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Inherit   the  Wind


This movie is a fictionalized version of the Scopes "Monkey Trial" of 1925 that occurred here in Dayton, Tennessee.  Scopes was a teacher that believed he had a responsibility to teach the modern version of how man evolved, as established through the studies of Charles Darwin.  The State of Tennessee had a law that said this was illegal, so he was arrested and tried.  The reason the trial became famous, and was considered the greatest trial of its time, is because two very famous men were the lawyers.  Coming to his defense was Clarence Darrow, the most famous lawyer of that era (Darrow had also been the attorney in the Big Bill Heywood trial and the Leopold and Loeb trial---also two of the greatest trials of the day).  The prosecution was handled by William Jennings Bryan, who had unsuccessfully run as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States three times. 


The movie is based on the stage play by the same name.  The movie was first made in 1960 and starred Spencer Tracy as Darrow and Fredric March.  (A recent version starred Jack Lemmon as Darrow, and although it is a good version, the earlier one is the better.  A third version was made for television.)  Tracy was nominated in 1960 by the Academy for best actor but lost out to Burt Lancaster for his performance in Elmer Gantry (the competition was tremendous that year as Jack Lemmon was nominated for The Apartment and Sir Laurence Olivier was nominated for The Entertainer).  Stanley Kramer directed the film.  The film was also nominated for best adapted screenplay, best black and white cinematography, and best film editing.  The National Board of Review voted it one of the best 10 films of the year.  The New York Times lists it as one of the best movies ever made.  (Other great films by Kramer include: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Ship of Fools,  and Judgment at Nuremberg.)  (Other great films by Spencer Tracey include: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Judgment at Nuremberg.)


If you study Darrow and Bryan and what they both achieved in their lifetimes, you will find two very interesting and great men who go down two very different roads.  Darrow was a very caring intellectual who championed the rights of the oppressed, whereas Bryan was an equally caring and extremely eloquent anti-intellectual who championed the rights of the common man.  H.L. Mencken, the most famous journalist of the day, said of Bryan: "One quality in Bryan's character was dominant…his native simplicity.  He was probably the least sophisticated of American public men.  He saw life as uncomplicated, for he ignored its complications.  Anything that was not clear to him he treated as untrue."


Although Darrow clearly won the trial through logic, Scopes was convicted.  The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the decision on technical grounds.


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The key logical position that Darrow put forth was:  If the world was created in six days, and the sun was created on the fourth day, might not the first day have been more than 24 hours?  Bryan said yes, it might, and that destroyed him because if it might be 25 hours, then it might be 25 million years, and God might very well have created the world through a very lengthy evolutionary process as per Darwin---in short, the bible and science only come in conflict if you fail to see their potential compatibility.

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