Monday, April 21, 2014

Movie of the Week – Inherit the Wind

This week’s movie: Inherit the Wind (1960)

The film is based on the real-life case from 1925 in which two great lawyers argue for and against a science teacher who is accused of the crime of teaching evolution.

Director Stanley Kramer is maybe best known for his films It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but I would argue that his courtroom dramas Inherit the Wind and Judgment at Nuremberg are his best. He worked with composer Ernest Gold, cinematographer Ernest Laszlo, and production designer Rudolph Sternad on this film.

The cast is fantastic and the film’s strongest aspect. Each actor gives a phenomenal performance. The film stars Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, and Gene Kelly, while featuring Dick York, Harry Morgan, Claude Akins, and Elliot Reid in support.

Inherit the Wind is a very good courtroom drama and fans of those types of films should enjoy it (although, I am not convinced that the procedures and protocol resemble a real courtroom in any way). The film, however, is an even better social drama. And sadly and maybe surprisingly, the issues tackled in the film are still present in modern society. Things like: freedom of speech, freedom to discover and learn new things (regardless of whether these things are treated as facts/truths or not), and freedom to be different. In the film the science teacher is persecuted for teaching evolution in a small town that is very religious (some protestant faction). The law forbids him from teaching the topic in the local public high school (despite the whole separation of church and state), but he does it anyway believing that his students should be aware of all possibilities and decide for themselves (which seems reasonable). What strikes me is that even today, eighty-nine years after the original case this is still a hot topic, religious groups clashing with public education/science. It is just kind of sad that we as a people have not progressed past a place of fear, ignorance, and mistrust (regardless of religious beliefs). It is a little frightening as well. Films like Inherit the Wind are important as they expose and explore the power and narrow-mindedness (on both sides) of beliefs existing in a state of ‘tunnel vision’ often leading to people becoming their worst-selves.

Trailer: Here
Available on: DVD and Video On-Demand

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