For this year’s A-To-Z Challenge, my theme is MOVIES. I will be working my way through the alphabet during the month of April with movie titles and short blurbs about each movie. Today’s movie is “Inherit the Wind.”
“Inherit the Wind” was a 1960 American film based on the 1955 play written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. The film was directed by Stanley Kramer and starred Spencer Tracy as lawyer Henry Drummond and Fredric March as his friend and rival Matthew Harrison Brady. It also featured Gene Kelly, Dick York, Harry Morgan, Donna Anderson, Claude Akins, Noah Beery Jr., Florence Eldridge, and Jimmy Boyd.
In the 1920s, Tennessee schoolteacher Bertram Cates (Dick York) is put on trial for violating the Butler Act, a state law that prohibits public school teachers from teaching evolution instead of creationism. Drawing intense national attention in the media with writer E. K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly) reporting, two of the nation’s leading lawyers go head to head: Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March) for the prosecution, and Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) for the defense.
The film is based on the so-called “Monkey Trial” of 1925, that put a young high school teacher named John T. Scopes on trial for violating a state law, passed the same year, prohibiting the teaching of any theory that denied the biblical account of divine creation. Darwin’s theory of evolution was also therefore on trial. Two of the most famous lawyers and orators in the land contested the case. Scopes was defended by the legendary Clarence Darrow, and the prosecution was led by three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Darrow’s expenses were paid by the Baltimore Sun papers, home of the famed journalist H.L. Mencken, who meticulously covered the trial.
In the movie, after his six expert scientific witnesses are not allowed to testify, Drummond boldly calls Brady onto the stand as a defense witness. The bombastic Brady is unable to refuse a chance to show off, and Drummond quizzes him on biblical details, more or less destroying his credibility in the process; Brady is finally reduced to agreeing with Bishop Usher that God created the Earth at exactly 9 a.m. on Oct. 23, 4004 BC. This impactful movie scene was an actual, masterfully performed reenactment of what Darrow really did when he called Bryan to the stand and methodically ground him down.
Spencer Tracy was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in “Inherit the Wind.” The movie was also nominated for Best Screenplay based upon material from another medium, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing. From my personal perspective, it is one of the best films ever, and I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to watch it.