Thursday, July 25, 2019

"Twelve Angry Men," CBS-TV, 1954

On his "It's About TV" blog (referred to, previously, a number of times in this space), Mitchell Hadley writes about various aspects of television--including the relationship between television and the culture at-large, and television history (see, for example, his recent four-part examination of the history of television opera).

A central feature of the blog concerns TV Guide. Such posts appear weekly; they provide overviews of, and commentaries about, decades-old issues of the magazine.

A post last month focused upon the magazine's June 20, 1964 issue (the edition covering New York City and environs)--and referred to an airing, that week (on a Connecticut TV station), of the 1957 film 12 Angry Men.

In the post, Mitchell wrote of his preference for Robert Cummings' starring performance (as Juror #8), in the original, 1954 live television production of Twelve Angry Men, over that of Henry Fonda, who played the same role in the 1957 film. (The television production, incidentally, spelled out the number in its title: Twelve Angry Men.  The film version used the number 12.)

The 1954 telecast of Twelve Angry Men aired on CBS's Studio One program.  It was directed by Franklin Schaffner, and the script, written for Studio One, was by Reginald Rose; both Schaffner and Rose were leading figures in the live television era. Rose adapted his Studio One script for the subsequent film version, directed by Sidney Lumet.

In his post, Mitchell provided a YouTube link to the 1954 Studio One production.  The YouTube channel featuring the link presents restored kinescopes, from the live television period; the channel's administrator produces the restorations, and writes that the Twelve Angry Men kinescope was "cleaned and restored to the original frame rate of live television, so you may see what it looked like when originally broadcast live."

I'd never seen the live TV version of Twelve Angry Men (had only seen the film, which is superb), and watched the program, due to Mitchell's comments about it. The television version is excellent--and the restored kinescope is outstanding, in its clarity.

The YouTube page made note of instances, in the television production, in which TV cameras were accidentally seen.  Before watching the program, I also looked up the production on  Mention was made, on IMDB, of a moment during the 1954 telecast, in which a camera--with its CBS "eye" logo--was glimpsed.

The IMDB page referred to the line of dialogue which preceded the appearance of the TV camera.  The words--angry, sarcastic--were spoken by the actor Edward Arnold (Juror # 10) to Robert Cummings' Juror # 8: "You're a pretty smart young fella."  Had I not been aware, beforehand, of the words from the script, I likely would have missed seeing the camera; it appears, and disappears, quickly.

The camera is seen at approximately 12:55, in the kinescope. It is visible at the right of the screen, in the distance.  Seated to the left of the camera is actor Joseph Sweeney (Juror # 9).

Twelve Angry Men, 1954; CBS camera, to the right of the screen.

A second appearance of a camera--a much more prominent intrusion--takes place at 29:41, at the forefront of the screen.  A side view of the camera's front apparatus appears, for a rather startling amount of time--more than three seconds.  Robert Cummings is on-screen, while the camera is seen; seated to Cummings' right (our left) is actor George Voskovec, Juror # 11.  (Voskovec, and the aforementioned Joseph Sweeney, were the two actors who were featured in both the live television and film versions.)