Lee J. Cobb did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Juror number 3 in 12 Angry Men.
Skip number 3 for the moment. Onto number 4 the smartest juror well that is until he accepts the demented thinking of the rest (I mean a serial killer wouldn't be found guilty with juror 8 around). Anyway E.G. Marshall plays the juror giving the character enough of a cold and refined command as he states his arguments. Marshall is good enough in the role, but I can't help but feel he could have been even more incisive in the role. It's not that he's even inadequate in any way I just think he could have been more overpowering as the sense of reason for the guilty verdict. That brings us to the number 5 played by Jack Klugman. I really like Klugman in the role as he brings an emotional tension to his performance as though he's been keeping up with some statements about his "kind". Klugman importantly starts this way, as though its been brought up during the trial already, so his early breakdown is well earned and well played. After he calms down he's still good even if his biggest impact is early on.
Number 6 played by Edward Binns is a somewhat simpler role as he's just an average blue collar guy with a code respect. Binns is good in the role in bringing a bit of warmth to the room while still being convincing as a technically tough guy type. Number 7 though comes in the form of Jack Warden who is more interested in a baseball game than the trial. Warden is quite good in the role by bringing just the whole could not care less in his sarcastic line readings throughout. Warden is great at being a jerk here and creating the man's narrow minded view that ignores anything other than his interests. What I like most is Warden actually does not compromise the character when pressured at the vote change. Warden shows a slight understanding but not really to take it seriously, but just rather that its time for him to keep his mouth shut. Number 8 played by Henry Fonda I have covered extensively for the leading reviews for this year.
Number 9 is an old man played by Joseph Sweeney. Sweeney I feel overplays his role a bit as some of those faces he gives just seem to be a bit too much. He still gets across the elements of his character across well enough, but he's somewhat cloying though. I felt Hume Cronyn was much more effective in the same role in the remake. Number 10 is played by Ed Begley. 10 is a loud bigot whose whole attack on the defendant is merely where he is from rather than any evidence. Begley is appropriately one note of an intense bluster as there really is not much more to 10 other than his obvious hatred, and Begley brings across his vicious prejudice as he should. He's particularly good in the scene where he goes on his rant and just kinda retreats to nothing after everyone basically indicates his distaste with him. Number 11 is the foreign guy who is George Voskovec. He's okay but I think his correcting the grammar of 10 is the only scene where he stands out that well. Number 12 is the indecisive ad executive. This is the least of the parts, and Robert Webber in the role does not overcome this fact.
That leaves number 3 played by the reliable Lee J. Cobb. 3 is perhaps the most passionate man in the room but that passion is for seeing the defendant who is accused of murdering his father is found guilty. Lee J. Cobb smartly stays fairly reserved at first even in his opening disbelief at Juror number 8's intention to vote not guilty. Soon though 3 voices his distaste for the boy which Cobb portrays as quite the fervent hatred for the boy. Cobb though importantly brings a greater depth to the character because, unlike 10, Cobb does play 3's hate as something blind. There is a sadness in his hatred and Cobb effectively shows that this comes from somewhere for him. 3's reason being his own troublesome relationship with his own son, and 3 basically imaging himself as the victim in a way. Cobb is actually surprisingly affecting in the role because he so honestly expresses some regret into 3's words. It is not simply that he hates his son and the murderer, but Cobb does suggest that that 3 perhaps does acknowledge his own faults.
Cobb's performance also works well as being basically a verbal sparing partner against Fonda in the film. Where Fonda stays very dignified and proper in his defiance Cobb gets down and dirty in portraying the violent passion in 3. What Cobb does so well once again though is never act as the obvious villain for the film though because his performance always lets on to the deeper meaning this trial has. It is not just the murder, but Cobb expresses just how deeply the idea of a son murdering his father disturbs 3. Cobb also carefully never comes close to one note and is good in showing the way 3 flares up and calms down through different times of the discussion. I particularly love the moment where 3 shows the way the stabbing would have been done against 8. He starts out miming the act causing most of the other jurors to show concern. Cobb though is brilliant in his reaction as 3 diffuses the situation in his reaction showing that although he kinda does hate 8, he would never actually kill someone.
Cobb does great work here and is particularly good in the final scene where everyone else agrees to vote not guilty while 3 still tries to hold onto his conviction. Cobb is surprisingly heartbreaking as he portrays 3's breakdown showing that in the end its his own very sad life and its more despair than malice that motivated him this whole time. Although there are several good performances within the 12 person ensemble Cobb is the best. In lesser hands 3 could have just been an echo of 10 and simply a one note of angry father projecting his anger on someone else. Cobb brings a greater complexity to his performance than that though. Even just in many of his reactions Cobb never allows three just there to be there to be the man 8 is there to prove wrong. Cobb probably lets us know more about 3 as a man than any of the actors do for their characters. Cobb realizes where 3 is coming from and even if you would not agree with him Cobb allows you to understand the man.