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| | 2 hr 8 min | Drama, History

The names were different; however, it is clear to the historian - at least the legal historian that the 1960 movie: "Inherit the Wind is about the Scopes Monkey Trial held in 1925. The case pitted Darwin's Theory of Evolution against that of Creation. In the movie Spencer Tracy and Fredric March played the roles of Henry Drummond and Matthew Harrison Brady. The characters were of course based on the real-life characters of: Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. 

"Inherit the Wind" 1960 is the creation of Stanley Kramer as many film enthusiasts know. The storyline is the battle in court between persons who believe strongly the Bible is true in the literal sense; and other persons who believe that there can still be something to the theory of Darwin as to Evolution. In other words, the second group is flexible about the theory. The character of Spencer Tracy puts forth the comment: "An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral." Evidently, Tracy is on the side of the persons who thought Darwin's theory held some merit. 

What was termed historically as: "The Monkey Trial of 1925" had placed a youngish High School educator on trial, John T. Scopes for violation of State Law which was passed that very year. The legislation prohibited teaching of any theory which ran contrary to Divine Creation. Suffice it to say: Darwin's Theory of Evolution also went on Trial. Two of the most noteworthy barristers in the states were on hand. Scopes was defended by Clarence Darrow, and the prosecution of the case was conducted by: William Jennings Bryan. The lawyer's fees with respect to Darrow were covered by the Baltimore Sun papers. The newspaper was the home base of the well-known journalist: H.L. Mencken. Also, it should be noted: Williams Jennings Bryan, then the lawyer; once again representing the prosecution was a three-time United States Presidential candidate. 

Kramer's film allows Darrow to become the fictive character: Henry Drummond (played by actor: Spencer Tracy); and Jennings-Bryan becomes the character of Matthew Harrison Brady (played by the legendary actor Fredric March). Mencken the journalist becomes the character: E.K. Hornbeck, (the role played by: Gene Kelly), and Scopes becomes Bertram T. Cates (played by: Dick York). The other primary player is Harry Morgan. Morgan is the Judge in the film. 

The fictionalized town of the movie's setting is: Hillsboro, Tennessee. The persons there believe quite literally in the Biblical book of Genesis. Drummond counters by saying: "There is only one man in this town who thinks at all, and he is in jail!" The film clearly shows the legal battle as a struggle between followers of preacher (Claude Akins) and the agnostic Drummond. Drummond has snow-white hair and believes The Theory of Evolution. The followers of the theologian come into town with a Ferris wheel and a monkey who smokes a cigarette while someone inquires if men came from monkeys. 

York as defendant plans to be married to character; Rachel (played by Donna Anderson) who interestingly is the daughter of the preacher. During one scene the minister denounces his offspring as a "creature of the devil." This statement does nothing for his credibility. 

Earlier episodes of the movie are painted with a broad-brushed stroke. A parade welcomes Brady to town. A band plays the spiritual: "That Old Time Religion". 

Once the court scenes get going the fierce battle that ensues is spectacular. The swords drawn; sides of one debate basically amount to: one about fundamentalism; and one wherein if God is world Creator - he managed the process in probably more than 6 twenty-four hour time periods. 

Even though the film took place in the 60s; for the era it is very "strong" the way it explores various ideologies. It also does not dance around issues in way of dialogue allowing the characters plenty of passionate oratorical time. There is a good deal of great speech-writing, employed, that went into the film's storyline. The courtroom audience were treated as intelligent human-beings. Tracy and March deliver incredible performances.

In the movie as well as in the real life Scopes trial Bryan provides an impressive speech defending fundamentalism. Certainly today: the term used in favor of Creation is "Creationist Science." This second approach in real life did not provide much credibility as to the literal argument. 

In "Inherit the Wind" Tracy's character: Drummond/Darrow wins his argument. After he is not allowed to let his six scientific experts testify: he calls Brady/Bryan to the stand as a witness for the Defense. Naturally Brady views this as his opportunity to show his cleverness. Drummond in turn makes inquiry of him about numerous details pertinent to the Bible. His questioning: destroys the other character's credibility - totally. Also in actuality the same grilling of Bryan took place by Darrow. 

Today: it is quite the high mark to say: the film "Inherit the Wind" by Kramer is still very relevant. It still provides plenty of controversy and is a great legal drama. The Tracy character is strong as to his effect. Drummond demonstrates a bold stance in all of the scenes in court. He argues quite creatively: that "fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding."

In the film's last scene we witness Drummond standing in the courtroom which is now empty. He picks up the "Good Book" in one hand; and Darwin's with regard to the Origin of Species in his other hand. He adjoins the two books; and places both under one arm. As far as interpretation: that is left totally up to viewer discernment.

Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly, Florence Eldridge, Dick York
Stanley Kramer
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