Book Review: The Author Traces the Development of Screenwriter and His Famous Jury Room Drama | Art

Reginald Rose and 12 Angry Men's Journey

Reginald Rose and 12 Angry Men’s Journey


In the spring of 1954, a man named Reginald Rose, a copywriter at an advertising agency, was summoned to a jury in New York City. Not long after, he began writing a screenplay for television in which a single jury faces 11 others in a murder case.

There had been many courtroom dramas, but this would take place entirely in the jury room after the trial was over. Rose wanted the audience to feel the tension and claustrophobia in the small airless space. The juries had numbers, not names. They examined the evidence, argued and voted again and again and finally reached a conclusion that saved a young man’s life. The script was called “12 Angry Men”.

The show aired in late September 1954 as the season opener for Westinghouse Studio One. The years 1950-57 are considered the golden age of television, when hungry young writers like Paddy Chayefsky, Rod Serling and Rose created scripts for countless hours of live shows. “12 Angry Men” won three Emmys, including one for Rose’s writing.

While Rose continued to write for television, Hollywood had noticed the talent there. Paddy Chayefsky’s play “Marty” not only became a feature film, it won four Oscars including Best Picture. That success led Henry Fonda to sign as producer and star in “12 Angry Men”. It was director Sidney Lumet’s first feature film in 1957, and it was a box office flop.


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