By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
A fictionalized narrative based heavily on real court case The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes. When schoolteacher Bertram Cates (Dick York) is arrested for teaching Evolution in the classroom, in violation of state law, passions are ignited the world-over. Newspapers from all over report on the impending “monkey trial”, as citizens in the god-fearing township celebrate a pre-emptive victory in the name of their God and Holy Bible.
Meanwhile, prominent counselors take up both sides of the case; former Presidential candidate Matthew Brady (Fredric March) as prosecution, and celebrated Chicago attorney Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) as Cates’ defense attorney. It’s the trial of the century; the bitter tea of religious fundamentalism vs the ripe fruit of science and discovery. Whose cuisine will reign supreme?
Director Stanley Kramer spent much of his career addressing difficult civil rights issues, in The Defiant Ones he brought together two prisoners; one white and one black, (chained together and on the run) and forced them to work together for survival. In Judgement at Nuremberg he pointed out that the silent collaborators were no less culpable in the Holocaust than those who commanded them. In Inherit the Wind, Kramer pointed out that a free country should never infringe on the rights of a person to think for themselves. The people of town feel their religious beliefs are being threatened by someone whose only crime is to lend voice to a scientific theory.
Actors Spencer Tracy and Fredric March spar with each other brilliantly. As their characters meet in the film, it becomes clear the depth of the past between them. They were clearly good friends once, who grew apart due to opposing values. Even as they argue and debate, there is a level of respect between the two men which can be found only in brotherhood and the best of friends. This humanization prevents the film from being accused of being mere propaganda, as it makes it clear these people are just that, no more or less. The film is full of sharply written dialogue, which along with brisk editing keeps the film moving along quite well, especially since the movie features no action and relies almost exclusively on the written word to set the stage.
As historically important as it is aesthetically sound, Inherit the Wind manages the difficult task of humanizing its characters on all sides, while still serving as a fiery indictment of willful ignorance.
Take a Drink: any time Prosecutor Brady quotes scripture
Take a Drink: for the use of the O’s of courtroom lingo; “Objection”, “Overruled”, and “Order”
Do a Shot: as needed to not shout at the screen when the ignorant show their true colors