Inherit the Wind (1960)


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. Inherit the Wind is a parable that fictionalizes the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial as a means to discuss McCarthyism. Written in response to the chilling effect of the McCarthy era investigations on intellectual discourse, the play (and film) are critical of creationism. It was remade in 1999, co-starring Jack Lemmon as Drummond and George C. Scott as Brady.


In a small Southern town, a school teacher, Bertram Cates, is about to stand trial. His offense: Introducing to his students the concept that man descended from the apes, a theory of evolutionist Charles Darwin vigorously renounced 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 failed presidential candidate. A staunch foe of Darwinism and a Biblical scholar, Brady will sit beside his hand-picked prosecuting attorney, 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. The judge clearly admires Brady, even addressing him as "Colonel" in court. Drummond objects to this, so, as a compromise, the judge 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. His hands tied in every other way, Drummond has no other choice but to put Brady himself on 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, the judge sees fit to do no more than make him pay a very small fine. Brady is furious at this and begins to scream hysterically. During this fit he suffers a cardiac arrest and dies in the court room. The final scene shows Drummond walking out of the court room holding both The Bible and a text on evolution.