Two-time Best Actor OscarÂ(r) winners* Spencer Tracy and Fredric March go toe-to-toe in this thrilling re-creation of the most titanic courtroom battle of the century. Garnering four Academy AwardÂ(r) nominations**, includ... more »ing Best Actor (Tracy), and featuring Gene Kelly in a rare, critically-acclaimed dramatic role, Inherit the Wind is powerful, provocative cinema and "a heaping measure of entertainment" (The Hollywood Reporter)! The controversial subject of evolution versus creation causes two polar opposites to engage in one explosive battle of beliefs. Attorney Clarence Darrow (Tracy) faces off against fundamentalist leader William Jennings Bryan (March) in a small Tennessee town where a teacher has been brought to trial for teaching Darwinism. Let the trial begin...and watch the sparks fly!« less
Utterly and justifiably dominated by two star performances
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 09/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After over forty years this remains a truly powerful film, and the secret is not hard to locate: Spencer Tracy and Fredric March. These two great actors, both near the end of their respective careers (both would make other films, but it would be the last great performance in March's career and one of the last in Tracy's, though he did go on to excel in both JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG and GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER). Remove them from the film, and there wouldn't be a whole lot left. Luckily, they are in it, and between them they manage to chew up scene after scene as they display movie acting at its very finest.The story, of course, is loosely (though not too loosely) based on the Scopes trial, where Clarence Darrow defended John Scopes from charges of having taught the theory of evolution in a public school. William Jennings Bryan, former US senator, secretary of state, and three-time presidential candidate, argued the case for the prosecution. Although the real-life trial was covered by a huge press corps, the movie focuses on only one reporter, the fictional E. K. Hornbeck, who is loosely based on H. L. Mencken and played somewhat against type by Gene Kelly (sadly, it would also be Kelly's last major role; unlike his friend and rival Fred Astaire, his career was cut short partly by the demise of the musical and partly by injuries that made dancing harder for him as he aged, but also unlike Astaire he was unable to find quality acting roles as he aged).The film is also served well by an excellent supporting cast. Harry Morgan, later familiar from M*A*S*H, capably plays the judge in the trial. Dick York, later the first Darren in BEWITCHED (interestingly, a TV show based on I MARRIED A WITCH, in which Fredric March played the "Darren" equivalent) is a familiar face. Claude Akens, who guest starred in literally hundreds of television shows from the 1950s through the 1980s, got one of the larger roles of his career as Rev. Jeremiah Brown, like Kelly against type since he usually played cowboys, criminals, or police officers.I have often had mixed feelings about director Stanley Kramer. While I like several of his movies--especially ON THE BEACH, THE DEFIANT ONES, and this one--I always get the impression that I like them despite his direction. His films always seem to drift in the action, seem to lack focus, and have a poor pace. The overall structure of his films seems to be weak. On the other hand, he seems to have been an actor's director, and many of his films feature strong performances. This is all to say that this is not a well-directed film, and without the two stellar leading actors, it might not have been much to see. As it is, however, it remains a riveting film, and even if there isn't a great deal beyond the two leading performances, that alone is sufficient to make this a must-see film."
Spellbinding dual performances!
Candace Scott | Lake Arrowhead, CA, USA | 08/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are many reasons to watch this movie, one of the essential films of the past 50 years. But the primary motivation is to see the greatest screen actor of all, Spencer Tracy, deliver a performance for the ages. Watch this master emote with movement, voice and nuance. He steals the picture (as he usually does), but there is another brilliant performance as well. This is delivered expertly by the underrated Fredric March, in one of the meatiest roles ever handed to an actor. March is at turns witty, cunning, over-the-top, hammy or contrite, depending upon the demands of the scene. His scenes on the witness stand with Tracy are among the best written and beautifully acted pieces in movie history. It's impossible not to be on the edge of your seat as Tracy quizzes March about various passages from the Bible.I won't bother with the details of the plot, which is well known to most movie fans. Don't expect real or truthful history, and accept that Kramer's direction is sometimes limited and even claustrophobic. Watch this film because there has never been such an array of spellbinding performances as were delivered by Tracy and March. An astounding display of acting talent."
Something to Think About
James L. | 02/19/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Inherit the Wind is a movie about ideas, and in the hands of master actors like Spencer Tracy and Fredric March, the ideas are well delivered. March and Tracy bring the full force of their talents to their roles as opposing lawyers (and one time friends) who face off on the issue of evolution vs. Creation. The fact that this is based on a real life court case only adds to the drama. Florence Eldridge, March's real life wife, is excellent as March's movie wife who recognizes the flaws in her husband, but loves and admires him anyways. Harry Morgan also gives a solid performance as the judge caught in a very controversial case. Gene Kelly plays a very cynical reporter and has some good scenes, but overall isn't completely effective. The movie is full of dialogue, and is obviously based on a stage play, but the ideas are so strong, the actors so dynamic, and there are enough scenes away from the court case, so that the movie doesn't drag. And of course, the issues raised about freedom of speech and thought are still relevant today. This is a movie and a story to learn from."
The real reason people don't like this film
Warren P. Reier | Berkeley, CA USA | 10/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Most of the serious criticism of this film has focused on its "massive deviation from fact", changing the facts "to suit the message" and so on. But everyone knows no dramatization can be perfectly accurate--no one would criticize "Julius Caesar" or "Richard III" on this account, or, to use more modern examples, "The Crucible" or "Judgment at Nuremberg". Nevertheless, films should be held accountable for severe falsification if they claim to be accurate, or could even be reasonably mistaken for reenactments. "Inherit the Wind" falls into this second category for reasons I'm not totally clear about--even though it's clearly a piece of advocacy and terribly partial to the defense.
But is it really so inaccurate? Have a look at the transcripts and you'll see that there's a great deal taken verbatim from them. The context of the trial, the carnival atmosphere, the (irrelevant) ulterior motives of certain participants, the partiality of judge and jury, were all attested to, and not contradicted in any important way by every source I looked at.
It was after reading H. L. Mencken's original dispatches from Dayton, Tennessee that I began to understand what the real problem was. It's quite simple really. Religion, alone of all powerful social institutions, claims to be immune from criticism. We are so used to tiptoeing around the subject that flat-out public criticism of religion has become unthinkable, and any sort of behavior in its defense, including violence, understandable if not actually justified.
"Inherit the Wind" doesn't go out of its way to find excuses for these people--ignorance, viciousness, prejudice and superstition are depicted in all their hideousness. What shocks me is that this picture, corny and dated as it is in places, should now be seen as so "out of line". You wouldn't think people who are comfortable with hell-fire and God's wrath, or with amputations and beheadings, would be so thin-skinned. But there you have it. And it's getting worse."
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Loren D. Morrison | Los Angeles County, U.S.A. | 04/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As previous reviewers have noted, _INHERIT THE WIND_ is a work of fiction that is based on what came to be known as "The Scopes Monkey Trial." Also previously noted is the fact that Spencer Tracy, as Henry Drummond, the character adapted from the real life Clarence Darrow, and Frederic March, playing the role of Matthew Harrison Brady, whose character is based on William Jennings Bryan, engage in a carefully choreographed and outstandingly acted "pas de deux" that, to this day, has rarely been matched in any movie.It should be understood that this is a work of fiction, and is not meant to duplicate the facts of the Scopes trial. That's why the names have been changed -- to allow literary license for dramatic purposes.With this as background, one needs to understand the political climate that prevailed when the play from which the movie was adapted was written. The play was written in 1950, in the middle of what has come to be known as the "McCarthy Era." The anti-Communist hysteria of the time was seen by many as a threat to intellectual freedom. It was politically dangerous, at that time, to directly take on those threats to freedom of ideas, so the playwrites (Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee) came up with the idea of using the Scopes Trial, which was safely in the past, as a vehicle to express the importance of the constitutional guarantees of such things as freedom of speech. That the play they wrote in 1950, and its 1960 movie version, were of such dramatic intensity was just icing on the cake.I think that looking at _INHERIT THE WIND_ from the standpoint of historical perspective should do away with some reviewers beliefs that it is some sort of atheistic plot to challenge their belief systems. Also, repeating myself, I believe that it is important to realize that it is a work of fiction and need not accurately reflect the details of the real trial.It's worth seeing from several perspectives. As a well acted movie; as one that creates an atmosphere that makes the viewer feel that he is in that hot, humid courtroom; and as one that expresses how important our freedoms really are."