Old 06-27-2009, 05:07 PM
Stanley Kramer's Inherit the Wind

Inherit the Wind (1960)

"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind," says defense attorney Henry Drummond. In a sense, this is what this entire film boils down to. "Inherit the Wind," directed by Stanley Kramer in 1960, is a retelling of the Scopes Monkey Trial using different names, though it's hard to imagine anyone would take it as anything else. This film is an interesting exploration of a town wanting to block out any knowledge other than what they know for certain is right from the Bible, which can only lead to them "inheriting the wind."

In a small town in Tennessee, a young high school professor, Bertram T. Cates (Dick York), is arrested for teaching Darwin's Theory of Evolution because it is contradictory to the theory that God created man. Two of the top attorneys in the country are brought in to try the case. Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March) agrees to prosecute the case against Case while Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) argues for the defendant. The trial begins, witnesses are called with the right to think differently weighing in the balance.

The film begins in a fascinating way. It feels as though it is setting up a prizefight between the two attorneys. When Brady arrives, there is a huge celebration, as he is the prosecution and there to uphold the word of God, as if he is the reigning champ and defender of all things right. There is no such parade when Drummond arrives, quite the opposite in fact. He is greeted with boos and other such harshness that doesn't exactly give off the feeling of him being welcome.

As is the case with most courtroom dramas, the most compelling scenes occur during the trial. The scenes in the courtroom build up slowly, starting off with the selection of the jury; Drummond wanting to find people who are not overly religious while Brady is all for the most pious of jury members.The prosecution presents first, trying to prove that Cates did indeed break the law by calling a witness from his class as well as the daughter of a preacher who Cates is engaged to.

When this is done, the defense gets their turn. However, the Judge (Harry Morgan) refuses to allow Drummond to call his witnesses, a group of scientists, because he claims that they are irrelevant to the case. This forces Drummond to take another route. The next day, he decides to call Brady himself to the stand as an expert on the Bible. This leads to the most extraordinary scene in the entire film.

I don't want to give away too much about this scene, but it is where we start to see who really knows what they're talking about. Questions arise in this scene regarding the Bible such as did Jonah really get swallowed by a big fish?, did Joshua really stop the sun?, and was the first day only 24 hours? These are big questions that some choose to answer with science while others choose to answer them with pure faith.

The acting is very solid, especially from the great Spencer Tracy, who has given us such amazing performances as a judge overseeing the war crimes tribunal in "Judgment at Nuremberg" and a father faced with the possibility of an interracial marriage in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Tracy and March do a great job of going head to head with each other during the trial, seemingly friends when outside the courtroom, but worthy adversaries when proving their case during the proceedings.

"Inherit the Wind" was directed by Stanley Kramer, who also directed the two films I gave as examples of Tracy's great acting abilities. He was nominated for nine Oscars over the course of his career, including those two films, yet never won. The screenplay by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith, based on the play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, moves along at a swift pace and is very cleverly written with a large amount of thoughtful dialogue.

Another thing this film comes down to is a matter of opinion and the right of someone to have their own. The majority of the town obviously believes that God created man, but Cates decides to teach otherwise, leading the town to put him on trial merely for having a difference of opinion. It's the age old debate of science vs. religion. Some require concrete proof to believe something, others take that belief and use it as the foundation of their argument. However, regardless of who is right, it takes a very close-minded and pompous person to say that someone else can't have their own view on the matter. 3.5/4 stars.
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump