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He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.—Proverbs 11:29, The Bible
Originally a 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, then filmed in 1960 (and adapted for television three times between 1965 and 1999), Inherit The Wind is a very (very) fictionalized account of the "Scopes Monkey Trial," a 1925 Tennessee court case which revolved around the teaching of Evolution in public schools. The whole thing was actually a publicity stunt by the backwater town of Dayton, TN, leading to the trial being sensationalized beyond belief. It kind of went Off the Rails from there, bringing many (at the time) 'incontrovertible' tenets of American thought, such as a literal interpretation of The Bible, to question.
The play revolves primarily around Bert Cates, a schoolteacher in the small, "simple" town of Hillsboro. Bert is arrested for teaching the theory of evolution in his class in violation of a state law, and the film opens with him being hauled bodily out of his classroom by the police. The town's mayor initially wants to keep the whole affair quiet, and many of the more prominent members of the community urge him to drop the matter entirely. It was all going to happen that way until Matthew Harrison Brady-- the analogue of William Jennings Bryan-- announces that he's coming to Hillsboro to assist the prosecution. Cates writes to a newspaper in Baltimore for assistance, and is presented with Henry Drummond (in the part of Clarence Darrow) as his defense attorney, and E. K. Hornbeck (playing H. L. Mencken) as a chronicler.
The film version was well received, with Spencer Tracy as Drummond, Fredric March as Brady, Dick York as Cates, Harry Morgan as the judge, and (surprisingly) Gene Kelly as the all-snarking, never-dancing Hornbeck. It takes a few more liberties from the real trial than the play does, but also incorporates more of the trial transcript; today, most people thinking of the real trial instead remember details from the film. The film also has the distinction of being the first in-flight movie, according to The Other Wiki.
Speaking of what the other wiki says, the play was intended as a criticism of of the anti-Communist hysteria of The Fifties. However, with the newly-reborn debate on evolution versus creationism, the film is often shown at face value without the McCarthyism subtext being considered. And it still works beautifully.
The film includes examples of:
- Amoral Attorney: Brady's more interested in preaching than prosecuting and his religious devotion is more or less a way to be famous, compensating for all the times he's failed to become president. In contrast, the town accuses Drummond of taking the case solely to denounce religion, though Drummond is an agnostic who has nothing against religion save for the fundmentalists' literal interpretation of the Bible.
- Anti-Villain: Brady and Hornbeck
- Big Eater: Brady; yet another way of coping with his inferiority complex after losing a presidential race three times.
- Collapsed Mid-Speech: Brady is giving his closing speech, which his old and weary voice tries and fails to make sound passionate. After the microphone is taken away from him, he desperately tries to continue, but suddenly falls silent and collapses. As he is carried out of the courtroom in a semi-conscious state, he strangely starts speaking on being inaugurated as President. He dies offstage soon after.
- Courtroom Antic
- Deadpan Snarker: Hornbeck, as an Expy of H. L. Mencken, the famously sarcastic "Sage of Baltimore"
"Darwin was wrong. Man's still an ape."
- Eureka Moment
- Even Evil Has Standards: Brady maybe a self grandizing religious opportunist, but he is still the one who publicly tells Rachel's hateful pastor father to back off from condemning his own daughter
- Friendly Enemy: Drummond and Brady are good friends outside the courtroom, as were their real life counterparts.
- The Fundamentalist: Brady and Brown
- Greek Chorus: Hornbeck's function; he even speaks in verse.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: The plot.
- Heat Wave: Most of the courtroom audience are fanning themselves with hand-held fans.
- It's quite odd that the fans say "Courtesy of X's Funeral Service".
- Holier Than Thou: Reverend Brown
- Hollywood Law: There are so, so many instances of this.
- Even though it was Truth in Television, Drummond would not have been able to call Brady to the stand without calling a mistrial. Probably why it was allowed in the real scopes trial was because it was really a publicity show anyway.
- Also, Brady badgering Rachel (Though that may have been allowed because the town adores him.)
- This is a minor one, but in the play, Rachel goes up to the stand from the audience. A major no-no.
- Irony: When Brady gives his final address after the trial is ended, the majority of the only ones who are really listening to him with sympathy are his enemies.
- Jerkass: Reverend Brown
- The Judge: The judge.
- Large Ham: Brady is practically made of ham.
- Law Procedural
- Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Rachel Brown. Not literally a mad scientist, obviously.
- Mind Rape: Pretty much what Drummond eventually (and inadvertantly) does to Brady, signified by his Heroic BSOD / Villainous Breakdown depending on the interpretation.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Henry Drummond = Clarence Darrow; Matthew Harrison Brady = William Jennings Bryan; E.K. Hornbeck = H.L. Mencken; Bertram Cates = John Scopes
- Penultimate Outburst: Drummond's brush with a contempt charge
- Punch Clock Villain: One interpretation of Brady
- Ripped from the Headlines
- Simple Country Lawyer: Played with
- Sinister Minister: Reverend Jeremiah Brown. Okay, a little bit.
- Smug Snake: Brady, in court only, and Hornbeck.
- Society Is to Blame: name-checked; Drummond is an Expy of the Real Life Trope Codifier.
- That Was Objectionable
- Torches and Pitchforks: "We'll hang Bert Cates from a sour apple tree..."
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: There were actually quite a few speakers who stated that Christians could believe in Evolution too; if one actually reads the transcript of the original case. But such complexity is beyond the "Us Vs. Them" simple message; and is inconvenient. (One of them was Charles Darwin himself.)
- And, as mentioned above, the actual Scopes Monkey Trial was a hoax and a publicity stunt designed to put Dayton, TN back on the map. Clarence Darrow had announced publicly that he would defend, pro bono, anyone who was arrested for teaching Evolution in a state where it had been outlawed. Scopes agreed to claim to have taught Evolution and be tried, though nobody could prove that he had actually taught it. Likewise, Bryan eagerly jumped on the bandwagon despite not having practiced law for 36 years by that point.
- Villainous Breakdown: All antagonist characters receive this.
- Rev. Brown ges so fanatical that he damns his daughter to Hell, which also counts as a Moral Event Horizon.
- Brady loses it in court and starts yelling the names of all the books in the Old Testament even though no-one is listening to him anymore. The breakdown continues to the next day and up to his death. As he dies, all the pent-up speeches he was to make if elected President finally come out. This may also count as a Heroic BSOD.
- Hornbeck, previously a Deadpan Snarker with no real emotional attachment to anything, gets really pissed off when Drummond chews him out for insulting Brady after his death. He even slips up in insulting Drummond, calling him "an atheist who believes in God!" Er, Hornbeck, Drummond is an agnostic, not an atheist, remember?
- Wanting Is Better Than Having: Attorney Henry Drummond tells a story about a rocking horse he wanted when he was a child. It was far too expensive for his family to get for him, but his father scrimped and saved and managed to purchase the rocking horse for Drummond as a Christmas present. And the first time Drummond got on it to ride, it fell apart from dry rot. The Horse looked shiny, new and wonderful on the outside, but was really rotten to the core. This is a metaphor for his view on the fundamentalist literal interpretation of the Bible. The scrimping and saving, and the depressingness of the realization, might also be part of the analogy, respectively standing for the hardship and hopes stored up in the struggle for salvation, and the possible overwhelming sadness that comes from realizing that work was wasted and those hopes false if it turns out they were.
- Welcome to Hell
- White and Grey Morality: Hornbeck and Brady are Smug Snakes, Rev. Brown is a fanatical Jerkass, but everyone is more or less doing what they think is right.