After a decade of directing live television, director Sidney Lumet made the leap to feature films with a small scale, one-room drama, 12 Angry Men (1957), a now iconic classic. His star, Henry Fonda, had already been a Hollywood leading man for over twenty years, and his presence lent the young director’s film a level of gravitas and star power uncommon for such a modest debut. The actor/director duo would work together on two more films films over the next seven years: the rarely screened Stage Struck (1958) and the Cold War thriller Fail Safe (1964), showcasing the dynamic potential of aging Hollywood stalwarts in the ascendant milieu of stylistic realism. (LSL)

  • Fri., Mar. 15 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

In the definitive version of Reginald Rose’s timeless script, an all-white jury decides the fate of a youth accused of murder. This tightly constructed searing exposé of prejudice in the American legal system stars Fonda as a particularly conscientious juror, and a pantheon of great character actors, including Cobb, Warden, E. G. Marshall, Jack Klugman, and Martin Balsam.

  • Fri., Mar. 22 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Lumet’s sophomore feature was an immediate reunion with Fonda, an adaptation of the same play (Morning Glory) that provided the source material for Katharine Hepburn’s first Oscar winning role in 1933. Strasberg stars as Eva Lovelace (real name Gertrude Lengenfeider), an ambitious young ingenue trying to break out on the Broadway stage. Fonda plays Lewis Easton, the slick theatrical producer whose eye is caught by Eva’s raw talents. Filmed entirely on location in New York City, the film is further notable for the movie debut of Plummer, who plays a lovestruck playwright enchanted by the vivacious Eva. 35mm print courtesy Chicago Film Society. (LSL)

  • Fri., Mar. 29 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

After a computer error deploys a U.S. bomber group to nuke Moscow, those on the ground in Washington scramble to stop the planes and negotiate with the Soviets to prevent all-out global conflict. Fonda stars as the level-headed but beleaguered President of the United States in the movie that has become known as the “straight” version of Dr. Strangelove, which was released the same year and by the same studio. Fail Safe remains one of Hollywood’s boldest and darkest dramatizations of a nuclear worst-case scenario. Lumet’s mastery of claustrophobic tension is on full display here, piling on complications and impossible choices that build to a truly unforgettable ending. (LSL)