REGINALD ROSE

U.S. Writer

Reginald Rose was one of the outstanding television playwrights to emerge from the "Golden Age" of television drama anthology series. Like his acclaimed contemporaries-- Paddy Chayefsky, Tad Mosel, and Rod Serling, for example--Rose takes a place in history at the top of the craft of television writing.

In addition to other accolades, Rose was nominated for six Emmy awards during his career, and won three. Although most of Rose's fame derives from his teleplays for the live drama anthologies, he wrote a number of successful screen and stage plays, and went on to create and write scripts for The Defenders at CBS, as well as winning recognition for the revived CBS Playhouse in the late 1960s.

Rose's first teleplay to be broadcast was The Bus to Nowhere, which appeared on Studio One (CBS) in 1951. It was the 1954-55 season, however, that gave Rose his credentials as a top writer: that year has been referred to as "the Reginald Rose season" at Studio One. His contributions included the noted plays 12:32 a.m., An Almanac of Liberty, Crime in the Streets, as well as the play that opened the season and became perhaps Rose's most well-known work, Twelve Angry Men. In addition to winning numerous awards and undergoing transformation into a feature film, Twelve Angry Men undoubtedly established Rose's reputation almost immediately as a major writer of drama for television.

What distinguished Rose's teleplays from those of his colleagues such as Chayefsky and Serling was their direct preoccupation with social and political issues. Although the other writers were perhaps equally concerned with the larger social dimensions of their work, they concentrated on the conflicts that emerge in private life and the domestic sphere, and the problems of society as a whole remained implicit in their writing. Rose, in contrast, tackled controversial social issues head-on.

In one of his most well-known and contentious plays, Thunder on Sycamore Street (Studio One, 1953), Rose attempts to confront the problem of social conformity. In this story, an ex-convict moves to an up-scale neighborhood in an attempt to make a new beginning. When his past is discovered, one of neighbors organizes a community march to drive the ex-convict out of his new home. Rose deals directly with the issues of mob anger and difference from the norm, issues of general concern in a time when the pressures of conformity were overwhelming, and the memory of fascism still prevalent. This play was controversial from the outset since the central character was originally written to be an African-American. Rose was forced, under pressure from Studio One sponsors fearful of offending (and losing) audiences in the south, to change him into an ex-convict. This, perhaps more than anything, is indicative of his ability to touch on the most sensitive areas of American social life of that time.

Although Rose kept his sights directed at the scrutiny of social institutions and mechanisms, his characters were as finely drawn as those writers who focused on domestic struggles. The tension created by exhausting deliberations within the confined closeness of the jury room in which Twelve Angry Men occurs is exemplary in this regard. The remake of this powerful drama and Paddy Chayefsky's Marty into successful feature films marked the breakthrough of the television drama aesthetic into Hollywood cinema. Rose was responsible in part for the creation of this new approach. This gritty realism that became known as the "slice of life" school of television drama was for a time the staple of the anthology shows and reshaped the look of both television and American cinema.

-Kevin Dowler


Reginald Rose
Photo courtesy of Reginald Rose

REGINALD ROSE. Born in New York City, New York, U.S., 10 December 1920. Student at City College (now of the City University of New York), New York, 1937-38. Married 1) Barbara Langbart, 1943 (divorced); children: Jonathan, Richard, Andrew and Steven (twins); 2) Ellen McLaughlin, 1963; children: Thomas and Christopher. Served in U.S. Army, 1942-46. Writer in television from 1951, starting with CBS, eventually working for all the major networks; wrote CBS-TV's Studio One episode "Twelve Angry Men," 1954; wrote and co-produced Twelve Angry Men film version, 1957, and wrote stage version, 1964; writer of films from 1956; author of books from 1956; wrote CBS pilot for series "The Defender," as episode of Studio One, 1957; wrote Emmy nominated "The Sacco-Vanzetti Story" for NBC-TV's Sunday Showcase, 1960; president of Defender Productions from 1961; created series and with others wrote The Defenders, 1961-65; wrote Emmy nominated "Dear Friends" for CBS Playhouse, 1967; wrote multiple-award-winning CBS mini-series, Escape From Sobibor, 1987. President of Reginald Rose Foundation. Recipient: Emmy Awards 1954, 1962, 1963 (with Robert Thom), 1968; Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award, 1957; Berlin Film Festival Golden Berlin Bear Award, 1957; Academy Award Nomination, 1957; Writers Guild of America Award, 1960; Writers Guild of America Laurel Award, 1958 and 1987. Home address: 20 Wedgewood Rd., Westport, CT 06880. Office Address: Defender Productions, c/o Philip Plumber, 105-58 Flatlands 5th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11236.

TELEVISION SERIES (various episodes)

1951 Out There
1954-57 Studio One
1955 Elgin Hour
1955 Philco Television Playhouse-Goodyear Playhouse
1956 Alcoa Hour-Goodyear Playhouse
1959 Playhouse 90
1960 Sunday Showcase
1961-65 The Defenders (creator and writer)
1967 CBS Playhouse
1975 The Zoo Gang (creator and writer)
1977 The Four of Us (pilot)

TELEVISION MINISERIES

1979 Studs Lonigan
1987 Escape From Sobibor

MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIES

1982 The Rules of Marriage
1986 My Two Loves (with Rita Mae Brown)

FILMS

Crime in the Streets, 1956; Dino, 1957; Twelve Angry Men, (also co-produced) 1957; Man of the West, 1958; The Man In the Net, 1958; Baxter!, 1972; Somebody Killed Her Husband, 1978; The Wild Geese, 1978; The Sea Wolves, 1980; Whose Life Is It, Anyway? (with Brian Clark), 1981; The Final Option, 1983; Wild Geese II, 1985.

STAGE

Black Monday, 1962; Twelve Angry Men, 1964; The Porcelain Year, 1965; Dear Friends, 1968; This Agony, This Triumph, 1972.

PUBLICATIONS

Six Television Plays. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957.

The Thomas Book. New York: Harcourt, 1972.

FURTHER READING

Hawes, William. The American Television Drama: The Experimental Years. University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1986.

Sturken, Frank. Live Television: The Golden Age of 1946-1958 in New York. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1990.

Wilk, Max. The Golden Age of Television: Notes from the Survivors. New York: Dell, 1977.

 

See also Defenders; Playhouse 90; Studio One; Writer in Television