S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership today on Studio 360.
S2: She had to be able to identify a person 60 feet away a night without glasses.
S3: You can’t send someone off to die on evidence like that, a movie without romance or gunshots or multiple locations. Just 12 people in a room talking.
S4: You want to see this boy die because you personally want to die because of the facts. You’re a sadist.
S5: How Twelve Angry Men made the judicial process thrilling. Plus, a video game from 2019 that plays like a game from 1980. That sounds like a cartoon from 1930.
S6: I wasn’t trying to write specifically for a videogame. I was writing big band tunes and I was trying to make them fast and quirky enough so that they would work in the game context. The Music of Cup Head, the first video game soundtrack to top the Billboard jazz charts. That and more is ahead in Studio 360 right after this.
S3: This is Studio 360. I’m Colonel and I’m sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. First level of darkness, Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden. I’d like to have the roasted chicken. Well done. Editing is all about timing. I tried to get a little bit away from the actual subject. You could see the placement Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen.
S7: OK, picture this.
S8: It’s live on TV. This big trial, if there is no objection. Former reality TV star and World Wrestling Hall of Famer presiding is the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.
S9: The sergeant at arms will make the proclamation very, very, very.
S10: All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment while the Senate of the United States is sitting for the trial. The articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives against Donald John Trump, president of the United States.
S11: It makes for a great show, but spoiler alert he’s acquitted. Fictional trials and prosecutions are a staple of movies and especially television. This week we are looking at 12 Angry Men. The original poster for the 1957 film directed by Sidney Lumet had the tagline. It explodes like 12 sticks of dynamite as if it were some kind of action blockbuster. But in Twelve Angry Men, there’s no actual violence or cops or chases at all. It’s just dialogue and just one location. This barren, hot, stuffy room where 12 jurors are deciding the fate of a teenager accused of murder.
S12: For the latest in our American Icon series, Studio 360, Sam Kim, with the help of a sitting Supreme Court justice, explores how this small, low budget, black and white film came to be made and continues to loom large.
S13: The first time I saw Twelve Angry Men was in a high school social studies class.
S14: It was a copy on VHS played on one of those TV carts on wheels.
S15: That’s kind of the ideal context for it because this is a very powerful movie and it’s an educational movie and it’s a great American movie.
S16: That’s Nathan Rayborn, pop culture writer.
S17: Actually, before we start, for anybody who hasn’t seen it or needs a refresher, can you briefly summarize the movie?
S7: Oh, sure, no problem. Tell your man. Is it an American drama?
S18: A great responsibility. Thank you, gentlemen.
S15: About the deliberations that happened when an 18 year old minority kid is accused of murdering his father using a switchblade knife.
S19: All those voting guilty, please raise your hands.
S20: And at first, the jury is convinced of his guilt.
S19: OK, that’s 11.
S20: Guilty, not guilty. With the exception of an idealistic juror, one played by Henry Fonda.
S2: It’s not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.
S15: And then on the other side, you have Lee Jay Cobb as the angriest one who just is in a furious hurry to condemn this boy.
S21: You’re underprivileged, brother. Henry Fonda uses logic.
S22: The old man, according to his own testimony, would have had to hear the boy make this statement with the Yale roaring past. Yes. Knows it’s not possibly going to hurt it. The reason you are glass is when you go to bed.
S23: No, I don’t. She cannot have time to put them on. Maybe she honestly thought she saw the black. I think she only saw a blur.
S20: And over the course of the movie, he convinces his fellow jurors to come around to his point of view.
S22: When I vote not guilty by one, I’m convinced not guilty.
S20: And by the end, the dynamic has been completely reversed, and a group of people seemingly convinced to send an 18 year old boy to his death are instead convinced to free him.
S17: But the story of 12 Angry Men begins much, much earlier at the Foley Square courthouse in New York today.
S24: It’s called the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse.
S25: It’s where Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who tried Mrs. Ethel Rosenberg, who with her husband, were convicted of actually transmitting their secrets to Russia as well as Martha Stewart.
S26: I want them to know how very, very sorry I am for them and their families.
S24: And the year after the Rosenbergs were executed in the spring of 1954, a 33 year old TV writer named Reginald Rose reported her for jury duty.
S27: I have never been in a courtroom before. It was such an impressive, solemn setting in a great big wood paneled courtroom with a silver-haired judge. It knocked me out.
S24: That’s what Rose later told the New York Daily News. In the 1950s, he was best known for writing hourlong original dramas for Life TV.
S27: I was on a jury for a manslaughter case and we got into this terrific, serious eight hour argument in the jury room and I thought, wow, what a setting for a drama.
S17: Rose died in 2002 when he was alive. He rarely talked to the press, but luckily I found someone who could read those interview excerpts.
S28: I am Jonathan Rose. I am the son of Reginald Rose, the eldest son. McCarthyism was never far from Reginald Rose his mind. In the early 1950s, my father came from advertising and he got to meet other people in writing and acting and directing who got caught in the web of the blacklist. And yes, they were communist socialists, anarchists, and they got punished terribly as a result.
S29: That’s probably why the jury room setting was so irresistible for Rose. He quickly wrote an outline inspired by his experience as a juror.
S30: I just took the setting and invented a story and characters. It had nothing to do with the trial. I’d been on the CBS show Studio One, which aired live original dramas every week, bought it immediately. It came out very easily. I wrote the original 52 minutes script in five days on September 20th, 1954. The teleplay was broadcast on CBS.
S31: Twelve Angry Men. It was directed by Franklin Shaffner, who would later direct Patton and Planet of the Apes. It starred Robert Cumming as juror number eight.
S32: Got a good to walk around this table.
S33: Jonathan, I was about four years old when I first saw it. And my father turned the most sensitive. So how’d you like it drawn? And I said, Boy, were they ever angry.
S17: Twelve Angry Men teleplay had lots of admirers, critics, the television academy who gave it three Emmys, and Henry Fonda.
S34: After its airing, Fonda contacted Rhodes about his interest in a film version of the teleplay in which we played juror number eight.
S17: That’s film historian Drew Casper on the 12 Angry Men DVD commentary track.
S34: fontanne formed his own production company. He called it Orion Nova with writer Rich and Rose to produce, write and Star in the film version of Twelve Angry Men.
S17: And for the director’s chair, Rose had an unconventional choice in mind, a little known actor and TV director named Sidney Lumet.
S28: Sidney was just this bundle of energy. The two of them were about the same height. My father was tended to be a little chunky or it suddenly was just a bundle of wire.
S35: He and Reginald Rhodes hit it off. My name is Thane Rosenbaum. I’m a novelist and an essayist and a law professor. I co-produced a documentary about Sidney Lumet for American Masters, which was called by Sidney Lumet.
S29: Lumet died in 2011. Throughout his career, he directed classics like Dog Day, Afternoon, Serpico and Network. But in his early thirties, he worked with Rose on a number of socially conscious talent plays like Tragedy in a Temporary Town, a chilling story that expanded on the themes of Twelve Angry Men.
S36: You’re not just give me the names. Let’s go. I’ve got to give it to you. But I don’t know what is for Mr. Puerto Rico. I want your first name. I want his. And I don’t want any of your left in this instance.
S37: It’s not the jury. It’s the entire town turns on an immigrant family who is falsely accused of committing a crime, who will walk according, who would know.
S38: And I grew up playing a lot more. I wasn’t bad. And now my appellate court in a large bond fund agreed with Rose and they took a chance on the Met.
S37: And Henry Fonda really gave him his first really big break. Other than that, Sidney could have remained in television for the rest of his career.
S17: Rose went to work, expanding the teleplay into a full length feature film. Each of the jurors got backstories and the teleplay the race of the defendant is never explicit. But in the film version, the racially charged themes are front and center.
S37: The film is a frontal assault on the justice system. People in 1950s, when they thought of lawyers are thinking still of Perry Mason was roughly around the same time. The lawyers were often the good guys.
S39: And then he killed Ned Thompson. No, no, I didn’t do those things. I didn’t kill Ned. Thompson. Nichols. You didn’t kill Thompson, but you did, Mr. Wells.
S40: The case against Evelyn Bagby is dismissed. Mr. Mason, I’m so great.
S37: And so this was very different. Remember, the country was still a number of years away from the social upheavals of the 1960s. You can point to Twelve Angry Men as something that was a part of cultural history that gave artists and the public permission to look honestly at institutions that fail us looking at the legal system as not a place of justice. You know, without the good fortune of one juror, you know, a boy could have been put to death. And so the very beginnings of thinking about civil rights, civil liberties, due process, equal protection there all in to a very rare minute.
S17: While the film was an assault on the justice system, it was also attacking a system of a different kind. Hollywood in the 1950s.
S37: Remember the studio heads? They were so locked in to a 1930s vision of what movies do for them.
S41: Films. Robust escapism. That was their entire objective. And they made fortunes giving Americans escape right through the depression. Think about how important that was. That’s why the 30s were filled with films about these incredibly wealthy people who no one, of course, could have possibly known because half the country was unemployed.
S42: Meanwhile, Hollywood was pumping out. These incredibly elaborate films that showcase beautiful Hollywood, handsome people with perfect teeth, exotic, glamorous locales. Boy gets the girl. Happy, life affirming endings. You walk out feeling better.
S29: But in New York, a new generation of filmmakers were starting to crop up. They were inspired by the realistic style of films coming out of Europe, like The Bicycle Thief.
S43: Putting that the man you were seeing in those days, urban, greedy, socially conscious indictment’s of society that had ambivalent endings.
S41: I would argue. It begins with On the Waterfront.
S44: You think your God Almighty. But you know what you are? You’re a cheap, lousy, dirty, stinking man. And Twelve Angry Men.
S45: It was clearly a film that Hollywood distributed, but it was an anti Hollywood film.
S46: One could imagine the pitch session.
S47: You know, at a Hollywood studio, chief, there’s no violence.
S16: You know, there’s no beautiful woman. There’s no beautiful man. You know, it’s 12 character actors.
S48: Eleven with Henry Fonda. Most of the time, it’s just twelve men sitting around a table and glancing around. I mean, we’re all going crazy in here as they go to the bathroom.
S49: They go to the bathroom. That’s considered movement, right? That’s the action shot. What’s the action?
S50: Twenty seven grand. So a moment when I began to do Twelve Angry Men.
S51: Everybody said, you’re crazy. Can you do a picture in one room?
S17: That’s an archival interview with Sidney Lumet.
S51: I never thought of it as a problem if one simply made the camera work a part of what the piece was about emotionally and subjectively.
S17: And Lumet pulled it off thanks to his collaboration with cinematographer Boris Kaufman, who a couple of years before shot on the waterfront.
S37: You don’t realize it, but scene by scene, he’s going tighter. He’s bringing the faces closer to you. In the beginning, you don’t really see it’s a much more wider.
S52: And then as they get angrier and angrier, it does have an evolution in the lighting style. That cinematographer John Bailey talking about the film for the Criterion collection. The walls become darker, the shadows become a little bit stronger. The. The close ups, especially the very tight close-ups when you get in toward the end with wide angle lenses. It was very dangerous to use a wider angle lens for a close up because there’s a distortion. Yet Kaufman seemed to walk that razor edge between it being arresting and making you feel very present with the shot.
S53: And it’s sort of putting you off leave.
S34: After a few weeks of shooting, the movie was released in April 1957 and no, it did not do well in New York City, for example, and hoping that movies big movie palace on Broadway, the Capital Theater, the Capitol Theater had 4600 seats. The patrons film about a half dozen rooms day in and day out. The film was pulled after week. This was more or less how it played around the country.
S37: People didn’t come to films, too, for civics lessons. You know, they didn’t think that you could learn about the justice system and pay a ticket.
S17: Maybe not. But as time went on, the movie slowly found its fans, including one moviegoer in the Bronx. This is from the Conversation series at the Forum on Life, Culture and Society at Touro College.
S54: I saw this movie either at the very end of high school or at the very beginning of college.
S17: That Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic American on the Supreme Court.
S55: She talked about Twelve Angry Men after screening in 2010.
S54: And I had been thinking about becoming a lawyer, but I really had never thought about juries up until I saw this movie.
S17: The character who really spoke to her was juror number eleven. He’s the European watchmaker and naturalized citizen played by George Vasko back about an hour into the movie.
S56: After the jurors nearly come to blows, he speaks up this fighting. That’s why we are here to fight. We have a responsibility, they say. Have always thought is a remarkable thing about democracy, that we are what is the word notified? That we are notified by mail to come down to this place to decide on the guilt or innocence of a man we we have never heard of before in that scene.
S54: When he talked about the greatness of democracy being the jury system, we have nothing to gain or lose by.
S56: It’s just one of the reasons why we are strong.
S57: He sold me. He sold me that I was on the right path. That my choice of profession was a noble one. I was inspired by the sense that decision makers like this jury would take their work so seriously. So it was a very important film in terms of developing me both as a lawyer and subsequently as a judge. And so many of the things that I thought I had done intuitively as a prosecutor. I got from this movie. Now, this is so far from reality.
S54: And when I was a prosecutor, almost every voir dire and a deer swear, a lawyer questions a jury. I used to talk to the jury about 12 angry men. And I would say to them, I hope you’re not misled by that movie. And I would explain to them that some of the things that happened there shouldn’t happen in juries. There was an awful lot of speculation there.
S4: But I think having your man hurt the fight between the boy and his father a few hours earlier than when he’s lying in his bed, he heard a body hit the floor in the boy’s apartment, heard the woman scream from across the street, got to his front door as fast as he could, hurt somebody racing down the stairs and assumed it was the boy. I think that’s possible soon.
S57: You can’t guess or make things up. You had to rely on the evidence as it was presented.
S17: We’ll take the memorable scene where the jurors argue about the murder weapon. Sharp.
S2: No, I’m just saying it’s possible the boy lost his knife and somebody else stabbed his father with a similar knife. It’s just possible.
S58: Take a look at this knife. It’s a very unusual knife. I have never seen one like it either. Had the storekeeper who sold it to the boy. Aren’t you asking us to accept a pretty incredible coincidence?
S59: And then Henry Fonda reaches into his pocket and pulls out an identical switchblade to say, right here I do.
S17: It turns out the Fonda’s character visited the defendant’s neighborhood the night before.
S54: And certainly you don’t want them going for a walk late at night and picking up a knife from a pawn shop. And so when I was a prosecutor, I used to tell them, you can’t do that.
S17: In fact, if that scene actually happened, the story would have ended right then and there.
S54: The introduction of extraneous evidence into a jury room is a primary ground for a judge declaring a mistrial. It’s hard for me to imagine a judge who wouldn’t have.
S57: And so I know this movie shouldn’t be reality except for one thing. We expect that same attention to detail and that same passion about doing what’s right.
S17: Tolife increment and just inspire a Supreme Court justice.
S37: It also helped usher in a whole new genre on this strength on the heels of the possibilities that were presented in Twelve Angry Men. Someone like Reginald Rose would go off and create the defenders.
S14: Which was revolutionary for its time. The Defenders was on CBS from 1961 to 1965, it start e.g. Marshall, who played the analytical German before in Twelve Angry Men and many episodes are directed by Franklin Shaffner, who did the original teleplay like Twelve Angry Men Didn’t Shy Away from Hot Button Ripped from the Headlines Topics.
S60: The defense is willing to concede that an operation was performed on Miss Stafford, which resulted in the termination of a pregnancy.
S37: The defenders showed what was possible in a procedural courtroom drama and other people were watching the same possibilities. And you remember by the 1990s, the number of law shows was extraordinary. David Kelley himself had three Ally McBeal.
S61: We have a case in our office right now where this woman wants to get her marriage in the practice.
S62: Our legal system is adversarial by nature. Picket fences. The law already recognizes the right to die, your honor.
S8: Then there was the Law and Order series and the special victims units that we know. So there were endless numbers of these lawyer shows. Objection.
S35: Objection. They are all traceable to Twelve Angry Men and the work that Reggie and Sidney did.
S17: The film also inspired parodies from The Dick Van Dyke Show to Happy Days. But I think the best example of how malleable the plot of Twelve Angry Men is, is this 2015 episode of Inside Amy Schumer.
S63: So, gentlemen, raise your hands, please, if you think that Amy Schumer is not hot enough to be on television. One.
S17: Schumer transposes the story into a satire about the male gaze.
S64: You really think she’s attractive?
S17: I don’t know. This is her talking to Terry GROSS in 2015.
S65: I thought about my two friends were the male comics. They were deliberating if they thought Michelle Williams was hot. And they’re both, you know, really like kind of debating this. And they’re like, I don’t think I’d have sex with her. And I’m just like looking at them and they look like complete gargoyles. You know, there’s a constant stream of of articles and comments about Lena and Mindy and and myselfand and I just kept thing of the word deliberating.
S62: You wear your glasses when you watch television at night, like when you’re in bed before you go to sleep. And we really need to look at her again. Felt like a lineman and she has Cabbage Patch like features her ass thinks very serious, told, incremental.
S17: So inspired. Well, Twelve Angry Men, it’s been adapted and readapt it for stage countless times. In 1997, William Friedkin directed a made for TV version starring Jack Lemmon in the Henry Fonda role.
S66: I’m just saying that it is possible that the boy lost the knife and somebody else stabbed his father with a similar knife. It’s possible. That’s all for this version.
S17: Rose updated the script here and there. There were some interesting casting decisions like having the bigoted juror number 10 be played by African-American actor Michael T Williamson and having the immigrant to be played by Mexican-American actor Edward James Olmos. But Rose was resistant when producers wanted him to modernize the text.
S33: Beyond that, as he told the Daily News, they all wanted to bring it up to date, which, to make it realistic by today’s standards, would have to include women. You’d have to call it 12 angry jurors, but I just felt that would change the whole dynamic. It would have to be completely rewritten because not only do women not talk like men, but men don’t talk the same way. If there are women in the room. So I said no.
S67: And a lot of ways he was right. It most certainly does change when there are women in the room. But I think it changes for the better.
S55: My name is Natalie Roy Wilson.
S67: I am an adjunct professor of theater at Cypress College. And just this last year in 2019, I directed a production of 12 angry jurors.
S17: The cast in this production included women and people of color.
S67: When you take a look at this story and you mix minorities into it and you mix different genders and things get switched around, I think it only fills the story.
S55: This led to a new take on old characters.
S67: Maya, who played Juror 6, had a whole backstory about her kids. It’s interesting when it’s a mother and not a father. So when you make that switch, how does that affect how this juror looks at this young man that’s on trial? Maybe she would say, what if this was my son? And then you get into a mother’s love and how that would affect decision making and Natalie’s production.
S17: The bigoted juror number 10 is still played by a white actor, but his hateful monologue toward the end of the play takes on a totally different dimension.
S67: The big rant that Juror 10 has the really, really horrible and racist one about these people, this and those people that and this is how they are and they’re never going to change. That became a lot more intense when it was a Caucasian actor saying it to an African-American actor. It’s different than when they are both middle aged, upper middle class white men. So that took on a new intensity. And when that big moment happened, you could hear a pin drop in the theater because it was just like, I can’t believe these horrible things are actually coming out of his mouth.
S17: And even though 12 angry men seemed so quintessentially American, the film has found surprising life overseas. Chinese director shootings remade it as told Citizens Walk already, come on up. In 2007, Russian director Nikita McCole cough remade it as 12ish a blood that struck me and UCOS tissue. There was a Bollywood version in 1986. But the most interesting adaptation might be the one in Arabic fellow from Qatar and Turkey, which was an adaptation.
S68: So we called a twelve egg, really Binney’s.
S17: I talked to the director who lives near Beirut.
S69: My name is a mother. Gosh, I am Lebanese. See, it’s her directors and I’m a drama therapist.
S68: It was a drama therapy program for fifteen months inside the most notorious Lebanese prison called Drome Year Prison, which Recontextualize is in a really fascinating way.
S17: Since her cast is made up of people convicted of the most heinous crimes, I suggested that to the inmates.
S68: I said, what do you think? And voila. Everyone was like, we’ve been judged by society. Now we are playing. It said all these persons. We are playing the role of society that is judging us.
S17: She translated the play in Arabic herself.
S69: And how did we adapt it? So you’d see, for example, number eleven in the main play. He was coming from Europe or something. You know, he and I adopted it as a Nigerian guy who would come and work in Lebanon, you know. In Lebanon, there’s a lot of domestic workers and everyone is racist like you. Black men would understand you black because we can be very racist in Lebanon.
S17: And the justice system works very differently there.
S68: We don’t offer this chance, actually, to the people. It’s just the judges. And each judge has two judges here to help him out with the decision.
S17: So Twelve Angry Men didn’t exactly translate as a story about the criminal justice system in Lebanon. It ended up working better as a political allegory.
S68: I think everyone who watched was the Lebanese that was sitting on this table, all the political parties in Lebanon or a few I don’t know how much you know about our political context here, but you know that there was a lot of political parties, still things like number seven. Oh, I need to go. I have my other things to do. You know, very selfish. My football, my football, my team. You know, I’m not interested. You’d have other politicians or ministers like number two, I think any guys with nobles, if if fewer Lebanese and you watched the play, you’d say, oh, my God, I know who we’re talking about this No10. You know, I can tell who is this number 10.
S70: Well, what is the background? So that’s the church. It’s Naniwa.
S68: There’s a mass tonight. So the priest invites everyone with the bell. Oh, come on. Yeah. Look, join.
S70: OK. We’ll do it in 2017.
S17: Nathan Rayborn wrote an article for Vanity Fair titled Twelve Angry Men is more relevant than ever in the Age of Trump.
S15: One of the many ways in which Twelve Angry Men is very timely is because it captures this. And we need to find scapegoats and say if non-white people are accused of something, they’re guilty and they need to be punished. The most egregious instance of this was during the Central Park Five case, which was somewhat a little bit analogous to this. You know, you have a minority teenager. You have somebody who everybody thinks is guilty.
S71: Five teens for black, one Latino, all charged with the brutal rape of a 28 year old jogger in New York’s Central Park.
S17: Donald Trump, who is a real estate magnate in 1989, was vocal about the case.
S72: You better believe that. I hate the people that took this girl and raped her brutally. You better believe it.
S7: If minorities look like they may be guilty, then they are guilty. And not only are they guilty. Definitely. You don’t need to hear the facts. Why not? But they should be killed.
S71: Two weeks after their high profile arrest, Donald Trump took out full page ads in four major newspapers calling for the death penalty to be reinstated.
S7: Now, as a matter of somebody who is clearly innocent and whom the system proved incontrovertibly, seemingly in every conceivable way that it did not matter, he still wouldn’t back down.
S73: And now, even now, Trump said he still considers the man guilty, issuing a statement saying, quote, They admitted they were guilty. The police doing the original destination say they were guilty. The fact that case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous.
S17: You can almost hear that statement in Lee Jay Cobb’s voice.
S18: What’s the matter with you guys? You know, he’s guilty and you’re letting him think slip through our fingers. Are you his executioner? I’m one of you. Perhaps you’d like to pull the switch. Well, those kids. You bet.
S4: I would feel sorry for you what it must feel like to want to pull the switch. Ever since you walked into this room, you’ve been acting like a self-appointed public avenger. You want to see this boy die because you personally want to die because of the facts. You’re a sadist.
S17: The jurors also had different ways of interpreting the facts.
S74: The facts are supposed to determine the case. Don’t give me that. I’m sick and tired of facts. You can twist them any way you like. You know what I mean?
S7: I feel like that dovetails neatly with Kellyanne Conway.
S75: Well, you’re saying it’s a falsehood. Our press secretary gave all turned to the facts to that. But the point is, I’ll it asterisks. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.
S17: And the way juror number 10 played by Ed Begley rails against slums and poor people.
S19: The kids who call out of these places have real trash. I don’t want any part of them, I’m telling us.
S15: And that is an idea that Donald Trump rode to the presidency.
S17: They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And when juror number ten delivers that explosive hateful monologue, nobody claiming a bar.
S74: That’s the way they are by nature. You know what I mean?
S49: He’s raging and he is not doing a good job of pretending that he’s making a big deal in life. Don’t mean as much as enough blood. And there’s this wonderful, wonderful thing where, you know, his fellow jurors, they literally turn their back. What are you going. Because of what he’s saying is repugnant to them as Americans. It’s happening in here.
S53: These people are dangerous.
S15: So, yeah, I think definitely when Donald Trump has tried to enact some of his more draconian measures and then the American people have rebelled overnight, another surge of protests against President Trump’s controversial executive order.
S76: They’re carrying on the spirit of Henry Fonda.
S17: That’s the optimistic take that ended greybeards article. Wrote it right after Americans collectively turned their backs on Trump’s travel ban and it was struck down by the lower courts.
S55: But a year later, the major victory for President Trump. The Supreme Court in a 5 4 decision today upholding the president’s controversial travel ban affecting several predominantly Muslim countries. I feel like I wrote that any more hopeful world.
S15: I feel like we’ve just been beaten down. It’s hard for me to have faith in the goodness and the morality and to the moral superiority of the American people. And I feel like it in some way is trollface man. It kind of you know, it’s like the films are Frank Capra, where there’s this beautiful dream of what America is and who we are and the values that we have embody and that we will fight for.
S55: Even Reginald Rose wondered if he would have lived up to the character he created. I asked Jonathan about it, I think.
S28: I mean, Henry Fonda’s character would be the one he aspired to. I think he had a peculiar affinity for the one who was an advertising person, a breakfast for the building.
S17: But that’s juror number twelve, played by Robert Webber. He’s the most wishy washy juror who’s easily bullied into changing his vote.
S23: It’s not so easy to arrange all the evidence in order. You can throw out all the other evidence. What else are you want? I’m changing my vote, but I think he was the he.
S28: There is an identification with him because he realized that was the industry he’d been in.
S33: You might have an empathy with this guy who’s trying to be a good corporate guy, but people have to move on. People have to better themselves.
S7: I would like to think that I would be petrified. Hell, I would just like to go home. So it’s such an appealing, appealing option.
S15: That’s part of what makes us so heroic, is that it’s going against the grain and doing something that’s difficult because I feel like we as as a culture are very drawn to doing what’s easy and what’s convenient.
S17: Back in high school, when I saw Twelve Angry Men, I saw it as a movie about one courageous juror standing up to bigots like Lee Jay Cobb and Ed Begley. But watching it now, I’m seeing that it’s the characters in the middle who might be the true villains of Twelve Angry Men.
S37: The movie’s really about indifference. It’s really about apathy. It’s about passiveness, about how it’s really easy. If you’re not being named, if you’re given a number and you’re just one in a crowd, it’s really easy, convenient, expedient, appropriate probably to just not make waves, not step out of line. And only a certain kind of person that’s willing to take that risk, that it’s just one person stepping out and simply saying, excuse me. I don’t know. I have a weird feeling about this.
S47: This is exactly how mobs get dissipated, how they get stopped in their tracks.
S77: Eleven guilty or not guilty? Well, now we know where we are. Oh, what do we do?
S78: I guess we talk.
S79: That story was produced by Sam Kim. Studio 360’s American Icons is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. And you can listen to any or all five dozen of the stories and ours in the series at Studio 360 dot org.
S12: Last year, Michael Bublé, his album Love was at the top of the Billboard jazz chart for nine months until the week of September 14.
S80: That is when Christopher Maddigan released his double album of big band and ragtime tunes. It instantly took over the top spot. I adore old jazz. Fats Waller and Bix Beiderbecke. The old vinyl records sound imagining the Speakeasy. Ulu and Madigan’s album is a tribute to that 20s and 30s music. But his pieces were composed and played for a quintessentially turn of the 21st century genre and venue, a video game called Head, making this the first time ever that a video game soundtrack was a number one billboard jazz hit.
S12: So how do you write music for a video game and how did this album become so popular? Studio 360’s Morgan Flanary has the story.
S1: In the 1980s, Christopher Maddigan grew up in Saskatchewan, a province in western Canada. That’s where he met and befriended two brothers, Chad and Jared Moulden Hower.
S81: We were at school together and I kind of spent many of my formative years on the couch in their basement, freezing my feet off and my fingers because it was freezing in there playing video games. They also grew up watching those sort of cheap VHS tapes that you would get at the grocery store and like the 50 cent bin of, you know, the all the cartoons.
S1: Those cartoons included shorts by Max Fleischer, the animator and head of Fleischer Studios who made classic cartoons like Betty Boop and Popeye minus the Fleischer cartoon. Characters have long skinny limbs that bend and curve and flop around, which is a style it’s known as rubber hose animation. Eventually, Chad and Gerard went to college and moved away from their boyhood home where they’d played those video games in that freezing basement.
S61: And Chris went on to study music and to become a professional musician. He became the principal percussionist of the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra.
S1: Meanwhile, Chaton Jerod pursued their dream of making video games of their own. They started their own independent studio working remotely out of their homes and around 2012. They hit upon an idea what if they combine 80s video games with their other love Fleischer cartoons?
S82: The result was Kup Head Well, and he is my man. They like to roll their eyes by chance.
S83: They came by Devils Game and AP is paid as the game centers around Kup Head and his brother Mug Man.
S1: They look like two walking coffee mugs with big eyes and straws sticking out of their heads. The game plays like classic running gun shooter. If you don’t know what that is. Think Super Mario Brothers.
S84: But with guns, here’s a real.
S81: But the most striking thing about the game is the way that it looks, what it ended up becoming was a visual or Marge to the cartoon to they grew up loving that sort of surrealist.
S55: Fleischer A by work style early Disney combined with the games they grew up loving from that specific genre.
S81: So the whole game is hand-drawn and animated.
S1: That’s right. Every frame, every background was drawn by hand with ink and paint. It wasn’t just a video game. It felt like you were playing a cartoon from the 1930s. Chad and Jared also wanted that vintage style for the way the game sounds. So they turned to their childhood friend turned musician for help.
S81: Chad was very clear from the beginning. They wanted something that was more exciting. Like a lot of those old cartoons. They have more of a kind of a chamber orchestra sound like a small orchestra doing jaunty tunes like this Fleischer cartoon from 1931. So Chad said, you know, we would prefer the music to be more in that 30s big band style Cab Calloway.
S85: Many good men.
S61: That sounded like a cool idea. But this wasn’t exactly Chris’s wheelhouse.
S1: He’d never written videogame music before. He was now in his 30s, working as a full time orchestral musician. But composing big band tunes was not in his job description.
S81: I mean, I was hesitant at first because, you know, I had never done any writing before, let alone writing for this very specific style. You know, starting from such a blank slate kind of place was a little scary.
S1: So how was he going to pull this off?
S81: Once I was sort of committed to and once they knew the style they wanted. The first step is really just sitting down and listening to thousands of tunes, just listening to them and sort of figuring out like what makes, you know, a 30 swing piece, what makes that that style.
S61: So let’s take Duke Ellington’s classic big band tune, Harlem Airshaft, for instance. What would the breakdown of song like that look like?
S86: It’s standard form for a big band to and might be intro main melody.
S87: That soulless section. Then shout chorus. Now A.L.S.. And then outro.
S81: And so every tune has the sections where there are improvised solos.
S1: Chris took that classic structure and adapted it for a video game. Most video game music just loops the same melody ad nauseum.
S81: But in cup head, what we did is that we recorded the whole tune minus the solos in the studio and then after the fact we had the musicians come in and recorded multiple solos for each section.
S84: So what ends up happening in the game is you might play a lover and you know, you might hear a saxophone solo. And then you die.
S6: You start to level again, make it a bit farther, but instead of the saxophone solo, you hear a trumpet solo and you make a bit farther and you hear a little bit of a piano solo.
S81: I wasn’t trying to write specifically for a videogame, I was writing big band tunes and I was trying to make them fast and quirky enough so that they would work in the game context. I really tried to approach the whole thing like not that I was some composer in the two thousand somethings writing music for 80 style videogame set in the 30s. Like I really wanted to approach it as if you know the golden age of big band and the golden age of videogames maybe coexisted simultaneously. How would a big band composer write for that? You know, it was important for me to take what I could from these great artists of the past, but also like I don’t make that my own.
S1: Chris brought a lot of those great artists of the past into the 2000s, some things.
S81: But Theno Waltz by Joplin was one where eventually there’s this thing that became the inkwell theme and breathiness starts.
S88: But. But. But. But.
S86: And I was kind of looking for a place to start in a ragtime style, so liquify, you know, reverse that idea and put it in 4/4. Bom bom bom bom. That’s obviously not actually a complete retrograde of that, it’s just a place to start.
S81: And then that ended up becoming the sort of theme refrain. Well, I’ll one. And then when I was required to compose other inkwell tunes, I was like, why can you make that four note motif?
S86: The general starting point for all of these tunes is it makes life way easier.
S1: But there are some secrets Chris is not willing to reveal. Like where the inspiration for his tune. Clip Joint calamity came from in which cokehead has to battle two big frog bosses wearing boxing gloves.
S81: Some of them have, you know, very specific sort of quotes in them that are based on like, you know, the frogs tune.
S6: It’s just a tune that was influenced by Duke Ellington. I really like that sort of boogie woogie piano sound.
S81: And that one, at some point they’re like, it’s going to be the frogs. So then, you know, there’s some real secret sort of frog things in there, which I can’t really. That’s one of the quotes that no one has actually discovered yet.
S1: So we may never find out which Duke Ellington song he’s referencing with the Frogs tune. But there’s one musician who definitely did not influence Chris Koji Kondo, who did the music for Super Mario Brothers.
S89: A lot of fans point to this song as being in a large to this Mario Brothers piece that was not intentional.
S81: And the thing I would say to that. I know it’s very similar. And had I known at the time, I wouldn’t have written like that. But really, it’s like that’s three over two rhythm. It’s been referred to as a secondary ragtime rhythm, very common cliche in ragtime music. That chord progression. Secondary dominant progression. Very common in ragtime music. And then that dun dun dun da is just as common as dun dun dun the ending of ragtime phrases. So it’s actually just a combination of all three things. So I’m not gonna say anything bad about Koji kinda. But when he wrote it, it was already like an 80 year old idea. I would certainly wouldn’t have made it that blatant if I had heard the tune sometime in the past 20 years.
S55: But I think I have played that number, that game since I was a kid, so I would love to go back and actually change that cup.
S1: It has been a huge success since its release in 2017, selling over 5 million copies and winning many awards, including Best Indie Game, Best Original Music and Best Art Direction. But Chris has no intention of becoming a full time composer just yet. His first love remains playing music, and he still plays regularly with the National Ballet of Canada Orchestra. Still, he isn’t ready to stop working with his childhood friends just yet. Chris is currently writing new music for Cup heads follow up expansion called the Delicious Last Course.
S81: I’m trying to stretch out, add some styles to this. Gonna be a bit more hot club of France stuff. Django Reinhart, Stefon Grappelli and yeah, this one’s a bit more planned.
S1: Debatably, even though he’s one of the most successful videogame composers today, he’s still not totally comfortable with the title.
S81: I’m hesitant to even call myself a video games composer because I wrote big band music for a videogame, but I didn’t really write quote unquote videogame music. People always ask me like, how do they break into the gaming composing scene? And like, I don’t know, like I happened to know some guys, but I’m like the worst person to ask.
S5: That story was produced by Studio 360’s Morgan Flanary. Christopher Maddigan is writing the music for the Cup, had follow up the delicious last course, which will be out later this year. And if that’s not enough cup ahead for you, an animated series based on the game is coming on Netflix. And that’s it for this week’s show. Studio 360 is a production of PR by in association with Slinked. Our production team consists of Jocelyn Gonzalez into Adam Newman. Sandra Lopez once had Sam Kim, Zoe Saunders, Evan Chung, Morgan Flannery, Tommy Possessory and I am Kurt Andersen.
S18: What’s the matter with you guys? You always give me a finger. Thanks very much for listening. Ah! Ah!
S33: Public Radio International. Next time on Studio 360, Peter Malone. He’s a very tough act. It’s not easy working with him.
S11: Why? Antonio Banderas keeps going back to his longtime collaborator.
S21: He managed to bring out of me a character that I didn’t even know I had inside.
S11: Academy Award nominee Antonio Banderas on Pedro Almodovar. Part of our Oscar special next time on Studio 360.