Larkin Ford, the Last of the Original "Twelve Angry Men," Dies at 86

Obituaries   Larkin Ford, the Last of the Original "Twelve Angry Men," Dies at 86 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."

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