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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Inherit the Wind can be found here.
High school teacher Bertram Cates (Dick York) is arrested for teaching Darwinism (aka "evolutionism") to the children of a predominantly creationist community. At his trial, Cates is prosecuted by fundamentalist politician Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March) and defended by "the most agile legal mind of the 20th century" Colonel Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy).
Inherit the Wind was based on a play of the same name, written by American playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee. It opened on Broadway in January 1955. The play was adapted for the movie by American screenwriters Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith.
Yes. Inherit the Wind is a fictionalized account based on the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial" which took place in Tennessee in 1925. It is both the first full-length play and film which deals with that trial. (There had been a one-hour dramatization of the incident, "The Sad Death of a Hero", on an obscure television program called "TV Readers Digest" in 1955, the year that the play first opened on Broadway.) The teacher who was arrested for teaching evolution was John Scopes [1900-1970], the prosecuting attorney was William Jennings Bryan [1860-1925], and the defense attorney was Clarence Darrow [1857-1938]. The names were all changed for the play and the film, but the basic incidents were true. One exception was made to heighten the drama: In real life, William Jennings Bryan died a few days after the trial, while in the play and film, this is not the fate of Matthew Harrison Brady.
When Reverend Brown (Claude Akins) damns Rachel (Donna Anderson), his own daughter, for her support of Cates (her fiance), Brady stops Brown's tirade by quoting from the Bible, namely Proverbs 11:29, which reads: "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart." (King James version)
Scopes was charged with violating the Butler Act [Tenn. HB 185, 1925], a Tennessee law that makes it unlawful for any teacher in any public school system in the state of Tennessee to teach any theory that denies the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible and to teach that man has "descended from a lower order of animals" (evolution).
It's pro-evolution. It does put forth the idea that evolutionism can be reconciled with creationism if the idea of a "day" is redefined. However, the focus of the movie is not to determine whether Darwinism or Creationism is correct. The focus is to address the right of each individual to think for himself/herself.
English scientist Charles Darwin [1809-1882] proposed the theory that life on earth is based on the evolution of one-celled creatures into larger and larger ones over billions of years. His theory puts forth the idea that apes and humans share a common ancestor, some of which evolved into humans, others into the apes we know today. This goes against the creationist idea that, according to the Bible, God created the world in six days and placed humans here fully-created in God's own image. Darwin put forth his theories in two books: On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871).
Socrates [469 BC - 399 BC] was a Greek philosopher known for his method of teaching, now dubbed the "Socratic method" or "dialectic", in which the teacher would ask questions that required the student(s) to think and to examine their beliefs. An example of Socratic method can be seen in the scene where Drummond calls Brady to the stand and asks him questions about the words in the Bible, questions that require Brady to reconcile the contradictions. Socrates was eventually arrested by the Athenian "police" as a heretic for his outspoken views on politics and society. When sentenced to death, he was allowed to choose his own method of punishment and chose to die by poisoning himself with hemlock.
As the courtroom fills with people awaiting the verdict, Brady goes over his prepared speech while munching on a fried chicken leg. The jury files in followed by Judge Coffey (Harry Morgan). He asks for the jury's verdict and reads it out loud, "Bertram Cates is found guilty as charged." However, he points out that, since there has been no previous violation of the statute, there is no precedent on which to base the sentence, so he fines Cates with a $100 fine. Brady objects, and Drummond announces that they will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Brady grabs his prepared speech, but Drummond requests that court be adjourned. Coffey agrees. As the audience files out of the courtroom, Brady begins orating from his speech until he suddenly collapses to the floor, apparently having suffered a heart attack, although Hornbeck (Gene Kelly) calls it a "busted belly." In the final scene, Drummond leaves the empty courtroom, carrying with him his copy of Darwin's The Origin of the Species as well as his copy of the Bible.
As in the movie, Scopes was found guilty and fined $100. He appealed his case to the Tennessee Supreme Court, who overturned the conviction. The Butler Act was eventually overruled in 1967. Following the trial, Scopes did graduate study in geology at the University of Chicago and geological field work in Venezuela. He returned to the University of Chicago for a third year of graduate study and eventually took a position as a geologist with the United Gas Company, working first in Houston, Texas and then in Shreveport, Louisiana until he retired in 1963. He died on 21 October, 1970, at the age of 70.
You might try Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), in which a daughter's Black fiance meets her White, traditional parents. In 12 Angry Men (1957), twelve people clash on a jury that must decide whether a young Latino is guilty of murder. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) examines the power and hypocrisy of southern racism as seen through a child's eyes in the late 1930s. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) revolves around a pregnant woman caught in a clash between her husband and her neurotic sister. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), inmates in a mental institution clash with the dictatorial head nurse. Husband and wife clash bitterly in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). There is also Alleged (2010).
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