HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Twelve Angry Men
Author: Reginald Rose
Publisher: Penguin Group USA Inc., reprinted in 2006
Language level: 1 (I don’t recall anything specifically objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Rose, Reginald. Twelve Angry Men (originally published in 1954). Reginald Rose (19202002) was an American film and television writer most widely known for his work in the early years of television drama. Rose’s work is marked by its treatment of controversial social and political issues. His realistic approach helped create the slice of life school of television drama, which was particularly influential in the anthology programs of the 1950s. Born in Manhattan, Rose attended Townsend Harris High School and briefly attended City College (now part of the City University of New York) before serving in the U.S. Army in 1942-46, where he became a first lieutenant. He sold his first teleplay, Bus to Nowhere, in 1950 to the live CBS dramatic anthology program Studio One, for which he wrote Twelve Angry Men four years later. This latter drama, set entirely in a room where a jury is deliberating the fate of a man accused of murder, was inspired by Rose’s service on just such a trial. Rose received an Emmy for his teleplay and an Oscar nomination for its 1957 feature-length film adaptation. Rose wrote for all three of the major broadcast networks of the 1950-80 period. He created and wrote for The Defenders in 1961, a weekly courtroom drama. Also, he wrote for The Twilight Zone and several films, beginning with Crime in the Streets (1956).
Twelve Angry Men (1954) was adapted from Rose’s 1954 teleplay of the same title for the CBS Studio One anthology television series. The play’s Broadway debut came 50 years later on October 28, 2004, at the Roundabout Theatre, where it ran for 328 performances. The drama depicts a jury forced to reconsider its nearly unanimous decision by the single dissenter who sows a seed of reasonable doubt. The story begins after closing arguments have been presented in a homicide case, as the judge is giving his instructions to the jury. As in most American criminal cases, the twelve jurors must unanimously decide on a verdict of “guilty” or “not guilty.” In the justice systems of nearly all American states, failure to reach a unanimous verdict, a so-called “hung jury,” results in a mistrial. The case at bar pertains to whether or not a young man murdered his own father.
The jury is further instructed that a guilty verdict will be accompanied by a mandatory death sentence. These twelve then move to the jury room, where they begin to become acquainted with the personalities of their peers. Throughout their deliberation, not a single juror calls another by his name because the names are unknown by the jurors. Several of the jurors have different reasons for discriminating against the witness: his race, his background, and the troubled relationship between one juror and his own son. We had to read this play as an assignment for some literature class in high school. I do not remember which year it was, but I am thinking that it was ninth or possibly tenth grade (though it may have been eleventh). Though I do not recollect all the details about it, I do recall the fact that I read it and that for the most part it seemed interesting reading.