“We don’t owe him a thing. He got a fair trial, didn’t he? What d’you think the trial cost? He’s lucky he got it. Know what I mean?”
Twelve Angry Men · Reginald Rose · 1954
Penguin, 2006 · 73 pages, paperback
Reginald Rose’s teleplay Twelve Angry Men opens onto an empty jury room, drab and bare of what isn’t necessary. “One man is dead. The life of another is at stake. I urge you to deliberate honestly and thoughtfully” – the judge, reminding the jury (and the audience) that New York required the death penalty for any convicted murderer.
Which is why the behavior of the men who then file into the jury room is so revolting.
It’s a little sad to leave Leskov behind…the cozy samovar-on-the table/bast-shoes-under-the-bed kind of feeling he gives….Leskov wrote most of the stories in this collection as anecdotes, apropos of something said between travelers at an inn, among passengers on a boat or just so: he created characters and scenes for the purpose of introducing his stories, and he provided these characters with listeners (who sometimes interrupt, only making that cozy, chummy feeling cozier and chummier). The copy I have is from my favorite translators, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, and is one for which I’ve already reviewed the title story, The Enchanted Wanderer, as it’s own piece).
Also publishing a review for the classic teleplay Twelve Angry Men. Disconcerting to read how cavalierly a jury could play with a man’s life. Rose wrote the play in 1954, when the Civil Rights movement was just barely starting to simmer. The way he slowly skins his characters down to their bones is masterful. Seventy-three pages, one setting (a drab jury room), no physical action…but the psychology of it is beautifully done that it hardly matters; its theatrical plainness is to its credit.
Estimated publishing dates are Thursday and Saturday (May 18th and 20th).