The apparent ‘decline’ of standards in American television drama due to the intervention of the major Hollywood film studios in television was a major subject of discussion in the Fifties. Christopher Anderson writes that this was ‘one of the most well-rehearsed narratives’ centred on a struggle for the hearts and minds of the viewing public (Anderson, 1994: 13). The New York Times’ long-serving television editor Jack Gould complained in 1952 that filmed shows for television were often of poor quality and rudimentary acting. By contrast live television drama offered the immediacy of the theatre for television audiences – even if there were occasional fluffs or awkward camera movements. Despite its commercial roots, television could educate and entertain in the spirit of public service. To regard it as an extension of the neighbourhood cinema is therefore to misunderstand its function (Gould, 1952: X17). Five years later Kenneth McGowan’s article ‘Screen Wonders of the Past – And to Come?’ paid tribute to the rapid advances in technology that had radically improved the quality of television: notably lighter cameras, more sophisticated sound equipment, and the development of magnetic tape rather than the kinescope. In addition to technological improvements, the quality of film and television could increasingly only be sustained through good stories with ‘true characters’ – the kind of style considered characteristic of live television drama (McGowan, 1957: 393).
Although this narrative made good copy for the newspapers, it took no account of the major studios’ efforts to create filmed television drama series through subsidiary companies, and thereby initiate a fledgling convergence culture. In 1949 and 1950, two articles appeared under Samuel Goldwyn’s moniker announcing the dawn of a new collaboration between television, film and independent producers that would demonstrate how ‘it will take brains instead of just money to make pictures [….] this will be hard on a great many people who have been enjoying a free ride on the Hollywood carousel, but it will be a fine thing for motion pictures as a whole’ (qtd. in Anderson, 1994: 24–5). Television would serve as a means of product improvement by purging the film industry of products that seemed routine. Leaving aside the self-interested purpose behind Goldwyn’s arguments (the articles were obviously designed to attract fledgling independent producers), we can understand why there was such a need for new material. In a fast-changing media environment creative workers had to be adaptable; unconstrained by any commitment to a specific mediatic form. Within five years journalists such as Thomas Pryor proclaimed that the film and television industries had cemented a happy union (Pryor, 1955: X5). Another article proclaimed that ‘Hollywood, once so fearful of television, today is riding the crest of a video-inspired boom […] the West Coast center of the show business will provide at least ten times as much entertainment for national television audiences as for motion picture audiences’ (Gould, 1955: 1). Independent producers had the chance to create quickly filmed genre productions with their origins in the B-Movie and subsequently distribute them for syndication, where the endless repeats ensured regular profits (Davis, 1999: 195–7).
The convergence between television and film gave birth to what Davis terms the MFTVM (Made-from-TV-Movies) (Davis, 1999: 198), where familiar television programmes spawned into feature films. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were brought together in The Long Long Trailer (1953), while Dragnet (1951–9), The Lone Ranger (1949–57) and Our Miss Brooks (1952–6) also spawned film versions in the subsequent five years. The marriage between film and television flourished as the decade progressed. In 1951 George Reeves starred in Superman and the Mole Men, which functioned as a pilot for the forthcoming television series The Adventures of Superman. In the same year four films starring Guy Madison as Wild Bill Hickok (including Six Gun Decision), each comprising two episodes of the first television season, premiered in 1951. Making MFTVMs was an ideal opportunity for independent producers to exploit new ways of making money through distribution while cutting production budgets.
The focus of attention was not just on popular serials: film producers also looked to transform live teleplays into MFTVMs. Anthology series such as Studio One (CBS, 1946–58) and the Philco Television Playhouse (NBC, 1948–54) fulfilled a similar function as the Lux Radio Theater (NBC, CBS, 1934–55), or its sister show the Lux Video Theater (1950–7). Each season of approximately thirty shows comprised a mix of classics, new plays, and thrillers, designed to appeal to middle-class audiences as well as those appreciating ‘educational, or instructive material’ (Miner, 1949: 2). This definition of ‘quality television’ is very much a product of its time. As the theorist Robert J. Thompson has observed, quality television in the contemporary mediascape can be defined negatively; it is not standard televisual fare designed for general viewing (1997: 12). It is equated with ‘excellence’ or ‘superiority’, in terms of script, production values and casting. For Miner and his fellow-executives quality television required them to render the best possible texts – Broadway hits, new plays, and adaptations of American and European classics – accessible to all viewers in an uncomplicated manner. Consistently high ratings proved the enduring popularity of the anthology series, but they were conceived in the spirit of public service for commercial television, designed to educate as well as entertain. Attention was chiefly focused on the characters’ reactions by means of vertical rather than horizontal shot-compositions, with the frame containing different levels of action. Viewers had to keep their wits about them to follow the narrative. Such strategies were dictated by budgetary constraints: anthology series directors customarily worked with a maximum of three cameras, and were given three days to block their productions plus one and a half days of rehearsal before the live broadcasts.
As the decade unfolded, so the anthology series attracted an increasing amount of criticism, despite its public service remit. In 1955 Frank W. Wadsworth opined that most telecasts were ‘all exposition, plays in which the resolution, if it occurs at all, is hasty and startling in its inappropriateness’ (1955: 118). With filmed series occupying a place in national television schedules, viewers were no longer so willing to excuse the customary awkwardness of live television. Nonetheless, there were several productions that were recognised as quality fare. Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty was broadcast live on Philco Television Playhouse on 24 May 1953 with a cast led by Rod Steiger. The author recalled two years later how he created ‘the most ordinary love story in the world’, involving ‘the kind of people I know’ (Chayefsky, 1955: 7). Recognised by critics and audiences alike as a landmark production in American television history, the play attracted the attention of Hecht-Lancaster, an independent production company comprised of Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht, whose previous films included Vera Cruz (1954) with Lancaster and Gary Cooper. Although Chayefsky’s play was filmed for just over $340,000, it was planned as a quality project that not only had Lancaster’s star image attached to it but retained three of the television cast – Esther Minciotti, Augusta Ciolli, and Joe Mantel – with the addition of Ernest Borgnine instead of Steiger. The cinematic and televisual worlds were brought together in an MFTVM that employed a visual style heavily influenced by Italian neo-realistic cinema (Balio, 1987: 150). Yet here we must be careful in defining the cinematic ‘quality’ of the film version of Marty, which was understood slightly differently as compared to the television play. While viewers could be attracted to the star, the supporting cast and the photography, the production as a whole cost only $340,000 – more upmarket than a B-Movie, but one that involved minimum financial risk for the producers. Yet it was still highly popular, capturing the zeitgeist of being an immigrant in mid-Fifties America, working hard for little financial gain. Reviewers praised the gritty locations, with Joseph LaShelle’s photography emphasising the confines of Marty’s working-class world (Holloway, 1955: 3). Marty netted four Oscars including the three top awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director, with the fourth going to Chayefsky for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Describing the film of Marty as a remake of the television broadcast underestimates its significance as the product of an era of convergence when the standoff between the film and television industries had largely evaporated, and creative workers began to move seamlessly between the two media. Delbert Mann and screenwriter Chayefsky were responsible both for the film and television versions of Marty. While the MFTVM of Marty sustained the basic framework of the televisual text, it added new levels of meaning to the source-text with its cast changes, an altered script lengthened from 58 to 90 or 94 minutes, Kaufman’s black-and-white photography, and the presence of Lancaster as co-producer. It is a prime example of an intermedial text, understood as a form of exchange taking place between media (Rajewsky, 2005: 46) – a narrow form of transformation, perhaps, with its antecedents in literary studies (Rajewsky, 2005: 50); but by the mid-Fifties this process had become characteristic of the emergent convergence culture as the film studios enjoyed a two-way exchange of properties with the television networks.
For the remainder of this article I want to look at another example of a quality television play transformed into a low-budget MFTVM – Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men. The broadcast aired live in the Studio One strand on 20 September 1954 in a three-act form incorporating two commercial breaks. The MFTVM, released just over two and a half years later, was filmed in New York at Fox’s Movietone studio and on location with a script lengthened by Rose from one hour into just over ninety minutes. As with Marty, producer/star Henry Fonda and director Sidney Lumet (himself a graduate of the television anthology series) emphasised different aspects of quality compared to the television version. Invisible elements (such as public service appeal) were replaced by visual and aesthetic strategies – a strong cast led by Fonda with reliable character actors such as Ed Begley, Lee J. Cobb, and E. G. Marshall – combined with Boris Kaufman’s versatile photography within a confined studio space. Thematic points were made through astute camerawork focusing on the actors’ gestures and facial expressions, augmented by sparse sound-effects, strategies more characteristic of radio drama than cinema films. This textual analysis feeds into my conclusion: by drawing on Constantine Verevis’s ideas, I argue that any intermedial transformation, past or present, has to take account of the interplay between textual, industrial and historical issues characteristic of media convergence and its products (Verevis, 2016: n. pag.).
Most anthology series, including Studio One, used live television to create the illusion of ‘a continuous flow of events’ taking place in front of the viewers, ‘always bringing us what we want to see, bringing further information’ (Stasheff and Bretz, 1956: 269). Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner – who, like Sidney Lumet, eventually moved into films – the MFTVM Twelve Angry Men begins with an establishing shot of all twelve jurors listening to the judge’s voice off screen telling them to ‘deliberate honestly and thoughtfully’ (Rose, 1977: 1). As he speaks, the camera focuses on each juror in turn: they fold their arms and look vaguely bored as if their forthcoming deliberations represent nothing more than a formality before the guilty verdict will be announced. When the end of the 12-person line has been reached, the camera jerks upwards to a shot of the courtroom roof, giving the cast the chance to move to the jury-room set where the remainder of the action will take place. This is followed by a close-up of the door (with the legend ‘Room 288A’), and a shot of the jury passing a static camera on their way to sit down. When they have all filed into the room, Schaffner employs another establishing shot of the camera looking down on the group involved in the forthcoming action. The interplay of close-ups and establishing shots constitutes a visual equivalent to the short story designed to set the scene and introduce the characters to viewers.
The individual jurors’ traits are quickly delineated, ranging from the eager-to-please attitude of Juror #5 (Lee Phillips) and the belligerent Juror #10 (Edward Arnold), who feels that no one should ‘believe that kid, knowing what he is. Listen. I’ve lived among ‘em all my live. You can’t believe a word they say. I mean, they’re born liars’ (Rose, 1977: 8). As he speaks, he rises from his chair and paces around the long wooden table with a camera persistently tracking his movement. We understand his love of grandstanding, trying to verbally browbeat the jury into accepting his opinions. In spatial terms, the sight of Juror #10 standing up while the others remain seated indicates that Twelve Angry Men is at heart a drama about power, its uses and abuses. A jury has been appointed to pronounce on an accused person, yet it should achieve a decision through consensus not coercion.
The jurors’ deliberations are interrupted through a series of visual coups de théâtre. The murder-weapon is brought in for scrutiny, prompting Juror #4 (Walter Abel) to ask Juror #8 (Robert Cummings) whether they are supposed to accept ‘a pretty incredible coincidence’ that the knife used to stab the victim might not have belonged to the accused. Juror #8 reaches into his pocket and brings out a second knife, which he thrusts into the table. Schaffner instantly cuts to a tight close-up of the knife followed by a medium shot of the eleven jurors huddled together within the frame as they start up from their chairs and stare at it. Two members exchange quizzical looks and suck their pencils. This moment alters the flow of the drama: hitherto no one has been willing to accept Juror #8’s skepticism about the accused’s guilt, but now they are not so sure.
The atmosphere becomes more and more strained with each juror contributing their views without listening to others. Through a series of quick close-ups interspersed with a group shot of all twelve men, Schaffner shows how desperate they have become to reach a verdict: Juror #3’s (Franchot Tone’s) grim expression sums up the prevailing mood. The first act concludes with a climax in which each juror writes his decision down on a piece of paper. They sit silently round the table: we can hear nothing except the rustling of their papers and the faint honking of car-horns outside the building. Life goes on as normal outside, but that does not detract from the severity of the jury’s task.
The second act employs shot/reverse shot patterns to illuminate the central conflict of viewpoints between Juror #8 and Juror #3. Juror #8 stands his ground while Juror #3 paces earnestly around the room, a camera following him all the while. Juror #3’s gestures are extravagant – hands placed on hips, moving threateningly towards Juror #8, his finger outstretched in a pointing motion – while Juror #8 stands motionless in a corner, listening but not reacting to Juror #3’s arguments. Juror #3’s voice rises to a shriek as he senses that no one actually listens to him; as he speaks, the camera zooms into a close-up of his face bathed in perspiration. This is followed by reaction-shots from Jurors #8 and #10, as if they cannot quite believe what they have just seen and heard. We now understand that the jury’s deliberations no longer centre on the accused but have been transformed into a conflict between liberal and neoconservative perspectives. As Juror #8 paces up and down in an attempt to calculate the distance covered by the old man from his bedroom to the door (and thereby question the validity of the prosecution’s evidence), the room falls deathly quiet. The camera tracks his feet, followed by a close-up of the building plan. There is a short pause, followed by an aerial shot of the group muttering ‘twenty-eight seconds’, as they realise just how long it took for the old man to get to his front door. Maybe he did not actually see the murderer, but imagined it. This plot twist proves too much for Juror #3, who stands toe-to-toe with Juror #8, ready to strike him at the earliest possible opportunity. The other jurors restrain him as the act concludes.
The final act unfolds with a degree of inevitability as more and more jurors switch sides, leaving Jurors #10 and #3 isolated. Juror #10 embarks on a racist diatribe against ‘those people’ (nonwhites) who ‘think different. They act different. Well, for instance, they don’t need any big excuse to kill someone’ (Rose, 1977: 51). As he occupies the centre of the frame, we witness the other jurors in the background walking slowly away from him towards the water-cooler at the corner of the room. They form an orderly queue, their heads turned away from Juror #10, as Juror #10’s voice becomes shriller and shriller in the hope of eliciting a response. At length Juror #9 (Joseph Sweeney) crosses the room and forces Juror #10 to sit down, exclaiming as he does so: ‘You’re a sick man’ (Rose, 1977: 52). Totally alone, Juror #10 is framed in a close-up, feeling his neck and smoothing his hair in an attempt to preserve a degree of sangfroid. After a while he turns away from the camera as if unable to endure its penetrating gaze.
As the action draws to a close, Juror #3 understands the futility of his position, even though remaining unwilling (or unable) to alter it. In another close-up we see his left hand beginning to shake with emotion as he speaks in a strangled croak to Juror #8: ‘You’re not going to intimidate me’ (Rose, 1977: 55). The visual irony is obvious: palpably intimidated, with the camera pursuing him like a hunter stalking its prey, Juror #3 seeks refuge at the corner of the room and demands: ‘Somebody say something’ (Rose, 1977: 58). No response ensues; Schaffner cuts to a close-up of the back of Juror #3’s head as he exclaims: ‘All right. “Not guilty”’ (Rose, 1977: 59) and sits down, wringing his hands as he does so. The action shifts to another group shot: Juror #3 smoothes his hair (just as Juror #10 had done earlier), while Juror #8 retreats to a corner of the room. Everyone exits slowly in single file; just before Juror #3 leaves, he pulls the second knife out of the table and lays it down flat, signalling that it has no further part to play in the determination of the verdict.
The third act is visually more economical than the previous two acts as the action proceeds by means of a combination of tracking shots and close-ups. This strategy might seem both awkward and repetitious, especially as there is no accompanying soundtrack to occupy our attention, save for the sound of traffic outside the room. Nonetheless, Schaffner achieves his desired effect of focusing attention on gesture, tone, and intonation as indicators of the strain experienced by all twelve jurors. Writing in the New York Times on 17 December 1954 nearly two months after the television broadcast, Gould recognised Twelve Angry Men as one of that season’s ‘superior dramatic works’, thereby supporting his earlier claim for live television drama’s superiority to its filmed equivalent (Gould, 1954: 44). Twelve Angry Men received official recognition in the form of an Emmy award, as did Robert Cummings for his performance as Juror #8.
Despite the appeal of this production and others like it, the future of live drama anthology series was particularly bleak. The invention of magnetic tape gave creative workers the freedom to rehearse longer, while fluffs during the performance could be easily eliminated through retakes. Public service notions of quality products broadcast weekly fell out of favour as the major networks shifted their sphere of operation from New York to Hollywood and focused on making maximum profits at minimal expenditure through film series and syndication. By the end of the decade the anthology series had become extinct, consigned to the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of television during its formative years. Nonetheless, the film version answers Gould and McGowan’s criticisms that MFTVMs could not achieve the kind of quality standards associated with live television, albeit in different ways. It is manifestly a ‘value added’ project, drawing on memories of the television version’s success while foregrounding its commercial potential as a star vehicle. The focus of attention centres on individual performances as well as the relationship between characters. Director Lumet employs a cinematic grammar comprised of tracking shots showing the jurors introducing themselves to one another in an outwardly relaxed atmosphere. The foreman (Martin Balsam) calls them to order, and through a series of close-ups we are made instantly aware of the conflict of views involving Juror #8 (Fonda) and the remainder of the group. Another close-up shows Juror #10 (Begley) blowing his cheeks out in frustration as he exclaims: ‘Boy-oh-boy! There’s always one!’ (Rose, 1977: 7).
Kaufman photographs the film’s first third from above, rendering the actors insignificant in relation to what appears to be a vast jury-room, except for those moments when Juror #3 (Cobb) gets up from his chair and stands threateningly over his fellow-jurors as he tries to browbeat them into accepting his views. The only juror who refuses to listen is Juror #8, who stands in a corner with his back to the camera. The mise-en-scène is at once reminiscent of, yet different from, the television version: the close-ups emphasise the central conflict of views that drives the action forward and ultimately persuades individual jurors to change their minds. As the jurors’ arguments become more intense, so the camera shifts downwards to photograph the actors at eye level: we now feel slightly imprisoned among people experiencing increasing mental strain. Juror #9 (Joseph Sweeney, reprising his role from the television version) speaks, and as Lumet zooms into a tight close-up we hear muffled coughs, as if no one can really be bothered to listen to him. Lumet cuts back to a brief shot of the group, and returns to another close-up of Juror #9’s expression. Unlike Juror #3 he remains calm while presenting his views; and it is this quality that persuades Juror #5 (Jack Klugman) to change his opinions. All hell breaks loose: criticisms are vociferously expressed, while Juror #7 (Jack Warden) storms out into the adjoining bathroom as he realises that he will not be able to go to the ball-game that evening. The sequence lasts no more than two minutes, but the flurry of action denotes an increasing sense of desperation. No one really knows whether the accused is guilty or innocent any more.
The sense of increasing claustrophobia did a lot to raise the tension of the last part of the MFTVM. The camera position alters during the sequence where Juror #4 (E. G. Marshall) is being quizzed by Juror #8 about his immediate memories of the past. As the questions become more insistent (‘And you weren’t under any emotional strain, were you?’ [Rose, 1977: 46]), so the camera moves closer and closer towards Juror #4’s face as he mops his brow while vainly trying to find convincing answers. His countenance occupies the bulk of the frame, but the threatening presence of the ceiling at the rear emphasises his feeling of claustrophobia. He delivers the line ‘No, I wasn’t’ with a sigh of relief, as if somehow glad to acknowledge the truth, even though this will inevitably result in him changing his verdict on the accused from guilty to not guilty (Rose, 1977: 46). The technique of photographing the cast from below eye level proves especially effective in the staging of Juror #10’s racist comments and the reaction they generate among the other jurors. Lumet keeps Juror #10 in long shot while he denounces those nonwhites who ‘don’t need any big excuse to kill someone’ (Rose, 1977: 51). The camera dollies in slowly, keeping Juror #10 in focus, with the ceiling visible once more at the rear of the frame. Juror #4 silences him; as he does so Lumet cuts to a shot of Juror #8 stressing the importance of keeping personal prejudice out of the discussion (Rose, 1977: 53). This sequence emphasises the importance of Juror #8’s liberalism (that will dictate the eventual outcome), while suggesting that Juror #10 is a victim of intolerance. Unable to see beyond his naïvely racist views, he condemns himself to isolation. We hear the rain splashing against the jury-room windows; even the weather, it seems, has turned against the jurors.
The action continues in a series of tight close-ups emphasising the increasing sense of desperation: the jurors’ faces fill the frames in a manner totally at odds with the more detached atmosphere of the film’s opening sequence. Juror #3’s resistance crumbles; his voice rises to a crescendo as he turns through one hundred and eighty degrees to face the remaining jury members. He points an accusing finger at Juror #8, pulls out a pocket book and throws it on the floor. Lumet cuts to a close-up of a black-and-white photograph of two children that falls out; Juror #3 bends down, tears it into small pieces and breaks down in tears. In the background a mournful melody (by Kenyon Hopkins) ushers in the final sequence where the jurors leave, save for Juror #8 who comes up to Juror #3, helps the stricken juror on with his coat and escorts him tenderly out of the room. This moment reveals how the MFTVM incorporates ‘value added’ elements absent from the television version. Schaffner leaves us unaware as to why Juror #3 changes his mind; nor does Juror #8 offer any answers. By contrast, I would argue that the film’s sentimental ending has been created for commercial reasons as producer Fonda wanted to emphasise Juror #8’s basic compassion, which was a specific facet of his star image. We should acknowledge the distributors’ – United Artists – suggestion to create a happier ending so as to enhance the production’s box-office possibilities following an unfavorable set of preview reactions (Lumet, 1995: 215).
What can we learn about convergence cultures and their significance through an analysis of two productions from an earlier period, made 60 years ago? We should understand that media convergence is nothing new – even in the pre-internet era media outlets were collaborating to produce different artist products, even though the subject matter might be the same. Convergence culture also has a particular effect on viewing tastes, as Henry Jenkins suggests: ‘Our lives, relationships, memories, fantasies, desires also flow across media channels [….] When people take media into their own hands, the results can be wonderfully creative; they can also be bad news for all involved’ (Jenkins, 2006: 17). I want to suggest that both Lancaster and Fonda, as independent producers, were aware of the ways in which filmgoers in the Fifties might take Marty and Twelve Angry Men into their own hands and understand the stinging criticisms of contemporary life – the tendency to marginalise the immigrant, the reluctance to stand up and be counted in group situations, the desire to punish so-called criminals without taking all the evidence into account. At the same they were aware of the importance of reworking their source-texts through different approaches to quality. They established a form of what Jenkins describes as ‘synergy’ (Jenkins, 2006: 19) by coordinating Hollywood distributors, television writers and directors and performers with experience in both media.
So far this article has shied away from one of the major analytical strategies characteristic of adaptation scholars with an interest in the media: to compare source and target texts and evaluate them according to notions of ‘fidelity’. This is a seductive method, and one that has dominated adaptation studies ever since the publication of George Bluestone’s Novels into Film (Bluestone, 1957). Fidelity issues certainly play a significant part in the MFTVM adaptation of Twelve Angry Men: the entire action unfolds in one room on a hot and sultry afternoon in New York, and the action largely takes place in real time, just like the television version. There are strong cinematographic parallels between the two versions in their deployment of close-ups focusing on the characters’ increasing emotional tension. Yet this process of comparison seems rather empty without an analysis of context. Deborah Cartmell’s excellent book Adaptations in the Sound Era (2015) evokes Hollywood’s earliest attempts at media convergence when the advent of talking pictures encouraged producers to scour Broadway for the latest hits and transport them wholesale eastwards, where they would be speedily shot and distributed. Relying on theatrical successes was an indicator of quality, as well as proving financially profitable (in some instances, at least), and even though such products might have been considered primitive by critics audiences flocked to them, as they could actually hear the words, something which they had never previously experienced (Cartmell, 2015: 18). This view had little currency a quarter a century later as the film industry tried to win back their lost audiences by offering visual experiences that television could not match. Three decades later those same producers took advantage of a more pluralist media landscape to find potential properties for filming, including television and radio as well as the theatre. By doing so they formulated new convergence cultures, with the emphasis placed less on sound and more on photography and performances.
How do the products of the late Fifties compare with inter- or transmedial products of the millennium? Constantine Verevis offers a series of hypotheses by which we might better understand the significance of these more recent products. They are intermedial, transcending the boundaries suggested by the term ‘remake’ and branching out into new areas (‘reboots’, perhaps). Post-millennial transmedial texts are transnational, concentrating on the relationship between global centres and margins. They are also post-authorial, challenging our notions of originality and foregrounding reproducibility instead, while being characterised by profusion and simultaneity; they do not supplant the source-text but exist alongside it, offering alternative constructions of the same plot (Verevis, 2016: n. pag.). I would argue that Twelve Angry Men is equally intermedial; the MFTVM is not a remake of the television version, but a meditation on it, a rethinking of the basic plot that exhibits its own approaches to quality. While both texts are certainly not transnational, they can be considered as valuable products of a rapidly changing period in American television and cinematic history. Unlike contemporary transmedial texts, the MFTVM and the television versions of Twelve Angry Men foregrounded the author: with scripts written by Reginald Rose, a veteran television writer whose previous credits included the teleplay Crime in the Streets (1955) (plus the MFTVM version ), and seven previous episodes in the Studio One anthology series. Perhaps it was Rose’s determination to provide two different versions of Twelve Angry Men that created a sense of profusion and simultaneity: the MFTVM should be approached as a separate text, a riff on the television version.
The two versions of Twelve Angry Men thus offer fascinating examples of change and continuity within the media landscape, which help us to rethink convergence culture in the pre-Internet era. The MFTVM version of Twelve Angry Men did not do as well as Fonda had hoped, but nonetheless attracted a fan community in local art houses. By 1961 Pauline Kael emphasised its appeal to educated audiences who found:
… true reassurance when the modern-designed movie also has modern design built into the theme […] Ask an educated man what he thought of Twelve Angry Men and more likely than not he will reply, “That movie made some good points”, or “it got important ideas across”. His assumption is that it carried those ideas, which also happen to be his ideas, to the masses. Actually it didn’t [….] It isn’t often that professional people can see themselves on the screen as the hero – in this case the Lincolnesque architect of the future – and how they love it! (Kael, 1961: 8–9)
Compare her comments with those of Worthington Miner – cited above – who believed that anthology series should exert mass appeal, although mostly watched by the middle class. Within a decade audiences had fragmented, both in the cinema and on television, so that it became possible to draw distinctions between mass and art house audiences. On the other hand, the fact that the two versions of Twelve Angry Men exhibit certain parallels with millennial remakes, according to Verevis’ proposals, suggests that convergence cultures both shift and yet remain remarkably similar over time. If we investigate such similarities and differences we can discover the institutional practices and historical circumstances that shaped the ways in which media products are structured, marketed and received.
What this article has also suggested is another convergence between adaptation studies and media studies. While textual analyses are valuable in themselves, they need to be viewed as products of a media landscape that remains perpetually fluid. Digital technology has forced us to rethink concepts such as authorship and originality, both of which lay at the heart of adaptation studies in the past. Nearly six decades ago, the advent of television prompted creative workers to move away from the straight remake and create intermedial versions of familiar source-texts that resist the familiar source/target text mode of analytical comparison. This requires further research into the histories of particular genres in specific contexts, but the outcomes are far more rewarding.
The author has no competing interests to declare.
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