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Larkin Ford, the Last of the Original "Twelve Angry Men," Dies at 86
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wazzzy
2007-01-19 16:57:00 UTC
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http://www.playbill.com/news/article/105020.html

Larkin Ford, the last member of the original 1954 cast of Reginald
Rose's teleplay "Twelve Angry Men," which was to have a long life on
television, film and the stage, died Jan. 13, his friend Harry Haun
said. He was 86 and lived at Manhattan Plaza in the Theatre District.

Then working under the name Will West, Mr. Ford was cast as Juror #12
in the tense Jury Room drama in which a dozen very different men
grapple over the guilt of a young man accused of murder-and the
fallible nature of the American legal system. Mr. Ford's character was
a slick, young Madison Avenue ad man more interested in conjuring sales
formulas than deliberating legal points. His co-stars in the live TV
drama included Edward Arnold, Franchot Tone and Robert Cummings. The
show won an Emmy Award for Best Written Dramatic Material.

Rose's terse drama proved durable. It was made into a film starring
Henry Fonda and directed by Sidney Lumet in 1957. William Friedkin
directed a second television movie in 1997, starring Jack Lemmon and
George C. Scott. And in 2004, a stage adaptation of the one-set story
became a surprise smash at the Roundabout Theatre Company, running
seven months and then touring the U.S. Mr. Ford was invited to the
opening night as the only surviving member of the 1954 program.

A year after the "Twelve Angry Men" telecast, Mr. Ford had to change
his name from Will West, because there was already an actor by that
name in Equity. Larkin Shackelford had been his grandfather and he
shortened the surname. He shortened it to Larkin Ford and continued his
career in Hollywood.

Born in California on Jan. 30, 1921, he attended Harvard and was a
member of the Brattle Theatre Company for seven years, performing in
classics. Among his Los Angeles theatre credits was a production of
Macbeth starring Vanessa Redgrave and Charlton Heston.

"Twelve Angry Men," however, remained his most famous credit. "I had no
idea the piece would become as famous as it has," Mr. Ford told
Playbill.com. "Nor did Reginald. Nor did anyone, really. But we were
aware of the quality of Reginald's writing. At the time, most of us
were saying it should be made into a play."
Brad Ferguson
2007-01-19 20:13:37 UTC
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Post by wazzzy
Larkin Ford, the last member of the original 1954 cast of Reginald
Rose's teleplay "Twelve Angry Men," which was to have a long life on
television, film and the stage, died Jan. 13, his friend Harry Haun
said. He was 86 and lived at Manhattan Plaza in the Theatre District.
The 1954 cast:

Walter Abel (d. 1987), Juror #4

Edward Arnold (d. 1956), Juror #10

John Beal (d. 1997), Juror #2

Bart Burns (d. ?), Juror #6

Robert Cummings (d. 1990), Juror #8

Norman Fell (as Norman Feld) (d. 1998), Juror #1

Paul Hartman (d. 1973), Juror #7

Lee Philips (d. 1999), Juror #5

Joseph Sweeney (d. 1963), Juror #9*

Franchot Tone (d. 1968), Juror #3

George Voskovec (d. 1981), Juror #11*

Will West (aka Larkin Ford) (d. 2007), Juror #12


*Angry Messrs. Sweeney and Voskovec repeated their roles in the 1957
film.

Also, I haven't been able to find anything that confirms Bart Burns is
dead. If not, he'll be turning 99 on 13 March.
Hyfler/Rosner
2007-01-19 21:24:09 UTC
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O
Post by Brad Ferguson
Also, I haven't been able to find anything that confirms Bart Burns is
dead. If not, he'll be turning 99 on 13 March.
This isn't proof exactly, but this article in the NY Sun from a couple
of years ago says that West/Ford was the only cast member still alive.
It's a great piece and says there's a copy of the teleplay at the
Museum of Television and Radio (which I can get into for free with my
employee ID, so anyone who wants to go with me...)



November 1, 2004 Monday

The Last Angry Man

BYLINE: By HARRY HAUN


Will West couldn't necessarily tell you where he was on the night of
September 20 last year, but he could tell you - precisely and
emphatically - where he was on that date a half-century ago.

He was sitting in a special hot seat that was then called live
television, around an oblong mahogany table with Norman Fell, John
Beal, Franchot Tone, Walter Abel, Lee Philips, Bart Burns, Paul
Hartman, Robert Cummings, Joseph Sweeney, Edward Arnold, and George
Voskovec - in numerical order, Jurors no. 1 through no. 11 - men with
numbers instead of names, debating the guilt or innocence of a slum
teenager accused of patricide and, in the process, giving the American
justice system a vigorous, almost archetypal workout.

Mr. West was the last to make the cut - Juror no. 12 - and is the only
original cast member alive.

This was the first gathering of "Twelve Angry Men," Reginald Rose's
classic take on jury duty, and that particular TV production went on to
win 1954 Emmys for best written dramatic material (Rose), best director
(Franklin Schaffner) and best actor in a single performance (Cummings
as the sole dissenter, Juror #8, who pulls his peers around to his
point of view in 50 minutes flat - but not without some brutalizing
vocal give-and-take).

Three years later, the teleplay was expanded 45 minutes into a movie
that won Oscar nominations for best picture, best adapted screenplay
(Rose) and best director (a film-bowing SidneyLumet). Forty years after
that, Rose brought it up to 1997 speed but held the running time to a
tight 95 for a Showtime remake by director William Friedkin.

This past weekend Roundabout Theater Company premiered the stage
version - credited posthumously to Rose - at the American Airlines
Theater. Mr. West attended the opening on Friday night. That, if little
else, Mr. West saw coming 50 years ago. "I had no idea the piece would
become as famous as it has," he admits. "Nor did Reginald. Nor did
anyone, really. But we were aware of the quality of Reginald's writing.
At the time, most of us were saying it should be made into a play."And
so it has, completing a cycle of sorts. "CBS shot it on Second Avenue
and 12th Street at a legitimate house used for the Phoenix Theater
Company," Mr. West recalls. "It had rehearsal spaces so we rehearsed
there, too. We rehearsed at least two weeks - it might have been two
and a half or into a third week because of the intricacy of the
camerawork."

In the early palm-sweating days of live television, two cameras were
used, both carefully choreographed to avoid colliding or catching sight
of the other or crashing into the actors.

But the 83-year-old Mr. West remembers those anxious times fondly. "We
were professional actors. This is what we did. Most of us were theater
actors. Even the film stars had been. I was just starting out, but I
was not in awe of them. I was proud to be in their company."After we
got into rehearsal, I could see the quality of the work they were
doing. I thought probably Edward Arnold was doing the most. It was
certainly different from what he did usually. Bob Cummings had done
that character before, but he did it well. Joe Sweeney, the elderly
juror, was extraordinary. He and George Voskovec were the only ones who
got to do the film. I was doing a play, and they wouldn't let me out
even to meet Lumet."

"Twelve Angry Men" was only Mr. West's second time at bat in live
television. He had done "The Joker" with Eva Marie Saint and Martin
Balsam for director Arthur Penn, and that got him the audition. "Frank
Schaffner was an excellent director. He really communicated with
actors. He cast the show himself. The thing that a director does best -
and I know this from having directed myself - is to cast parts so he
doesn't have to do a lot of work with the actor. He's confident in the
actor's capacity to do what he has to do and do it easily."

Schaffner instantly sized Mr.West up as a Madison Avenue type, an ad
exec who saw people dispassionately as customers, doodled when he
thought and tended to "run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes
it" when he had an idea to present. The part ran only 85 lines, but the
constant tic-tac-toeing kept him glib, conspicuous, and always in the
game.

Contrary to Schafner's spot diagnosis, Mr. West went West for the bulk
of his career, appearing in "Death Valley Days," "Gunsmoke," "Have Gun,
Will Travel," and scores of other small screen sagebrushers - but his
name didn't go with him. "It's a great name for Westerns, too, but
there was already an actor in Equity named Will West, and he was
unwilling to give me permission to use my own name, so I went back to
my grandfather's name - Larkin Shackelford - shortened it to Larkin
Ford, and that's how I've been billed."As Larkin Ford, he has two
feature film credits - "Q," a monster movie about a prehistoric winged
thing that roosts on the Chrysler Building, and an even more
forgettable flick that he has happily forgotten. Theater has occupied
him when he hasn't been doing television, and his favorite theatrical
memory is the rush he got working with Vanessa Redgrave when she and
Charlton Heston took on "The Scottish Play" at the Ahmanson in Los
Angeles.

Otherwise, his main claim to fame is the hour-long deliberation he put
in as Juror no. 12 in that historic "Studio One" telecast - and that
has been in serious eclipse. The second half of this program was lost
for decades, but last year a complete film recording surfaced in the
archives of Marjorie Leibowitz Finch and was presented with much
fanfare to the Museum of Television & Radio, where anyone can view it
on request. (Recommended!)

The museum celebrated the acquisition May 21,2003,with a screening, and
the last angry man standing got to step forth and take a bow. "I was
very impressed," Mr. West says. "Of course, I had never seen it - I was
doing it - and I was amazed it stood up so well."

So was it really, like they say, the Golden Age of Television - or was
it work? "Well, to an actor, work is fun. This thing we say to each
other - 'have fun' - we don't mean 'have fun' in a frivolous way, we
mean 'get joy out of what you do.'" If you do something that has
quality, something that means something to you, something that lasts,
you get joy."
c***@aol.com
2007-01-20 01:30:06 UTC
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IMDB has Bart Burns birth year as 1918. This would mean he would be
celebrating his 89th not 99th birthday this year if he were still
alive. Mr. Burns appeared in numerous TV shows in the 50s, 60s, and
70s. It is hard to believe that all trace of him has been lost.
Brad Ferguson
2007-01-20 04:26:17 UTC
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Post by c***@aol.com
IMDB has Bart Burns birth year as 1918. This would mean he would be
celebrating his 89th not 99th birthday this year if he were still
alive. Mr. Burns appeared in numerous TV shows in the 50s, 60s, and
70s. It is hard to believe that all trace of him has been lost.
Ack. 89, not 99. Stupid of me. Thanks, cat.
Stephen Bowie
2007-01-20 06:40:34 UTC
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Bart Burns was a member of John Frankenheimer's stock company during
his live TV days (and he's in "Seven Days in May"). If memory serves,
he was also part of the rehearsal company for "Playhouse 90," actors
who would perform small parts during early rehearsals that would be
assumed by name actors for the live broadcast or tapings.

My gut instinct: he's still alive and Larkin Ford's claim to being the
last survivor was erroneous, especially if the IMDb is correct about
Burns having been interviewed for the making-of documentary on the
"Frances" DVD a few years ago. But I'm not obsessive enough to
actually go and find him.
Hyfler/Rosner
2007-01-20 09:03:46 UTC
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Post by Stephen Bowie
Bart Burns was a member of John Frankenheimer's stock
company during
his live TV days (and he's in "Seven Days in May"). If
memory serves,
he was also part of the rehearsal company for "Playhouse
90," actors
who would perform small parts during early rehearsals that
would be
assumed by name actors for the live broadcast or tapings.
My gut instinct: he's still alive and Larkin Ford's claim
to being the
last survivor was erroneous, especially if the IMDb is
correct about
Burns having been interviewed for the making-of
documentary on the
"Frances" DVD a few years ago. But I'm not obsessive
enough to
actually go and find him.
Oh, yes you are. You're here, aren't you?

I did a big search earlier today and came up with only that
NY Sun article, but I'll go with your gut and keep looking.
Brad Ferguson
2007-01-20 10:07:23 UTC
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Post by Hyfler/Rosner
Post by Stephen Bowie
Bart Burns was a member of John Frankenheimer's stock company
during his live TV days (and he's in "Seven Days in May"). If
memory serves, he was also part of the rehearsal company for
"Playhouse 90," actors who would perform small parts during early
rehearsals that would be assumed by name actors for the live
broadcast or tapings.
My gut instinct: he's still alive and Larkin Ford's claim to being
the last survivor was erroneous, especially if the IMDb is correct
about Burns having been interviewed for the making-of documentary
on the "Frances" DVD a few years ago. But I'm not obsessive enough
to actually go and find him.
Oh, yes you are. You're here, aren't you?
I did a big search earlier today and came up with only that
NY Sun article, but I'll go with your gut and keep looking.
This Playbill article from 24 October 2004 also refers to Larkin Ford
as the only surviving member of the 1954 cast:

http://www.playbill.com/features/article/89179.html


BTW, here's a contemporary pic of Larkin Ford. He's the third from the
top:

Loading Image...

The mysterious Bart Burns is in this 1954 still. He is the second from
the left of the group sitting at the far end of the table. (Will
West/Larkin Ford is the fellow in the foreground, on the right.)
Playbill has nothing to say about Burns, alive or dead, except for a
brief mention in the above linked article. The lack of a Playbill obit
for Burns is not conclusive, as there isn't an obit for Walter Abel,
either.

Nothing helpful in Variety about Burns.

BTW, Playbill says a thirteenth character in the TV version of the play
-- the court officer -- received no onscreen credit, but says the role
was played by Vincent Gardenia. It also says Bob Cummings won an Emmy
for playing the part Henry Fonda later played in the film.
Stephen Bowie
2007-01-20 20:05:42 UTC
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No, "obsessive" would've extended to calling SAG, or the one Bart Burns
who's listed in the Valley.
Marta Wiliams
2024-02-02 15:08:41 UTC
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