Friday, July 06, 2007

My Favorite Films: Inherit The Wind

Although I am mentioning this film fourth in my list of favorites, it and Lion in the Winter probably vie for first place in my heart.

My fourth choice is the 1960 drama, Inherit the Wind.

Inherit the Wind was a fictionalized version of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. The film received multiple Academy Award nominations. Despite being almost fifty years old, the movie still offers powerful parallels to our world today.

If you're not familiar with the trial, it took place in 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. The trial brought three of the most famous men in twentieth century history to that small town to debate the controversy over evolution and creationism when a teacher was arrested for teaching Darwin's theory in the local high school.

The three men were: Clarence Darrow, world-famous attorney who defended John T. Scopes; William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential candidate, who became a special prosecutor; and H.L. Mencken, a journalist from The Baltimore Sun, who covered the trial. According to Wikipedia, the trial was the first one in US history to be broadcast on national radio.

In the film, Spencer Tracy plays Henry Drummond (Darrow), Fredric March plays Matthew Harrison Brady (Bryan) and Gene Kelly plays E.K. Hornbeck (Mencken). The film earned Spencer Tracy one of his nine nominations for the Best Actor Academy Award.

The play was intended as a warning against the evils of McCarthyism. It is a powerful dramatic vehicle, and the excerpt I've attached is one of my favorites.

The judge in the trial refuses to allow Spencer Tracy to introduce any scientists to defend Darwinism. In desperation, he calls the opposing counsel as a witness for the Bible. In his arrogance, Frederic March agrees to take the stand. The scene that follows is the fictionalized Clarence Darrow interrogating the fictionalized William Jennings Bryan. Much of the dialogue comes from the actual trial transcripts.

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