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May 16: Happy Birthday Pierce Brosnan and Henry Fonda


0516BrosnanFonda

Pierce Brosnan celebrates his 64th today.  He graduated from the Drama Centre London and worked in English theater for several years.  American audiences first became aware of him when he starred as the title character of the detective/romance series Remington Steele.  During the show’s run he was also nominated for a Golden Globe for the BBC/Masterpiece Theater miniseries Nancy Astor.  When the series ended, he had a few prominent film roles, including an adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s The Fourth Protocol, but it wasn’t until 1995 that his career-defining part came along.

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Juror #9: Joseph Sweeney


I think certain things should be pointed out to this man”

Joseph Sweeney’s “Juror #9” is the first to reverse field and support Juror #8’s plea for a more detailed deliberation. He does so not because he has been convinced that the boy is not guilty, but because he recognizes that it is the right thing to do. A rush to judgment is just what the whole legal system was created to avoid. He quickly becomes one of Juror #8’s strongest allies, though, as the imperfect and sometimes twisted arguments for conviction are gradually shown for what they are. Like Juror #2, he tends to be ignored or taken for granted by some others in the room, and he often finds that he must stand up and shout just be allowed to speak his mind. Sweeny’s character brings these experiences to some of the key questions about important prosecution witnesses, and helps to turn the tide.

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Juror #8: Henry Fonda (Part 2)


In part 1 of this article, I detailed Henry Fonda’s early life and film career through the end of the 1950s. After six years away from film, Fonda had come back in a big way with “Mister Roberts,” which had opened the door for some high-profile projects, including “War and Peace,” Hitchcock’s “The Wrong Man,” and our personal favorite here, “12 Angry Men.” Unfortunately, a couple of box office disappointments and at least one unfathomable creative dud had left Fonda licking his wounds and retreating to the television western “The Deputy.” As he would prove, however, Fonda still had the prestige, popularity, and talent to hold a strong place in the industry.

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Juror #8: Henry Fonda (Part 1)


You’re a sadist.

Henry Fonda’s “Juror #8” (or “Davis” as he finally introduces himself) is the ostensible hero of “12 Angry Men,” the individual who initially stands alone against derision, impatience, apathy and hate. All of this is true, but the real triumph of Fonda’s character is that he succeeds in bringing out the best in some of the men around him, allowing them to become heroes in their own rights. What is remarkable in Fonda’s performance is his rare ability to embody humble integrity, even in moments when the character is kind of being a pompous jerk. Next time you see the film, consider his actions from moment to moment rather than as a whole, and you will see a man who is willing to get his hands dirty in service to an ideal. Despite Juror #7’s pronouncement that he has the “soft sell,” Fonda’s character is neither subtle, nor kind when arguing his case with sledgehammers like jurors 3 & 10. If you want an omelette, you gotta break a few eggs.

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Justice for “12 Angry Men”


There are a select few films which I am sure to view at least once a year. One of them is Sidney Lumet’s classic jury room drama “12 Angry Men.” So when the Criterion Collection released a newly restored version I was sure to pick it up for myself (after making sure noone had purchased it for me over the holidays).

I saw it for the first time when I was a junior in high school. In fact, I saw it at high school in my “Government” class. Some others have probably had a similar course, under a different name. “Civics” maybe? As long as we are standardizing our educational requirements nationwide, I would support the screening of “12 Angry Men” for every American student. In fact, it seems downright necessary, considering what little understanding our citizens show regarding our legal system at times.

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