Inherit the Wind

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Inherit the Wind is a play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, which opened on Broadway in January 1955; a 1960 Hollywood film based on the play; and three television remakes. It was recently brought back onto Broadway in a revival. The play's title comes from Proverbs 11:29, which in the King James Bible reads:

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind:
and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.

Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized account of the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial, which resulted in John T. Scopes' conviction for teaching Charles Darwin's theory of evolution to a high school science class, contrary to a Tennessee state law that prohibited the teaching of anything besides creationism. The fictional characters Matthew Harrison Brady, Henry Drummond, Bertram Cates and E. K. Hornbeck correspond to the historical figures of William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow, John Scopes, and H. L. Mencken, respectively.

Despite numerous similarities between the play and history, the play was not intended as a documentary-drama about the Scopes trial, but instead as a warning against dogmatism and McCarthyism.[1]


[edit] The film

Inherit the Wind
Directed by Stanley Kramer
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Written by Jerome Lawrence (play)
Robert E. Lee (play)
Nedrick Young
Harold Jacob Smith
Starring Spencer Tracy
Fredric March
Gene Kelly
Dick York
Donna Anderson
Music by Ernest Gold
Cinematography Ernest Laszlo, ASC
Editing by Frederic Knudtson
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) October 12, 1960
Running time 128 min.
Country USA
Language English

The play is the basis of a 1960 Hollywood film of the same name, starring Spencer Tracy (Drummond) and Fredric March (Brady), and featuring Gene Kelly (Hornbeck), Dick York (Cates), Harry Morgan (Judge), Donna Anderson (Rachel Brown), Claude Akins (Rev. Brown), Noah Beery, Jr. (Stebbins), Florence Eldridge (Mrs. Brady), and Jimmy Boyd (Howard). The movie was adapted by Nedrick Young (originally as Nathan E. Douglas) and Harold Jacob Smith, and directed by Stanley Kramer.

At the Berlin International Film Festival, March received the Silver Bear Award for Best Actor, and the film was nominated for the Golden Bear award. The movie was also nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Spencer Tracy), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Film Editing and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. It was also nominated for BAFTA Best Film and Best Foreign Actor.

The film deviates from the play, most notably by reducing the unidimensionality of some of the characters. Furthermore, the friendship of Drummond and Brady is emphasized as they respectfully explain their positions in a cordial private conversation.

The film incorporates more of the actual trial transcript than does the stage play, most notably the incident in which Clarence Darrow is cited for contempt of court. The film includes a sequence where a mob harasses Cates in his jail cell and then threatens Drummond at his hotel. That same night, a conversation with Hornbeck inspires Drummond to call Brady as a witness, to expose the contradictions that result from a literal interpretation of the Bible.

The blurb for the 2002 DVD release of the film included the following factoid: "In 1960, Inherit the Wind became the world's first in-flight movie when Trans World Airlines used it to lure first-class passengers!"

[edit] Cast

[edit] Inherit the Wind and history

Henry Drummond (Tracy, left) and Matthew Harrison Brady (March, right)

Although the play quotes extensively from the trial transcript, the play and filmscript indulge in much poetic license, in that they did not try to present the Scopes trial as it actually happened, but instead use it as the historical launching point for a fictional story, embellishing events for dramatic effect. In this respect, Inherit the Wind resembles Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. Both employ historical events to comment on controversies at the time they were written.

The play was intended to criticize the anti-Communist investigations of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA) and Senator Joseph McCarthy. The authors used the historical Scopes trial as the background for a drama that comments on and explores the threats to intellectual freedom presented by the anti-communist hysteria.

The play includes a note reminding the reader that "Inherit the Wind is not history." The characters have different names from the historical figures on whom they are based, and the play "does not pretend to be journalism." The authors go on to argue that "the issues of [Bryan and Darrow's] conflict have acquired new dimension and meaning" in the 30 years since the actual courtroom clash. They do not set the play in 1925 but instead say that "It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow." This timelessness of the setting can be seen as a warning about repeating the wrongs of the past, which can recur unless we are vigilant. During the play's original Broadway run, it was widely understood as a critique of McCarthyism, but subsequent interpretations have been more literal, given the resurgence of the creation-evolution controversy after the play and film appeared, and the events of the film are sometimes incorrectly taken as a near recreation of the trial.

Inherit the Wind has been criticized for stereotyping Christians as hostile, hate-filled bigots. For example, the character of Reverend Jeremiah Brown whips his congregation into a frenzy and calls down hellfire on his own daughter for being in love with Bertram Cates. In fact, no such event took place — Scopes had no girlfriend and the character of Rev. Brown is fictitious. The 1960 film depicts a prayer meeting during which some express hostility about Drummond and Cates, but Brady intervenes to calm the situation, urging a gentler and more forgiving strain of Christianity than the minister's.

In reality, the people of Dayton were generally very kind and cordial to Darrow, who attested to this fact during the trial as follows:

"I don't know as I was ever in a community in my life where my religious ideas differed as widely from the great mass as I have found them since I have been in Tennessee. Yet I came here a perfect stranger and I can say what I have said before that I have not found upon any body's part — any citizen here in this town or outside the slightest discourtesy. I have been treated better, kindlier and more hospitably than I fancied would have been the case in the north." (trial transcript, pp. 225–226)

The film does justice to this fact in the scene where Drummond first meets the Hillsboro town mayor, and also in Drummond's interactions with Cates' students.

[edit] Specific differences

The specific differences between the events of the Scopes trial and the dramatized versions of events in the play and in the film are as follows:

(P) = the published play
(M) = the 1960 movie
(M/P) = both versions
  • (M) When Bertram Cates is arrested in the classroom and the sheriff asks his name, Cates replies "Come off it Sam, you've known me all my life." In reality, Scopes was born in Kentucky, went to high school in Illinois, and moved to Dayton in 1924 after graduating from the University of Kentucky.
  • (M/P) Brady, in answer to Drummond's question about the Origin of Species, says he has no interest in "the pagan hypotheses of that book". In reality, Bryan was familiar with Darwin's writings and quoted them extensively during the trial.
  • (M/P) In answer to a question from Drummond, Brady declares that the original sin is sexual intercourse. In reality, the confrontation between Bryan and Darrow never mentioned sex, and virtually all forms of Christianity approve marital intercourse.
  • (P) Brady dogmatically affirmed Bishop Ussher's belief that the world was created on October 23, 4004 B.C. In the actual trial, Darrow introduced Ussher's dates, not Bryan. When Darrow asked Bryan if he was aware of the bishop's calculations, Bryan replied, "Yes, but I do not consider them accurate."
  • (M/P) Brady betrays Cates' girlfriend, the local preacher's daughter, by questioning her in court about information she told him in confidence. In real life, Scopes did not have a girlfriend,[citation needed] and Bryan did not ask anyone who was under oath to betray any confidences.
  • (M/P) When the verdict is announced, Brady protests, loudly and angrily, that the fine is too lenient. In reality, Scopes was fined the minimum the law required, and Bryan offered to pay the fine.
  • (M) The plot line regarding Mr and Mrs Stebbins and the death of their son by drowning is allegedly based on a true incident. In fact the event occurred several years earlier — before Scopes ever moved to Dayton — and is believed to have motivated George Rappleyea to turn against fundamentalist Christianity.
  • (M/P) After the sentence is pronounced, Brady protests loudly and collapses from an apparent heart attack. A short time later, Drummond and Hornbeck are informed that that Brady is dead. In fact, Bryan died in his sleep during an afternoon nap six days after the trial had concluded.[citation needed]
  • (M/P) Even though Cates is found guilty, Drummond declares victory because he had made a mockery of the state's law against the teaching of evolution. In fact, Scopes' conviction was later overturned on a technicality (the judge had determined the fine instead of the jury). Tennessee's law against the teaching of evolution was not repealed until 1967.
  • (M/P) After the trial and Brady's death, Drummond says that Brady had once been a great man. E.K. Hornbeck brushes that aside saying that the man had died of a "busted belly." According to Jeffery P. Moran's The Scopes Trial, it was Darrow who claimed that Bryan had died of a busted belly, with Mencken gloating "Well, we killed the poor man."
  • (P) Hornbeck is depicted as an atheist. H. L. Mencken was in fact an agnostic whose writings attacked only certain aspects of Christianity, such as infant damnation, Biblical literalism, predestination, and hostility to Darwin. But he had no real quarrel with the Protestant mainstream of his day, and admired Catholic ritual.

[edit] Inherit the Wind on television

In 1965 the play aired on television with Melvyn Douglas as Drummond and Ed Begley as Brady. In 1988, a rewrite of the Kramer movie shown on NBC starred Jason Robards as Drummond, Kirk Douglas as Brady and Darren McGavin as Hornbeck. Another version aired in 1999 with another pair of Oscar winners, Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott, as Drummond and Brady respectively, and Beau Bridges as Hornbeck. For their performances, Douglas, Begley, and Bridges received Emmy nominations, Robards won the Emmy Award and Lemmon won a Golden Globe award and an Emmy nomination. The 1988 production also won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

[edit] External links and references

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