Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Friday, December 28, 2012

TWELVE ANGRY MEN and One Young Teacher

from the 1957 film--Klugman is in
the right foreground
The recent death of actor Jack Klugman (link to obit) got me thinking once again about the play Twelve Angry Men.  Klugman had played Juror #5 in the 1957 film (directed by Sidney Lumet, director of Serpico, Murder on the Orient Express, Network, and any number of other notable films), and I think he was the last surviving member of that stellar cast.

I first used the Reginald Rose (1920-2002) play Twelve Angry Men early, early in my teaching career--perhaps even my first year, 1966-1967. I can see the setting: We moved some of the rectangular classroom tables into the center of the room, forming a square of four tables.  Our jurors (mixed gender) sat around the table, scripts in front of them, and performed the play for the rest of us.

In later years, I continued using the play and was happy to find it included in Exploring Literature (1981), the anthology I used for many years with my eighth graders.  And even when we changed anthologies later on, I kept a class set of the older ones around, mostly for Twelve Angry Men, which my students always enjoyed reading aloud and even performing in class.

In February 1988 I got a jury summons (I've had several since), and I was excited--now I would have a Twelve Angry Men experience!  My students were excited too.  (Because of the jury?  Or because they would have a sub?)  But ... disappointment.  I sat in the jury assembly room with lots of other folks.  There,  I read one of Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser until we all got sent home--and I never did get a Lumet-moment.  (And I still haven't.)

When I read about Klugman's death, I pulled from one of our (too) many file cabinets the file I have on the play.  Here's what I found inside, in order, top to bottom ...

  • A New York Times story (10 April 2011) about director Sidney Lumet, who had died the day before at age 86. Twelve Angry Men was his first film.
  • An AP story (from the Plain Dealer), 26 August 1998, about the death of actor E. G. Marshall, another juror in the film.
  • A New York Times story from 17 August 1997 about Showtime's version of the play, a version that cast a black actor (Mykelti Williamson) in the role of the bigot
  • An AP story (via the Plain Dealer) from 19 May 1997, a feature on Sidney Lumet and the recent release of his fortieth film, Night Falls on Manhattan with Andy Garcia.
  • A copy of the 19 April 1996 issue of Entertainment Weekly--whose cover story was "The 50 Greatest Directors and Their 100 Best Movies."  Sidney Lumet is among them.  But Twelve Angry Men is not in his list.
  • A photocopy of the AP obituary for actor Martin Balsam (14 February 1996), another juror.
  • A printout from some database (IMDB?) listing the cast and principal crew on the film.
  • A Los Angeles Daily News story (reprint in the Plain Dealer, 2 May 1995) about Lumet's new book, Making Movies.  (I've read it!)
  • A transparency of that story--one I used to show to my classes on an overhead projector.
  • A page torn from the 17 February 1995 issue of Entertainment Weekly, a full page advertising an upcoming showing of Lumet's film on TNT.  Hosted by Geraldo Rivera, we are told!  (See image above.)
  • A piece about the 100th anniversary of the el trains in Chicago, from the Plain Dealer, 22 July 1992.  The sound of an el train has significance in the play.
  • A New York Times obituary for actor Edward Binns (a juror in the film), 6 December 1990.
  • A photocopy of an ad (New York Times, 6 May 1990) for Lumet's new film, Q & A.
  • A 3x5 note card--my handwriting--identifying significant moments in the script--with page numbers.
  • A projection transparency of a paragraph about the film from Lumet's book.  In it, he talks about shooting the film.  "As the picture unfolded," he writes, "I wanted the room to seem smaller and smaller."  He talks about shifting lenses throughout the shooting.
  • A copy of a student handout I distributed before showing the film.  It lists basic information about the film and cast and has some "Questions to Consider While Viewing Film"--among them: What are some reasons people seem to want to vote guilty right at the beginning?  And What is the most convincing evidence against the boy?  That sort of thing ..
And that's all.  I would have guessed there was more in that folder.  But there isn't.

But I did clip and fold the Times obit for Klugman; I did place it in the file.  I'm not sure why.  I'm not teaching now--and it's virtually certain that I will never again use that play in a classroom.

But still ... I gotta be prepared, you know?  And so I continue to clip and fold and file ... dutifully ... pathetically ... ?

P.S.--Until I wrote this, I didn't know that Reginald Rose had died in 2002.  I just printed out his Times obit, added it to the file.  (link to obit)

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