Posted on 12/01/07 03:55 PM
"Inherit the Wind" is the story of a teacher put on trial in a small American town for teaching a lesson based Darwin's "Origin of Species", which is against local law and thought to deny God's role as creator. The film is loosely based on the "Scopes Trial" of 1925. It is important to emphasize the phrase "loosely based", because numerous details of the film, including character names and histories, do not coincide with the details of the Scopes Trial.
Spencer Tracy excels at speechmaking as Henry Drummond, the lawyer defending the teacher. Fredric March has a more difficult role as the over-the-top fundamentalist folk hero against teaching evolution, Matthew Harrison Brady. March generally handles it well and delivers a number of memorable lines, but at times went too far for my liking in being crass and a buffoon. The rest of the cast is notable, particularly Gene Kelly as the derisive E. K. Hornbeck delivering sharp lines.
The story is set in the fictitious small town of "Heavenly" Hillsboro in Tennessee. Marches of the villagers through the town, their meeting were effective ways to emphasize the town as being fundamentalist, although the suggestion that they would hang the teacher seems unrealistic. I thought the side story of the the firebrand preacher that shuns his own daughter was well-made and not out of place. The best scenes of the film were those in the court room, especially the dialogue between Drummond and Brady concerning the Bible. There is only one part of this that seemed strange, where Brady suggests that sex is the "original sin". It seems doubtful that a character like Brady's would consider sex a sin, only non-marital sex. The issues raised by the film remain pertinent today considering that many still challenge the validity of teaching evolution despite consensus among scientists.