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Opening Arguments

Did the kid do it?

Reason links to a fascinating back-and-forth on "12 Angry Men," the wonderful movie set entirely in a jury room. Was the kid actually guilty, gotten off by Henry Fonda's self-rightously liberal architect character? Or was the movie deliberately unclear on whether the kid actually did it as a way to show the difference between "guilty" and "beyond a reasonable doubt"? I tend toward the latter. That movie, by the way, shows why Henry Fonda was probably the best American actor ever. One of the cable channels (Showtime, I think), did a remake starring Jack Lemon and for one of the showings aired both of them back to back. Lemon did not look very good by comparison. Fonda was just there, effortlessly blending in with the story. In every scene, you could see the "acting" in Lemon's work in a way you couldn't in Fonda's.


Fri, 02/15/2008 - 2:04pm

Law school ruined my perspective on this, but whether the kid did it or not is quite beside the point of any trial. The real question is whether the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the kid did it. That's why verdicts are "not guilty" as opposed to "innocent."

Fri, 02/15/2008 - 2:05pm

Oh, and I agree about the relative performances of Henry Fonda and Lemon. I don't think Lemon was bad, exactly; but Fonda was very, very good.

Fri, 02/15/2008 - 3:01pm

Apart from the interpretation of "12 Angry Men", to further illustrate Henry Fonda's acting ability, watch his early work, as in "The Grapes of Wrath". He started out great and got better over the course of his career.