‘Slash Film: The Studio’s Grand Ambitions For 12 Angry Men Set Henry Fonda Up For Failure’

Slash Film

Henry Fonda recounted the release of “12 Angry Men” in “Fonda: My Life” (co-written with Howard Teichmann). According to Fonda, he, Lumet, and screenwriter Reginald Rose all knew they “had something special when [they] saw the first rough cut.” Still, their initial plans were modest. Fonda recounts:

“We dreamed of putting it into a small East Side movie house, the kind that held a few hundred people at the most, and we hoped that word of mouth would spread just as it had built with Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty.”

“Marty,” released by “12 Angry Men” distributor United Artists in 1955, had opened at the Sutton, an arthouse theater in New York with 500 seats. As Phil Rosenzweig recounts in “Reginald Rose and the Journey of 12 Angry Men,” the film played there for 6 more months and by the end, it had earned $2 million in domestic returns and $1.5 million internationally.

Even today, staggered release roll-outs are common for all but blockbusters: movies typically open in large cities, especially the cultural centers of New York City and Los Angeles, then go wide once word of mouth has been spread. However, United Artists heads Arthur Krim and Bob Benjamin had other plans. Bawled over by the picture and convinced it would be a money-maker, they wanted a wide release for “12 Angry Men” across the country.

When Fonda asked for time to consider the idea, Krim responded: “Are you out of your ever-loving mind? All you’ll have to do is sit back and hire people to take the wheelbarrows of money to the bank.” Teichmann and Fonda write that the latter agreed since United Artists had funded “12 Angry Men.” Unfortunately, Krim and Benjamin’s plans wound up demonstrating why you don’t immediately go to wide release.

/Film – ‘Slash Film: The Studio’s Grand Ambitions For 12 Angry Men Set Henry Fonda Up For Failure’
Author: Devin Meenan
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January 15, 2023

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