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Archive for the ‘Jack Lemon’ Category

12 Angry Men [Jack Lemon Version 1997]

26 Aug

12 Angry Men [Jack Lemon Version] –– directed by William Friedkin. Courtroom Drama. A jury reconsiders a foregone verdict. 1 hour 57 minutes Color 1997.

★★★★★

Each of the three versions of this screenplay is longer than the one before it, and each is perfectly adequate to the task. None of them is a moment too long or too short. This one is interracial, the most bigoted member of it being Black Muslim. It is beautifully cast, directed, and acted, as are the other two. And in each case the principal actor gets older. Robert Cummings is 44. Henry Fonda is 55. Jack Lemon is 72.

I imagine it is impossible to badly direct this piece. It is not impossible to overact it, for it is occasionally and in certain small ways, in all its versions, over-written, but that is a cavil. It is not overwritten in its addition of material and episodes. None of the actors dally or milk their parts for attention. This version holds us, even though, after three versions, we know its episodes, its moves, and its outcome. In this version color adds a good deal to the drabness of the jury room itself, and in this version the rain convinces. Nothing is more insufferably sweltering than a July downpour in New York City. A minor matter is that Bayside High is said to have a football team. It does not even have an athletic field. I went there and I know.

Jack Lemon, a wonderfully jittery actor and comic master, evinces none of his trademark volatility and plays the part steady-on, as it should be played. He is exemplary, and his evident age adds a bent of physical vulnerability subtly advantageous to our tension.

One of the expanded parts of the play is the final scene which George C. Scott plays coming to terms with the scar of hatred for his own son. I saw George C. Scott starting out on the New York stage in The Andersonville Trial. He was mightily impressive, and has remained so ever since. However, he has not shown us anything new for years. Until now. This is the finest and most extreme demonstration of his gift I have ever seen – an extraordinary performance, which opens him up to a region I never associated him with. Don’t miss it. He won Golden Globe and Emmy for it that year.

I admire great actor-technicians such as Scott and Armin Mueller-Stahl. All the actors are excellent, and James Gandolfini, a different sort of actor entirely, is particularly lovely.

This version was made for television, and I saw it on VHS. All versions are riveting. All versions are worth seeing.

Jack Lemon, Courtney B. Vance, Ossie Davis, George C. Scott, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Dorian Harewood, James Gandolfini, Mykelti Williamson, Edward James Olmos, William Petersen, Tony Danza, Hume Cronyn, and Mary McDonnell as the judge.

Henry Fonda, Lee. J. Cobb, Robert Webber, George Voskovec, Ed Begley, Jack Warden. Joseph Sweeny, Edward Binns, E.G. Marshall, John Fiedler, Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman.

Robert Cummings, George Voskovec, John Beal, Franchot Tone, Edward Arnold, Joseph Sweeny, Paul Hartman, Bart Burns, Lee Philips, Norman Fell, Larkin Ford. 

 

Jack Lemon Collection: Special Features. Documentary.

06 Apr

Jack Lemon Collection: Special Features. Documentary.

★★

If a disservice could be performed against Jack Lemon and actually take, this would be it: “He was such a nice guy.” What a dreadful thing to say when it is all that is being said. The tone is of a group speechifying at a wake. None of it tells anything either about Jack Lemon or about his craft, none of it penetrates into his nature or his work. What I mean is, watching him, the first thing one would notice after noticing his speed and dynamic variation of delivery, is his breath control. Watch how he breathes. And how what he is doing is governed by that. Wonder how it is his comic personality halted at the level of a Harvard senior: a mastery of affable glibness as a survival style. Often foolish, always clean-cut. What do those choices tell one? Who do they please? His father, the baker? Whom do they not offend? At a time when the torn undershirt of Marlon Brando was the cynosure of all eyes, where does this skimming boater hat arrive from? With Jack Lemon, there is so much to contemplate and explore, and none of it is touched upon here. There is an every-day soul here that no one knows and no one even thinks of looking at, perhaps because the effort is arranged by Lemon’s son, Chris, and no one wants to make a misstep or offend a sacred memory or chip at a memorial. However, for me, at the time, Lemon was not an Everyman figure and Judy Holiday was certainly not a voice I would wish to court. He only became interesting to me in Save the Tiger and in later roles, the JFK role and even the little bit in Hamlet, and certainly the Glengary, Glen Ross role. I have not seen the movie of his Long Day’s Journey Into Night, because, of course, he is miscast as a matinee idol, but now I want to. I think he would bring an Irish madness to it worth witnessing. He was a likable man, but James Tyrone is not, so I wonder what, if anything happens or can happen with his playing him. I am interested to honor with the brain of my heart what Lemon offered. I wish I could say the same for this documentary of him.

 
 
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