Tag Archives: Martin Balsam

Film: 12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men was the first film directed by Sidney Lumet, whose courtroom drama "The Verdict" has already been honored on this list. Uploaded by prodeoetpatria.wordpress.com.

It’s not a good thing to feel claustrophobic during a movie. And except for a couple of brief scenes at beginning and end, the “action” in 12 Angry Men (1957) takes place in a closed jury room. As they say, in the hands of a lesser director this would have been a problem. But the great Sidney Lumet (Network, The Verdict, et. al.) took this on as his very first production, and showed why he would be a directorial force for decades to come.

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If you haven’t seen 12 Angry Men, I don’t want to spoil the plot. Suffice it to say that a jury of all men debate the fate of a defendant who’s one of “those people,” and most initially consider him guilty. Henry Fonda is the lone dissenter, and he uses his powers of logic and persuasion to try to convince the others that they may be convicting an innocent man.

The film wouldn’t have worked without a terrific cast, and it had one. Among the jurors were E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, and Jack Klugman – a who’s who of great 1950s era character actors. Most forceful of all was Lee J. Cobb, leading those who believed in the defendant’s guilt. 12 Angry Men is considered one of the top courtroom dramas of all time (AFI considered it number two), and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars. And if it hadn’t come out in the same year as Bridge on the River Kwai, it might have won them.

Film: All the President’s Men

 

The source book was dense and detailed. Screenwriter extraordinaire William Goldman distilled its essence, turning it into an engrossing thriller. Uploaded by john-likes-movies.blogspot.com.

Typically, when you’ve read a book and then see the movie adaptation of that book, the film leaves much to be desired. So much must be omitted. That’s one of the things that cause me to marvel at this movie – long after the book has faded, the Alan Pakula film is still fascinating to watch.

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One of the reasons is the screenwriter. William Goldman is one of the all-time masters of the art, and he realized what was important in the complicated Watergate saga, and what didn’t advance the story. Especially considering the large cast in this epic.

The main characters were excellent – Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein and Robert Redford as fellow Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. And what a supporting cast! Martin Balsam, Jason Robards, Jack Warden, Hal Holbrook, Jane Alexander, Meredith Baxter, Ned Beatty, Stephen Collins…

All the President’s Men received eight Academy Awards nominations, and won four (Sound, Art Direction, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor – Robards).