Behold one of the most underrated movies in American history. Inherit the Wind (the 1960 version) is freaking amazing. I don’t care if you don’t care for “old movies,” or if you think court movies are boring.
The gist: Inherit the Wind is a fictional retelling of the 1925 Scopes Trial, wherein a young schoolteacher is arrested in Tennessee for teaching the theory of evolution to his students. Yes, there was actually a law on the books back then that prevented any teacher from teaching anything outside the Creationist viewpoint of the origin of human beings. The film portrays the dynamics of the highly religious small town where all of this goes down, with special attention paid to the defense and prosecution attorneys (played by Spencer Tracy and Fredric March). There’s a deep bond between the two men (Dr. X and Magneto), as they were once friends but were forced apart by different ideologies. As the town is scrutinized by the outside world, the case of the teacher willing to teach evolution comes to represent a very real rift growing between the religious and the sketical.
What I “learned”: This movie doesn’t use the name of the town where the Scopes trial took place, opting for the name Hillsboro. Weirdly, this is the name of a suburb less than thirty miles where I live. Hearing that name over and over throughout this movie, as well seeing protest signs telling the defense attorney to “Get out of Hillsboro!” was jarring at times. But it made me realize just how much hatred stays the same through the generations. I could imagine protestors throwing bottles at the jail cell of a controversial prisoner today, let alone in 1925. I can also testify that the judgmental fundamentalists of yesteryear are still around today. Hatred rarely changes, though enlightenment is forced to adapt.
See this movie if you like: Courtroom dramas, obviously. But it’s also worth seeing this film if you’re in the mood for a movie with complex religious characters. I definitely get fatigued from all the sexy nuns and evil priests that seem to make the rounds nowadays. While there are plenty of religiously zealous hicks and jerks who do awful things in the name of the Bible, there are also religious characters who are kind and doubtful of the establishment. They also don’t shy away from criticizing the quick-to-judge atheists who come to be a part of the case.
Avoid this movie if: You don’t have the patience for a two-hour movie with limited locations and scope. That’s literally the only reason I can think of for not seeing this movie. It’s beautifully written, and the words are surprisingly economical for the length. I suppose some may find Gene Kelly’s ornate speeches a bit overbearing, but they’re not so annoying that they merit shutting down the movie entirely. All in all, this is a compelling film that illustrates the bigotry that existed in America during the ’20s. You’d be surprised how much it resembles the bigotry we see in the news today.
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