Perkins > Bacall > Gielgud > Connery > Cassel > Balsam > Roberts > Bisset >
Widmark > Hiller > Quilley > York > Bergman > Finney
Richard Widmark wakes up dead on a train, after asking detective Poirot to protect him the day before. Widmark was the mastermind of a heinous kidnapping in prologue, also a huge asshole, and it turns out all of the suspects had motives, each of them affected by his crime, and conspired to kill him together.
Languorously paced, and centered around Finney’s Mike Myers-like appearance and accent, it’s a near-disaster of a movie kept sporadically afloat by a few good scenes and performances, and a touching ending. Anthony Perkins was Widmark’s assistant – nervous, of course… Bergman is a timid religious fanatic who says “little brown babies” pretty often… Vanessa Redgrave is cute and smiley, having an affair with Sean Connery… Wendy Hiller in weird makeup and weird accent plays a princess.
Lumet made a lotta movies, more than forty and this was about the midpoint. The only other of his movies I’ve written about are his very first and his very last. Obviously a weird year for the oscars – Finney was nominated, Bergman won, and the whole list looks like New Hollywood and Old Hollywood in an ugly clash, trading awards between The Godfather II and The Towering Inferno.
I’ve probably seen this before, but most memory of it was long-gone. Entirely set in jury room, deliberating a murder charge for an 18-year-old accused of stabbing his father. Evidence sounded convincing enough to everyone in the jury except Henry Fonda, who calmly (not angrily – there are really only two or three angry men) expresses doubt in one detail at a time, gradually tearing apart the prosecution’s case and his fellow jurors’ prejudices.
TV director Lumet taking the original TV screenplay into theaters with Jean Vigo’s former cinematographer Boris Kaufman (Dziga Vertov’s brother). In order of their innocence vote: Juror #8 Fonda was in The Tin Star and The Wrong Man around the same time. #9 (old man with a cold): Joseph Sweeney, mostly did TV. #5 (nervous, says he grew up poor): The Odd Couple star Jack Klugman. #11 (watch maker, foreigner): George Voskovec of a version of Uncle Vany which nobody has seen. #2 (soft-spoken, glasses): John Fiedler, voice of Pooh’s friend Piglet. #6 (painter): Edward Binns, also of murder-trial films Compulsion and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. #7 (striped suit, didn’t want to be late for a ball game but it gets rained-out anyway): Jack Warden of Heaven Can Wait and All The President’s Men. #12 (you don’t hear from him much): Robert Webber of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. #1 (the foreman): Martin Balsam, detective in Psycho, Col. Cathcart in Catch-22. #10 (older racist angry guy): Ed Begley of Sweet Bird of Youth and Billion Dollar Brain. #4 (glasses): early TV star E.G. Marshall, later of the other one-man Creepshow segment, the guy with a cockroach phobia. #3 (lead angry man): Lee J. Cobb, lead baddie in Man of the West.
Cobb vs. Fonda:
Won the Golden Bear at Berlin Film Fest but the oscars preferred Bridge on the River Kwai.