’s a weighty task to even begin considering your favorite film but to make it easier on myself whenever the inevitable question is dropped in my lap, I’m quick to reply: Rear Window. The answer is actually quite an easy one. Alfred Hitchcock is as good a reason as any. Add James Stewart and Grace Kelly and you’ve entered the gold standard of movie talent. They don’t come more iconic.

The Master of Suspense’s chilling thriller was another fairly early viewing experience with me and it immediately left an impression. Again, it’s another example of how appreciation can mature over time. Thelma Ritter is always a favorite. The use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound throughout the picture accentuates this artificial but nevertheless meticulous sense of authenticity.

How Hitchcock utilizes the fragments of music and the supporting characters in the courtyard to comment on these secondary themes of romantic love playing against the central mystery is superb. It’s a perfect coalescing of so much quality in one compelling cinematic endeavor. Even down to how the opening and final scenes are cut perfectly, introducing the story and encapsulating the progression of character from beginning to end. It is pure visual cinema.

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4. 12 Angry Men (1957)

I care deeply about interpersonal relationships and as movies have become more a part of my life it has become increasingly more important for them to hold a microscope to how we interact with one another in the world at hand. For me, there are very few films that channel real human relationships in a meaningful way as effectively as Sidney Lumet’s debut 12 Angry Men. Like Rear Window, it is developed in limiting environs and yet rather than such constraints leading to the stagnation of a story, it only serves to ratchet the tension.

Because the ensemble is an impeccable range of stars spearheaded by Henry Fonda and balanced out by a wide array of talent including a pair of friends from my classic sitcom days John Fiedler (The Bob Newhart Show) and Jack Klugman (The Odd Couple). However, all of this is only important because the story has actual consequence. Here we have 12 men battling over the verdict on a young man’s life.

But as any conflict has the habit of doing, it brings out all the prejudices, inconsistencies, and blind spots uncovered and aggravated when people from varying points of views are thrust in a room together. it’s an enlightening and ultimately humbling experience for me every time because it challenges me to actively listen to where others are coming from and empathize with their point of view so we can dialogue on a sincere level. It’s also simultaneously a sobering analysis of the gravity of the American justice system.

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5. Some Like it Hot (1959)

I most recently saw Some Like it Hot as part of a retrospective across the globe from where I usually call home. But what a wonderful viewing experience it was. Again, it’s akin to getting back together with old friends. I personally love Jack Lemmon to death and paired with Tony Curtis and the incomparable Marilyn Monroe, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more hair-brained, raucous comedy coming out of Hollywood.

Billy Wilder is certainly one reason for this and I’ve always come to admire his ability for screwball and often mordant wit. There is arguably no higher watermark than Some Like it Hot and the script is wall-to-wall with hilarious gags and scenarios. Like all the great ones, you wait for a favorite line with expectancy only to be ambushed by another zinger you never found time to catch before.

But there is also a personal element to the picture. Many might know the Hotel Del Coronado in sunny San Diego filled in for the Florida coast and having spent many a lovely day on those very shores, I cannot help but get nostalgic. Not only was this film indicative of a different time — the jazz age by way of the 1950s — it also suggests a very different juncture in my own life. While I cannot have the time back I can look on those memories fondly just as I do with this film…

So there you have it. I gave it my best shot pulling from personal preference and the idealistic leanings of my heart of hearts. I hope you enjoyed my Top 5 from The ’50s!

But wait…


james shigeta and victoria shaw embracing in the crimson kimono

Honorary Inclusion: The Crimson Kimono (1959)

Full disclosure. I know this is cheating but I take any occasion I possibly can to promote Sam Fuller‘s gritty Little Tokyo police procedural. For me, it deserves a special acknowledgment. As a Japanese-American and coming from a multicultural background myself, it was a groundbreaking discovery and an unassuming film with a richness proving very resonant over the recent years. It blends elements so very near and dear to me. Namely, film noir and my own heritage — all wrapped up into one wonderful B-film package. Please give it a watch!

THE END

What I Learned from 12 Angry Men

Recently I got the chance to sit down with a group of friends and watch 12 Angry Men together. Many of them had never seen it and hearing their reactions was immense fun for me. But as we talked for a few minutes afterward, I began to realize that really each of these characters represents something in myself or perhaps something I see in others. Each man represents a fault or a warning sign, or even a shining example for how I want to lead my own life. And like any film 12 Angry Men is far from perfect. One of my friends pointed out, rightly so, the glaring omission of any women in the film. And it’s true. The film lacks a high degree of diversity and yet at the core of each of these characters is something that I can take away.

So I would like to go down the line and pay a few words to each of the jurors. Because although they work so well on a collective level, it is their individual personality traits and characteristics that turn this courtroom classic into a fascinating study of human nature and interpersonal communication. Without further ado, this is what I learned from 12 Angry Men:

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Juror # 1 (Martin Balsam): He takes on the role of foreman and leads the conversations. He’s not  a big personality but he remains fair and level-headed. Even though he starts out on the guilty side of the verdict, I always deeply respect his demeanor. His feathers do get ruffled so he’s not impervious but he lends a nice degree of order to the proceedings. And that is needed within any body of people — someone who is willing to take the lead.

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Juror # 2 (John Fiedler): I’m a big fan of John Fiedler and he plays the type of character he was generally best known for. A timid bank teller who is easily dominated by the larger personalities around him. He’s also noticeably younger than many of the men on the jury. However, he reminds me that though I too am a quiet personality, there is still need at times to speak up and most importantly to stand by your convictions. Furthermore, never allow others to look down on you simply because of your years. You can still bring something to the table since you have a different perspective on life that is valuable.

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Juror # 3 (Lee J Cobb): He is always the antagonistic force of the film and his role in the film always acts as a bit of a reminder not to allow the root of bitterness infect my life so that it clouds my judgment. For your peripheral relationships to be healthy it is vital that your relationships to those closest to you are flourishing. Family is important. Do your best to foster those relationships whether it’s with parents, siblings or children.

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Juror # 4 (E.G. Marshall): Rational thinking and intellect are wonderful and necessary things in this world that we live in. After all, humanity is blessed with brains and it seems like a good thing to put them to use. However, it’s also important to not allow your whole existence run on intellect alone. Things like emotions and feelings have a place in life too because while we are rational beings we are also empathetic ones. We were not meant to live life like machines. Do not become a slave to intellect. Do not become unfeeling.

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Juror # 5 (Jack Klugman): Here’s a man who is fairly quiet and unassuming at first. But he’s a different sort than juror # 2. It’s less about his temperament and more the fact that he has probably lived his entire life in the shadow of other people. People who keep him down and tell him that his people are no good. But ultimately he gains resolve to stand up for himself. The way he was brought up and the convictions that course through his veins. He too is granted a voice in this forum and notably others begin to listen. He has his own kind of wisdom to offer up as do I.

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Juror # 6 (Edward Binns): While not the most intellectual of the men sitting around the juror’s table, there’s something quietly noble and upright about this man. He doesn’t talk all that often. He’s not one for deeply thoughtful statements. But he’s a humble, straightforward man who believes in a bit of chivalry still — standing up for others when necessary. That’s something I deeply admire in other people. I know I’m not the brightest mind in the room, but humility and genuine character goes a long way sometimes.

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Juror # 7 (Jack Warden): Jokes are a wonderful thing. Laughter is good for the soul and it can add tremendous richness to conversation and human interactions. But there’s also a time and place for playing the clown. We cannot just go through life making light of everything, trying to spin every situation into a joke, because life cannot function like that. There comes a time for being serious and growing a backbone for that matter. Don’t simply go along with others in an attempt to hang with the crowd or get by with the least amount of resistance.

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Juror # 8 (Henry Fonda): Obviously he is our hero as a man who is willing to go against the grain and be the voice in opposition of the norm. He shows tremendous integrity and courage to ask the honest questions and even admit his own doubt. That is a man to be admired. Because while he does want to talk it out and consider the gravity of the situation, he very rarely takes the unnecessary high road of self-righteousness. He openly admits he doesn’t know what the truth is but he’s willing to at least dialogue about it. Those are the people that we need more of. Open, honest, and genuine folks who are willing to talk, willing to listen to reason, and most importantly stand up for their personal convictions. That’s what I want to strive after in my own life.

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Juror # 9 (Joseph Sweeney): Here is an older gentleman who reminds us that there is a great deal of wisdom that can be gleaned from our elders. We should rightfully so pay them the respect that they are due because there is so much that they can offer us since they often come from a different time and place than we ourselves know. This differing perspective is something to be valued. They often carry insights and values that we might initially disregard, only to find out that they have a great deal that they can impart to us.

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Juror # 10 (Ed Begley): There are few things as abhorrent and insidious as narrow-minded viewpoints. Because it is these people — people who fall prey to prejudice and the categorization of others — who are quick to pass judgments. They allow bigotry to dictate what they say. There is no room for nuance or listening to other people’s voices. In fact, through their actions, they are inhibiting others and leaving no room for any type of dialogue. It’s this interpersonal dialogue which 12 Angry Men is all about and more broadly our own lives as well. I don’t want to be a person who is too closed off to at least listen to people and try to undertand where they are coming from.

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Juror # 11 (George Voskovek): He is one of the most notable jurors because in this day and age he represents so much. In the film, he is the one obvious outsider, the foreigner, the other, and yet he is represented as a thoughtful and articulate man. Most importantly he has a tremendous reverence for the American way of life and the statutes it was founded on. We can learn so much from him because he time and time again subverts most of the labels that are often put on people who are different. But, in fact, those “others” are often the very people we need. Because they bring yet another perspective to facilitate richer, deeper dialogue.

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Juror # 12 (Robert Webber): Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Don’t be a flip, flopper. This resonates with me so deeply. Sometimes even if you shy away from conflict or crossing others, it’s absolutely imperative to take a stand. Once again, jokes can be a wonderful way to ease tension but there comes a point where you have to face the reality. If someone’s life is hanging in the balance,  you have to come to terms with the gravity of the situation.

That’s some of what I learned from 12 Angry Men…

12 people means 12 different viewpoints — 12 perspectives that we can learn something new from. I will always return to this film for those very reasons. In many ways, it models real life for me.

The Verdict (1982)

Verdict1Paul Newman is one of those people who bring other people into theaters. They’ll watch him on reruns when they’re surfing through the channels or tell their children and grandchildren about him. That’s just it. He’s a universal actor who transcends the years with his magnetism and charisma. A lot of folks would follow him to the ends of the earth cinematically-speaking, and he plays the bums and ne’er do wells like nobody else.

In some ways, it seems like he should have no place in the film like The Verdict. It’s a slow, brooding drama that churns and grinds methodically through a script courtesy of David Mamet, adapted from Barry Reed’s novel. It’s completely void of humor or charm in many respects. It’s bitter and battered, personified by Frank Galvin, a washed-up lawyer drowning in booze and drifting in a fog of cigarette smoke. His pedigree isn’t so hot either. In the last three years, he’s had four cases and has not won a single one. To make matters worse, he’s an ambulance chaser, the type of prosecutor that every self-respecting citizen would scoff at with contempt.

The film generally lacks polish or pizzazz for that matter, but Paul Newman and director Sidney Lumet are well-established professionals, who know how to develop the courtroom drama in such a way that it remains compelling. All the necessary bits and pieces are there to go along with generally stark and somber visuals.

James Mason is the opposition, a white-haired man with a penchant for winning and doing his homework so that all the holes are stopped up. He’s representing not only two renowned doctors but also the Archdiocese of Boston since they own St. Catherine’s hospital. Galvin’s mentor and colleague is Mickey (Jack Warden), who watches out for him despite his many failings. Being divorced, Frank also tries to find companionship with the aloof beauty Laura (Charlotte Rampling).

Galvin is tempted by a giant settlement, but there’s something inside of himself that says, take the case to trial. Of course, right from the beginning, it’s a train wreck, because he cannot find the witnesses he needs, and Ed Concannon is a real pro with an extensive legal team to do his bidding. On the other side of the room, you only have Frank and Mickey.

They’re able to dig up key witness Kaitlin Costello, although Concannon turns that against them as well. Furthermore, Frank learns something about Laura that doesn’t help. And there we are at the end of the case, a gray-haired lawyer sitting there seemingly defeated. But he does the only thing he can do, in all sincerity plead with the members of the jury to do what is right and just. That is all he can do.

Some might find comparisons to The Verdict in Lumet’s earlier masterpiece 12 Angry Men, including the casting of Jack Warden and Edward Binns. However, I think what makes the director’s courtroom dramas work so well is that they really don’t dwell too much on the actual courtroom. 12 Angry Men is about the discussion going on behind closed doors and The Verdict concerns itself with all that is going on outside in preparation. We see Frank for who he is in the office and out of it. Thus, by the time we actually get into that court of law there’s so much more riding on this verdict.

What’s especially striking about Newman’s performance is that there is almost a complete absence of drama. There is one violent outburst and aside from that, it’s as if he’s utterly fed up with the world. Throwing his hands up in a sense and giving in. Instead, he plays pinball or sits pensively with a drink in hand. That’s why this case is so important because it means something. It signifies an attempt to care again about right and wrong. But the question is, Does anything actually change in the character of Frank Galvin? We leave him sulking in his office, slowly nursing yet another drink as the phone rings out in the silence. What’s the verdict then? Is he a winner or a loser? I’m not sure he even knows the answer to that question.

4/5 Stars

4 Great Movies Set in a Single Location

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Great directors can take a restriction like a single, confined location and turn into something especially extraordinary. Because the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet and Louis Malle prove that these are not limits at all, but sources of cinematic inspiration. It what you do with that space that is of the utmost importance.

1. Rear Window (1954)
The ultimate thriller, utilizing one Greenwich Village apartment complex to the nth degree. Jimmy Stewart being confined to a wheelchair has never been so compelling as he begins to suspect that his neighbor across courtyard is a wife murderer. Hitchcock builds up the tension by not allowing his character to escape, and he becomes embroiled in intrigue as well as romance. It all leads to a crackerjack ending.

2.12 Angry Men (1957)

There have been many courtroom dramas, but the beauty of this character study is its new perspective. Sidney Lumet’s debut is a thing of beauty, because he lets his characters work and there are 12 wonderful actors all playing off each other. The story is simple. These men must decide if a young boy should be sent to the electric chair. Put them together in a room for an hour and a half and we learn more about mankind than we could possibly imagine. There’s nothing to make the temperature rise like 12 angry men in a room together.

3.Lifeboat (1944)

Hitchcock was always one for technical challenges and Lifeboat is a film that reflects his penchant for cinematic experiments. After an ocean liner is sunk numerous passengers are forced to board a raft together, including friends and foes. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the war drama is how Hitch is able to keep the story from being stagnant. It’s surprisingly compelling  for how simple it looks at first glance.

4.My Dinner with Andre (1981)

This film is less about dramatic tension and more about a concept. Two men sit together and share a conversation over dinner, full of all sorts of philosophical musings. Once again a simple premise gives way to interesting discussion led by Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory playing fictional versions of themselves.

Serpico (1973)

acd89-serp2“Come on Frank. Let’s face it. Who can trust a cop who don’t take money?”

This is the state of affairs in the police department that green police academy grad Frank Serpico (Al Pacino) finds himself thrown into. At first, he is unaware of it all as he moves up the ranks as a young uniformed cop. In fact, he looks exactly like a post-war Michael Corleone at this point. His new role seems like an honorable life of camaraderie, duty, and public service. The corrupt is obvious and distinct from the good. Soon his brash, forthright style creates waves, but it soon becomes apparent that he is not one to care about hurting egos.

39dd2-serp2b3He moves on with his career working in plainclothes and getting a new apartment followed by a new dog. His appearance begins to change as well as he starts wearing a thick bushy beard and wearing hippy garb. It suits him fine in his work and outside he meets a pretty girl named Leslie Lane, but it’s not meant to be.

Serpico corroborates with colleague Bob Blair (Tony Roberts) trying to figure out how to bring attention to the bribes he has 60789-serp2b4been offered. But honest help is hard to find especially from someone who makes it stick. The higher ups care more about the reputation of the department over corruption, making progress difficult to come by. He continually bounces around from division to division and nobody seems to want him, or trust him for that matter. There are only a few honest Joes around and they are few and far between. Serpico gets transferred this time to the “upright” 7th division and begins seeing his next door neighbor named Laurie. Too soon he learns that one of his acquaintances is instrumental in the extortion that takes place department-wide. By now Frank is feared, hated, and despised because he will not take money under any circumstances. It takes its toll to be all alone in the force, and he lashes out at Laurie who leaves him for good. Now he truly is alone.

He becomes increasingly combative and paranoid as he gets ready to testify before the grand jury. Another case of bribes comes out and when Serpico and his upright partner try and report it nothing is done. As a last resort, Frank goes to The New York Times and they blow the cover right off. He soon receives an ominous death threat and gets shot when trying to bust someone.

He lays in the hospital recuperating asking for his guards to be relieved and watching the hate mail pile up. His badge is returned to him, but he rejects it in disgust, soon resigning from the police and waiting for a slow boat to Switzerland. That’s as far from New York as he could get.

It seems like there are so very many close-ups of Frank Serpico, and thus, over the course of the film we get the opportunity to truly study his face, or rather the face of Pacino as he embodies this character. His cold, aloof eyes, his facial hair that goes under several transformations, but that is only the outward appearance. It is his inner transformation that is most important because that is where his conscience lies, to guide him each and everyday on the beat.

My New York geography leaves something to be desired but that’s not the problem of native New Yorker Sidney Lumet. This is a story that takes place in New York, made for New York, and fit perfectly with its director. It seems like he knew the streets of the New York like the back of his hand, really creating an authentic atmosphere for this police biopic. It has a touch of The French Connection and yet it is a far more personal look at the life of Serpico himself.


This is also extraordinary because the story of Serpico was so fresh, still only a year or two old at most. Furthermore, the film has the same disillusioning and depressing tone of other dramas that came out of the 1970s. Back in the 1950s films like 12 Angry Men (Lumet’s debut) still had an air of idealism. That had mostly dissipated in the New Hollywood period, because the good guys aren’t black and white. Serpico is not the greatest guy around, but the one thing he has going for him is that he is not crooked and that’s saying a lot in the corrupt world he exists in. This is his story told with all the blemishes, personal troubles, and drama that went with it. The greatest service to him is that his story got told and hopefully truthfully enough.

4.5/5 Stars

Review: 12 Angry Men (1957)

ebd81-12angrymen1With a title like 12 Angry Men you might come away with the false idea that all the characters in this film are the same, emotionally and otherwise. That is far from the truth. The reason a film like this stands up even today is because the fellows who sit down around that table are everymen that each and every one of us can relate to in some way. Yes, they are all male and all white, but they reflect little bits of us and our own humanity.

But getting down to the specifics, what is 12 Angry Men really and truly about? If you want to break it down, all it boils down to is 12 men gathering in a room to talk out a murder case. It sounds pretty dull and it had the potential to be so. In fact, calling it a courtroom drama is partially a misnomer because we hardly spend five minutes there before the jury is deliberating. We see the members of the jury, hear the final statement of the judge, and get a last look at the young defendant.

What comes next is the beginning of the decision-making process and seeing as it looks like an open and shut case, an initial vote is called for. If everyone agrees, this boy will be sent to the electric chair for killing his father. The vote is taken and it is 11 to 1 with one man holding out. Juror Number 8 (Henry Fonda), an architect, cannot bring himself to send the boy off without talking some more and so, begrudgingly, they do talk.

That is where the true heart of this film comes out, through the discussion and back and forth of the characters. They get around to evidence like the switchblade which the boy supposedly dropped. There were two witnesses: One being an old man living downstairs and the other a middle-aged woman who lived across the train tracks. Then, there is the business about the boy’s flimsy alibi about going to the movies. All are hotly debated and quarreled over.

It just happens to be the hottest day of the year and about an hour in it starts pouring cats and dogs. Tempers reach their apex, feelings are hurt, and major prejudices are revealed. The beauty of this film is not simply the sentiment that the jury switches its decision. The beauty truly comes from this wonderfully colorful ensemble of actors under the direction of Sidney Lumet in a confined space. But before mentioning the direction it is important to acknowledge the players because they are the heart and soul of this story.

Juror # 1: (Martin Balsam) He is the foreman who moderates, and he tries to keep the discussion civil with a relatively calm demeanor. All we know about him is that he is an assistant coach for a high school football team.

Juror # 2: (John Fielder) He is one of the younger members of the jury and a quiet individual with a timid voice. He is a banker.

Juror # 3 (Lee J. Cobb) The main driving force of conflict, he holds out when everyone else switches their vote. He is a businessman who also has familial issues with his son that come into play.

Juror # 4 (E.G. Marshall) A rational and measured broker, he holds that the boy is guilty until some facts are laid out that make him think otherwise.

Juror # 5 (Jack Klugman) A meek man and Baltimore baseball fan who also has a fiery side as well. It comes out that he grew up in the slums when he was a kid.

Juror # 6 (Edward Binns) A straightforward and kindly painter who is respectful in his conduct.

Juror # 7 (Jack Warner) The jokester of the group who makes his living selling Marmalade. He is looking forward to a Yankees baseball game and tries to push the proceedings forward as fast as possible.

Juror # 9 (Joseph Sweeney) The eldest member of the jury and the first to side with Juror # 8. He has a fighting spirit and also some thoughtful observations on the case.

Juror # 10 (Ed Begley) A loud-mouthed older man with a penchant for insults and unsavory remarks about foreigners.

Juror # 11 (George Voskovec) He is a watchmaker and the foreigner in the group. However, he is obviously quite intelligent and passionate about American democracy. He takes seriously the duty that comes with being a juror.

Juror # 12 (Robert Webber) Lastly comes the wisecracking man in advertising who tries to lighten up the conversation. He is the major flip flopper in the group.

A mention now must be made of Sidney Lumet’s direction, because for his first film he was extremely bold to film it essentially in one room. He does it so wonderfully, however, because the confined space only heightens the drama thanks to his progressive change in camera angles. They start above eye level and slowly get lower as the drama increases. He is very rarely stagnant either, having the camera on the move or cutting to different characters. A great example of this is the tracking shot as the jurors enter the room. We are introduced to almost every character in such a fluid, natural way that sets up the story nicely.

There is so much else that could be said about Fonda’s performance and individual actors who I admire, but I will leave this discussion by saying that this is one of the greatest ensembles I have ever seen brought together. The intensity they created makes me want to get up right now and serve on a jury. Too bad I already served my jury duty this year!

5/5 Stars

The Pawnbroker (1964)

Starring Rod Steiger with support from Jaime Sanchez and direction by Sidney Lumet, the film chronicles the present life of a Holocaust survivor turned pawnbroker. Sol Nazerman is a man who keeps to himself and he is callous to everyone who enters the doors of his shop. Under the surface, it is evident that the reason for his demeanor are his constant tormenting memories of the death camp as well as the loved ones he lost. In present day Haarlem Sol feels fear for the first time in a long while when he learns his shop is being used as a front for illegal activities. The energetic Ortiz (Sanchez) who eventually got fed up with his boss, shows his loyalty in the end. Despite his specters, Sol seemingly feels humanity after such a long time of being cut off from the world. Steiger gives a stunning performance and although sometimes it seems confused, I think this is an important film to see.

4/5 Stars

Network (1976)

fb40a-networkmovieStarring Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall, this film satirizes the television industry. Howard Beale (Finch) is being fired as a news anchor for the struggling UBS network. On one of his final days on air he begins to rave madly and his industry friend Max (Holden) does not cut him short. At first there is uproar but then a shrewd business man (Duvall) decides to use Beal to boost ratings with the backing of one of the network staff (Dunaway). With her great ambition she moves up and takes Max’s place while becoming romantically involved with him. For a time the network thrives off the rants of Beale. However, he begins to change his tune and ratings begin to plummet. With everything in a shambles, they can him literally. This is a biting satire of television with intense performances and some moments that leave you pondering who the real nutcases are.

4/5 Stars