Twelve Angry Men Critical Overview - Essay

Reginald Rose

Critical Overview

(Drama for Students)

When Twelve Angry Men was first shown as a live television drama on CBS in 1954, Leonard Traube, in Variety, wrote one of the first of the many positive reviews the play was to receive. As he puts it, "Seldom in TV history has a story been able to achieve so many high points with such frequency and maintain the absorbing, tense pace."

When Rose revised the play and co-produced a movie version with Henry Fonda in 1957, critical response was also positive. The reviewer for Newsweek calls the film a "hard, emphatic, single-minded drama of extraordinary drive and fascination." In America, Moira Walsh describes it as "continuously absorbing…. It is well constructed and abounds in forceful and abrasive characterizations." However, the film was not an immediate popular success and was quickly withdrawn from large theaters. Subsequently, it was shown at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won first prize. It also won prizes in Japan, Italy, Australia, and other countries. Since then, it has established a reputation as one of the significant films of the 1950s and an all-time American classic film.

Revised by Rose, the play was revived in 1996 at the Comedy Theatre in London, directed by the noted British playwright and director Harold Pinter. The reviewer Matt Wolf, in Variety, finds the play a "startlingly innocent work in its belief in a fundamental integrity to the legal process." He contrasts this with the...

(The entire section is 340 words.)