Twelve Angry Men Analysis

  • Twelve Angry Men was first broadcast as a television play in September, 1954, just three months after the Army-McCarthy hearings. Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy was the leader of a witch hunt targeting rumored communists in the United States. Author Reginald Rose draws a clear parallel between the injustice of the hearings and the jury's deliberation.

  • Rose makes use of the Aristotelian unities, which state that: the action of a play should take place in a period of less than twenty-four hours, the play itself should have only one setting, and the plot of the play should not diverge from the central action. In setting the play on one afternoon in a steaming hot jury room, Rose focuses the play entirely on the deliberation.

Historical Context

E. G. Marshall, Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Edward Binns, George Voskovec, Jack Klugman, and Joseph Sweeney in the 1957 film version of Twelve Angry Men Published by Gale Cengage

Live Television Drama in the 1950s

The decade of the 1950s is sometimes known as the golden era of television, largely because thousands of live dramas were broadcast during that time. These dramas supplemented the standard television fare of variety shows, westerns, and soap operas. It was during this period that television replaced radio and film as the chief medium of entertainment for the American family.

The live programs were in the form of drama anthologies, such as NBC's Kraft Television Theater and Goodyear Television Playhouse and CBS's Studio One. It was Studio One, which ran from 1948 to 1958, that aired Twelve Angry Men and other plays by Rose. Rose recalled in an interview the challenging but rewarding nature of television drama in the 1950s: "It was a terrifying experience, but very exhilarating. But there were always mistakes…. I don't recall a show I ever did when something didn't go wrong" (quoted in "Reginald Rose: A Biography," in Readings on "Twelve Angry Men," edited by Russ Munyan). Rose recalls cameras breaking down and shows that ran either too long or too short to fill the exact time slot allocated.

There was great variety in the content of these dramas. Some were adaptations of stage plays by such playwrights as Eugene O'Neill and Arthur Miller as well as Shakespeare. Most, however, were original dramas. The constant demand for new plays provided a fruitful creative outlet for writers, directors, and actors in the new medium. Television drama offered actors who were not well known in movies their first national exposure. In 1949, Marlon Brando, then only twenty-four years old, starred in I'm No Hero, a television drama produced by the Actors Studio. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen made appearances on the...

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