Peter Fonda looks back on father’s iconic performance in Sidney Lumet’s ‘12 Angry Men’

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“Easy Rider” producer, co-screenwriter, and star Peter Fonda remembers esteemed director Sidney Lumet’s “12 Angry Men” and the unstoppable fierceness which his father Henry Fonda brought to the landmark 1957 courtroom drama. In descending order, proud if reticent papa Henry, Peter, and eldest daughter Jane Fonda are depicted in this precious 1962 still. Earlier that year Peter ventured into acting with television guest spots on “Naked City,” “The New Breed,” and the long-running Western “Wagon Train.” In 2014 Peter told the UK-based Daily Express, “My dad’s family were Christian Scientists. They believe that if you’re hurt or in pain you cure it by praying. Crying was not acceptable. My father was a shy man. To his dying day we only ever knew seven stories about him. He was afraid of strong emotion.” Photography by Don Ornitz / eBay seller Movie Market
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A rare Belgian poster for director Sidney Lumet’s hard-hitting “12 Angry Men,” starring and produced by Henry Fonda, is seen above. Originally dropped to tepid box office on April 10, 1957, “12 Angry Men” had a super supporting cast in Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley Sr., E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden, and Jack Klugman. Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer / Blu-ray.com

The Peter Fonda Interview

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On May 16, 1980, “character actor” Henry Fonda is surrounded on his 75th birthday by son Peter Fonda and fifth wife Shirlee Mae Adams. Married in 1965, Henry finally found lasting contentment with the former flight attendant and model who was 27 years his junior. A couple of weeks before this photo was taken Henry had marked the debut of the CBS television movie “Gideon’s Trumpet,” the true story of how the right to counsel for all criminal suspects was guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court, with costars Fay Wray and José Ferrer. The future “On Golden Pond” Oscar winner never stopped working in the two years leading up to his August 12, 1982, passing from heart disease and contributing prostate cancer. Image Credit: The Associated Press
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An anxiety-ridden 29-year-old Sidney Lumet is captured clutching a microphone during production on the first season of CBS’s historical education television series “You Are There” in 1953 for a LIFE magazine profile. Image Credit: Time Inc.
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In a black short sleeve polo shirt and blue jeans, Sidney Lumet flashes the a-okay signal while patiently directing Jean Sorel in an adaptation of playwright Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” aka “Vu du pont,” available in both French and English versions and distributed to negative reviews on January 19, 1962. Image Credit: IMDB
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A dagger is Exhibit A in this gripping lobby card for “12 Angry Men,” a much-imitated, claustrophobic, 96-minute courtroom drama unleashed on April 10, 1957, incidentally produced by and starring Henry Fonda. Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
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As “Juror #8,” Henry Fonda is the lone voice of reason when deliberating whether a Mexican boy is guilty of murdering his father in “12 Angry Men,” a classic courtroom drama released on April 10, 1957 and also produced by the native Nebraskan. Photography by Muky / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
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It’s all in the family: Peter Fonda and Jane Fonda are engulfed by father Henry Fonda in this affectionate 1962 candid. Jane had four films under her belt — “Tall Story” with Anthony Perkins, “Walk on the Wild Side,” “The Chapman Report,” and “Period of Adjustment.” Henry obviously had been an old pro in Hollywood since 1935 with “The Farmer Takes a Wife” and would fill 1962 with three notable films — “Advise & Consent” and epics “The Longest Day” and “How the West Was Won.” Peter was point blank in a 2014 interview with the UK-based Daily Express, saying “My dad could do on stage what he could not do in life because on stage he was given the words to express feeling. He just wasn’t available to us. But he didn’t beat us and we ate well.” Photography by Don Ornitz / Globe Photos / Rex Features
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“The Fondas: Henry & Peter — The ‘Darrow’ Star and His Son Are Pals Again:” Presenting the April 7, 1975, cover of People Magazine. Peter was two months shy of the distribution of the satanic escape flick “Race with the Devil” while Henry had just completed his return engagement on Broadway of the one man tour de force play “Clarence Darrow” and was readying a nationwide tour. Image Credit: People Magazine / Meredith Corporation
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Circa March 1, 1978, Peter Fonda, John Wayne, and Henry Fonda happily cut the fool during the “AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Henry Fonda” two-hour CBS telecast held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, and ultimately broadcast a few weeks later on March 15. In between the youngest Fonda and the Duke is Pat Stacy, the secretary and final companion of Wayne, who would succumb to stomach cancer a mere 15 months later. Father and son finally collaborated onscreen in a brief vignette in “Wanda Nevada,” a contemporary 1979 western with comedic overtones directed by Peter Fonda and costarring Brooke Shields as the titular heroine. Photography by Ron Galella / WireImage / Getty Images
Click to experience “12 Angry Men,” still shown in classrooms six decades since its April 10, 1957 debut. As “Juror #8,” Henry Fonda is the lone voice of reason when deliberating whether a Mexican boy is guilty of murdering his father. Video Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

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Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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