Inherit the Wind (1960 film)

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Inherit the Wind
Inherit-the-Wind-poster.jpg
Directed byStanley Kramer
Produced byStanley Kramer
Written byJerome Lawrence (play)
Robert E. Lee (play)
Nedrick Young
Harold Jacob Smith
StarringSpencer Tracy
Fredric March
Gene Kelly
Dick York
Donna Anderson
Harry Morgan
Music byErnest Gold
CinematographyErnest Laszlo, ASC
Editing byFrederic Knudtson
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release datesOctober 12, 1960 (1960-10-12)
Running time128 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$2 million[1][2]
Box office$2,000,000 (worldwide)[2]
 
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Inherit the Wind
Inherit-the-Wind-poster.jpg
Directed byStanley Kramer
Produced byStanley Kramer
Written byJerome Lawrence (play)
Robert E. Lee (play)
Nedrick Young
Harold Jacob Smith
StarringSpencer Tracy
Fredric March
Gene Kelly
Dick York
Donna Anderson
Harry Morgan
Music byErnest Gold
CinematographyErnest Laszlo, ASC
Editing byFrederic Knudtson
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release datesOctober 12, 1960 (1960-10-12)
Running time128 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$2 million[1][2]
Box office$2,000,000 (worldwide)[2]

Inherit the Wind is a 1960 Hollywood film adaptation of the play of the same name, written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, directed by Stanley Kramer.

It stars Spencer Tracy as lawyer Henry Drummond and Fredric March as his friend and rival Matthew Harrison Brady, also featuring Gene Kelly, Dick York, Harry Morgan, Donna Anderson, Claude Akins, Noah Beery, Jr., Florence Eldridge, and Jimmy Boyd.

The script was adapted by Nedrick Young (originally as Nathan E. Douglas) and Harold Jacob Smith.[3] Stanley Kramer was commended for bringing in writer Nedrick Young, as the latter was blacklisted. Inherit the Wind is a parable that fictionalizes the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial as a means to discuss McCarthyism.[4] Written in response to the chilling effect of the McCarthy era investigations on intellectual discourse, the play (and film) are critical of creationism.

A television remake starring Jason Robards and Kirk Douglas aired in 1988. It was again remade in 1999, co-starring Jack Lemmon as Drummond and George C. Scott as Brady.

Background[edit]

Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial, which resulted in John T. Scopes's conviction for teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to a high school science class, contrary to a Tennessee state law. The characters of Matthew Harrison Brady, Henry Drummond, Bertram Cates and E. K. Hornbeck correspond to the historical figures of William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow, Scopes, and H. L. Mencken, respectively. However, Lee and Lawrence state in a note at the opening of the play on which the film is based that it is not meant to be a historical account,[5] and many events were substantially altered or invented.[6][7] For instance, the characters of the preacher and his daughter were fictional, the townspeople weren't hostile towards those who had come to Dayton for the trial, and Bryan offered to pay Scopes' fine if he was convicted. Bryan did die shortly after the trial's conclusion, but his death occurred five days later in his sleep.[6][7] Political commentator Steve Benen said of the drama's inaccuracies: "Scopes issued no plea for empathy, there was no fiancee and the real Scopes was never arrested. In fact, the popular film that was nominated for four Academy Awards and has helped shape the American understanding of the 'Scopes Monkey Trial' for decades is an inadequate reflection of history."[8] Lawrence explained in a 1996 interview that the play's purpose was to criticize McCarthyism and defend intellectual freedom. According to Lawrence, "we used the teaching of evolution as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control [...] It's not about science versus religion. It's about the right to think."[4]

Plot[edit]

In a small Southern town, a school teacher, Bertram Cates, is about to stand trial. His offense: violating a state law by introducing to his students the concept that man descended from the apes, a theory of the naturalist Charles Darwin. Cates is vigorously denounced by town leaders such as the Rev. Jeremiah Brown.

The town is excited because appearing on behalf of the prosecution will be the famous Matthew Harrison Brady, a noted statesman and 3-time presidential candidate. A staunch foe of Darwinism and a Biblical scholar, Brady will sit beside the prosecuting attorney, Tom Davenport, in the courtroom of Judge Coffey to teach the naive teacher Cates the error of his ways.

A surprise is in store for Brady, however. The teacher's defense is to be handled by the equally well-known Henry Drummond, one of America's most controversial legal minds and a long-standing acquaintance and adversary of Brady. An influential newspaperman, E.K. Hornbeck of the Baltimore Herald, has personally seen to it that Drummond will come to town to represent the teacher in this case, and that his newspaper and a radio network will provide nationwide coverage of what began as a minor legal matter.

Rev. Brown rails against the defendant publicly, rallying the townspeople against Cates and his godless attorney. The preacher's daughter Rachel is conflicted because Cates is the love of her life and they are engaged to be married.

The judge clearly admires Brady, even addressing him as "Colonel" in court. Drummond objects to this, so, as a compromise, the mayor reluctantly makes him a "temporary" colonel just for these proceedings. But each time Drummond attempts to call a scientist or authority figure to discuss Darwin's theories, the judge sustains the prosecution's objections and forbids such opinions to be heard. Drummond becomes frustrated and feels the case has already been decided. When he states his mind to the court and asked to withdraw from the case, the judge (played by Harry Morgan) tells Drummond to show cause the next morning why he should not be held in contempt of the court. The judge sets bail at $2000, to which Drummond remarks, "Why not make it $4000?", to which the judge agrees. At the end of the scene, one person in the courtroom offers his farm as collateral toward the bail. The person is John Stebbins, who young son was a friend and protege of Cates and ended up drowning after developing a cramp. Rachel's father, the Reverend Brown, had said the child was damned to hell because he had not been baptized.

Later that night at the hotel, maching crowds singing "We'll hang Bert Cates" or "We'll hang Henry Drummond" to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" goes by the jailroom and then to the hotel where Drummond is staying. Drummond is still trying to decide how to accomplish his defense with all his witnesses denied by the court and states what he needs is a miracle. Hornbeck throws him a Bible from Brady stating there are plenty in that. As Hornbeck pours some drinks and turns to Drummond lying on the bed, he stops and is surprised by Drummond holding the Bible on his chest and smiling.

His hands tied in every other way, Drummond calls Brady himself to the witness stand. Brady's confidence in his Biblical knowledge is so great that he welcomes this challenge, but he becomes flustered under Drummond's cross-examination, unable to explain certain apparent contradictions, until Drummond hammers home his point – that Cates, like any other man, demands the right to think for himself.

Cates is ultimately found guilty, to the gallery's relief, but because Drummond has made his case so convincingly with the trial becoming a political embarrassment, the judge sees fit to do no more than make him pay a small fine of $100. Brady is furious at this and tries to enter a lengthy speech into the record, but Drummond persuades the Judge to disallow it since the trial has concluded. As the court is adjourned, Brady tries to give his speech but most ignore him outside of his wife and his court opponents who are concerned seeing him become hysterical. During this, he suffers a ruptured stomach and dies in the court room.

Later, after the crowd has cleared out, Hornbeck is talking with Drummond and wants to use the Bible quotation from a religious rally held by Rev Brown and in which Brady had quoted the "inherit the wind" verse because Brown was about to damn his own daughter, but cannot remember it. Drummond, without looking up, quotes the verse verbatim, which shocks Hornbeck, who states "Well, we're growing an odd crop of agnostist this year!". He and Drummond argue over Brady and Hornbeck walks out, leaving Drummond alone in the courtroom to pack. Drummond picks up the Bible and Darwin's book, balancing them in his hands as if he was a scale. Then he puts the two together with a hard thud and walks out with them side by side in his right hand.

The final scene shows Drummond walking out of the court room alone with the song "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" being sung in the background.

Cast[edit]

Actress and singer Leslie Uggams sings both the opening and closing songs by herself acapella.

Kramer offered the role of Henry Drummond to Spencer Tracy, who turned it down. Kramer then enlisted March, Eldridge, and Kelly as co-stars, and Tracy eventually signed. However, none of the co-stars had been signed at the time; Tracy was the first. Once Tracy signed to do the part, the others signed, also.[10]

Adaptation changes[edit]

The film includes events from the actual Scopes trial, such as when Darrow was indicted for contempt of court when he denounced his perception of prejudice by the court and his subsequent act of contrition the next day to have the charge dropped. The film also expands on the relationship of Drummond and Brady, particularly when the two opponents have a respectful private conversation in rocking chairs, in which they explain their positions in the trial. Furthermore, the film has a sequence occurring on the night after the court recessed and Cates and Drummond are harassed by a mob even as the lawyer is inspired how to argue his case the next day.

Reception[edit]

The film grosses $2 million world wide and recorded a loss of $1.7 million.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Harry Morgan as the judge, Spencer Tracy as Drummond and Fredric March as Brady
Gene Kelly as Hornbeck
Stanley Kramer receives an Award at the 1960 Berlin Film Festival for Inherit the Wind

Reviews[edit]

The film opened to a storm of praise with Kramer and company applauded for capturing the essence of the Scopes trial. Rotten Tomatoes has given the film a 90% rating with 19 fresh and 2 rotten reviews.[11] Roger Ebert refers to it as "'a film that rebukes the past when it might also have feared the future." [12] Variety described the film as "a rousing and fascinating motion picture [...] roles of Tracy and March equal Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan who collided on evolution [...] a good measure of the film's surface bite is contributed by Gene Kelly as a cynical Baltimore reporter (patterned after Henry L. Mencken) whose paper comes to the aid of the younger teacher played by Dick York. Kelly demonstrates again that even without dancing shoes he knows his way on the screen."[13] The movie was loved by The New York Times.[14]

Awards[edit]

Academy Awards Inherit the Wind was nominated for four Academy Awards.

AwardResultNominee
Best ActorNominatedSpencer Tracy
Winner was Burt Lancaster - Elmer Gantry
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another MediumNominatedNedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith
Winner was Richard Brooks - Elmer Gantry
Best Cinematography (Black-and-White)NominatedErnest Laszlo
Winner was Freddie Francis - Sons and Lovers
Best Film EditingNominatedFrederic Knudtson
Winner was Daniel Mandell - The Apartment

BAFTA

Berlin International Film Festival

Golden Globes

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ James Curtis, Spencer Tracy: A Biography, Alfred Knopf, 2011 p769
  2. ^ a b c Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 26
  3. ^ Inherit the Wind Comes to Hollywood - 1960
  4. ^ a b Inherit the controversy
  5. ^ Inherit the Wind: The Playwrights' Note
  6. ^ a b "Inherit the Wind, Drama for Students". Gale Group. 1 January 1998. Retrieved 31 August 2012.   – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  7. ^ a b Riley, Karen L.; Brown, Jennifer A.; Braswell, Ray (1 January 2007). "Historical Truth and Film: Inherit the Wind as an Appraisal of the American Teacher". American Educational History Journal. Retrieved 31 August 2012.   – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  8. ^ "Inherit the Myth?". Church and State. 1 July 2000. Retrieved 31 August 2012.   – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  9. ^ Full cast and credits at Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ Robert Osborn, TCM Network, broadcast February 3, 2010
  11. ^ "Inherit the Wind". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 3 May 2009. 
  12. ^ Roger Ebert Review
  13. ^ Variety review
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ "Berlinale: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-01-17. 
  16. ^ IMDB list of awards

External links and references[edit]