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Inherit the Wind


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If you want to see two top notch actors at the top of their craft, then watch this film. Tracy and March show just how great they really were. This is one of the few times that Tracy takes a back seat in the acting dept. however. Tracy is great as Henry Drummond { Clarence Darrow} , but Frederic March steals the movie as Matthew Harrison Brady { William Jennings Bryan } and Gene Kelly also delivers as the caustic reporter E.K.Hornbeck { H.L.Mencken who actually labeled it "The Monkey Trials. }

The story goes that Tracy turned down the role of Drummond , but Stanley Kramer said he had signed March, Florence Eldridge { March's real life wife } and Gene Kelly when he hadn't and then Tracy signed up and that's how Kramer go the others to sign up....

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I think you are referring to the Westboro Baptist Church.

This church is often refrred to as a "hate" group known for its extreme stance against homosexuality and its protest activities, which include picketing funerals and desecrating the American flag.

Its first public service was held in November 1955, which was 4 years before the release of Inherit the Wind.

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> {quote:title=katsong wrote:}{quote}

> I'm watching Inherit the Wind and find myself asking a simple question.

>

> Which came first? Hillsboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS or this movie?

 

Do you mean the people who hold the hateful signs up at funerals? Because that's Westboro Baptist run by the Phelps family and they are based in Kansas, but I don't think it's Topeka. And there are plenty of very conservative Christians who think they are the absolute pits (the late Jerry Fallwell included), I think Mathew Harrison Brady himself would come up out the grave to snatch a few of them himself. Please let's not get too elitist in lumping all people of faith together into one ignorant pudding- just like arguing about a trivial issue like creationism, it diminishes the importance of religion.

 

There is a fascinating documentary about them on youtube called "The Most Hated Family in America." It's worth watching.

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Feb 19, 2011 5:37 PM

 

Edited by: JonnyGeetar on Feb 19, 2011 5:38 PM

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Thank you for the corrections. My initial hearing of the Hillsboro High School in the movie made me think of the Westboro church in Topeka. (yes, they are based in Topeka)

 

The fanaticism relayed in this movie does border on hate such as what is shown by Phelps and co. I think the scene towards the end when the reverend was giving his sermon of Genesis shows it best as he was building the crowd into quite a frenzy until his daughter stopped him. There was also the townspeople marching through town singing about hanging the science teacher.

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> {quote:title=katsong wrote:}{quote}

> Thank you for the corrections. My initial hearing of the Hillsboro High School in the movie made me think of the Westboro church in Topeka. (yes, they are based in Topeka)

>

> The fanaticism relayed in this movie does border on hate such as what is shown by Phelps and co. I think the scene towards the end when the reverend was giving his sermon of Genesis shows it best as he was building the crowd into quite a frenzy until his daughter stopped him. There was also the townspeople marching through town singing about hanging the science teacher.

 

What's sad is that the Scopes Trials took place in the 20's and things don;t seem to have changed a whole lot. People are still intolerant and closed-minded (and still think people and dinosaurs existed at the same time and that Creationism is a valid scientific explanation--really??)

 

Great movie though, with excellent performances all around.

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I saw the movie in a theater in 1960, and I thought it was great. About 15 years ago, I did some research about the case, and I managed to find a rare copy of the textbook that Scopes taught from, which was ?A Civic Biology? by George W. Hunter, 1914 edition. (The book is now available on Google Books.)

 

Here?s the title page of my copy:

http://i51.tinypic.com/rrtqo8.jpg

 

I was shocked at what I learned. This was a very popular racist biology textbook early in the 20th Century, and by today?s standards it?s quite shocking, because it taught the eugenics theory as being a fundamental part of the evolution theory.

 

The great irony regarding this movie is that this textbook would not dare be allowed to be used in any public school in America today, not in Tennessee or in any other state. This book would be banned all over the country, and school systems would be sued in federal courts if anyone tried to teach the evolution/eugenics theory that it contains.

 

It was Darwin?s cousin, Francis Galton, who developed the eugenics theory, and that theory became quite popular in the first half of the 20th Century, especially in Germany in the late 1930s and early ?40s. Eugenics was the theory of eradicating ?inferior? people by keeping them from breeding, thus helping human ?evolution? along by removing certain people from the general population of the world?s breeding stock.

 

Many school systems continued to use the book for years after it was published, since certain ?foreigners? and various ?non-white? people were thought of as being ?inferior?, and eugenics was suggested as a new way to control their population growth. My copy of the textbook was used in the Louisiana Public School system.

 

Here is the beginning of the evolution section of ?A Civic Biology?, specifically regarding humans, and this section eventually leads into the eugenics section. This text is from Pages 195 and 196. Note the last statement about the superiority of white people:

 

http://i54.tinypic.com/dg5wkh.jpg

 

The topic of government-controlled evolutionary eugenics as applied to humans, starts on Page 261:

 

http://i55.tinypic.com/rl98no.jpg

 

Page 263:

 

http://i56.tinypic.com/mlm32c.jpg

 

The movie doesn?t mention anything about this.

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

>

> The movie doesnt mention anything about this.

 

Was the subject of eugenics included in the trial? If not, I wouldn't expect it to be in the film. But, yes, this is very interesting information.

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Seven or eight years after I found a copy of the biology textbook, I found a copy of a complete transcript of the 1925 trial, as re-printed in 1990 for The Notable Trials Library, Gryphon edition, with an introduction by attorney Allan Dershowitz.

 

Here is an excerpt from the introduction to the transcript, as written by Mr. Dershowitz:

 

?As has become all too common with regard to famous and infamous trials, the popular perception of what transpired in the courtroom comes not from the transcript of the court proceeding itself, but rather from the motion picture and/or stage play that was based - often loosely - on the trial. Inherit the Wind was both a prize-winning play and movie. These fictionalized accounts presented the conflict as stark and simple: the forces of fundamentalist darkness versus those of progressive light. The William Jennings Bryan character, Scopes's prosecutor, was a burlesque of know-nothing religious literalism. The Clarence Darrow character, Scopes's defender, was the champion of tolerance, understanding and pluralism.

 

In the most dramatic scene, the Darrow character calls the Bryan character as an expert witness on the Bible. The attack is scathing and merciless, as the man of science destroys the man of religion before our very eyes. The questions are devastating: how could the early days of creation be measured before the creation of the sun? Were they really twenty-four hour days? How could Joshua order the sun to stop, when we all know that the earth moves around a fixed sun?

 

The fictional answers are true to the caricature of know-nothing literalism manufactured by the author of Inherit the Wind: God knows how to measure time without a sun. Of course they were twenty-four hour days. God can make the sun move and stop.

 

As usual, the real story, as told in the trial transcript and in contemporaneous accounts, was more complex and far more interesting. The actual William Jennings Bryan was no simple-minded literalist. And he certainly was no bigot. He was a great populist, who cared deeply about equality and about the downtrodden.

 

Indeed, one of his reasons for becoming so deeply involved in the campaign against evolution was that Darwin's theories were being used - misused, it turns out - by racists, militarists and nationalists to push some pretty horrible programs. The eugenics movement, which advocated sterilization of "unfit" and "inferior" stock, was at its zenith, and it took its impetus from Darwin's theory of natural selection. German militarism, which had just led to the disastrous World War, drew inspiration from Darwin's survival of the fittest. The anti-immigration movement, which had succeeded in closing American ports of entry to "inferior racial stock," was grounded in a mistaken belief that certain ethnic groups had evolved more fully than others. The "Jim Crow" laws, which maintained racial segregation, were rationalized on grounds of the racial inferiority of blacks.

 

Indeed, the very book - Hunter's Civic Biology - from which John T. Scopes taught Darwin's theory of evolution to high school students in Dayton, Tennessee, contained dangerous misapplications of that theory. It explicitly accepted the naturalistic fallacy and repeatedly drew moral instruction from nature. Indeed, its very title, Civic Biology, made it clear that biology had direct political implications for civic society. In discussing the "five races" of man, the text assured the all-white, legally separated high school students taught by Scopes that "the highest type of all, the Caucasians, are represented by the civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America." The book, the avowed goal of which was the improvement of the future human race, then proposed certain eugenic remedies. After a discussion of the inheritability of crime and immorality, the author proposed an analogy: "Just as certain animals or plants become parasitic on other plants or animals, these families have become parasitic on society. They not only do harm to others by corrupting, stealing or spreading disease, but they are actually protected and cared for by the state out of public money. Largely for them the poorhouse and the asylum exist. They take from society, but they give nothing in return. They are true parasites."

 

From the analogy flowed "the remedy": "If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading. Humanity will not allow this, but we do have the remedy of separating the sexes in asylums or other places and in various ways preventing intermarriage and the possibilities of perpetuating such a low and degenerate race. Remedies of this sort have been tried successfully in Europe and are now meeting with success in this country."

 

These "remedies" included involuntary sterilizations, and eventually laid the foundation for involuntary "euthanasia" of the kind practiced in Nazi Germany.?

 

http://preservingamerica.org/dershowitz_scopestrial

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> {quote:title=Scottman wrote:}{quote}

> Speaking of eugenics.....

> The Lois Weber film WHERE ARE MY CHILDREN? (1916) briefly touches on the theory of eugenics (the film is primarily about abortion and birth control).

> TCM ran this film about 10 years ago, or so.

 

Yes, I was thinking about mentioning that information. I?ve seen it on TCM at least twice, once about three or four years ago. This was a really hot topic of conversation in the early ?20th Century.

 

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0007558/

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Interesting. Obviously there's a lot more to the Scopes Trial than Inherit the Wind covers. I was raised in a very religious home, and one of the things that caused me to drift away from organized religion was evolution vs creationism (there were other things, but that was a biggie). I don;t want to start anything here, but calling creationism a valid scientific explanation is one of my pet peeves, so this movie hit a sore spot for me.

 

It's interestng--we react with disgust and horror to the idea of eugenics, but I was surprised to discover that it was a popular idea among intellectual circles for a while in the early part of the 20th century. Institutions routinely sterilized mental patients and most people thought this was a good idea, at least until the Nazis got a hold of it. So I wonder how much of the Scopes trail focused on the eugenics angle and how much on the evolution angle? I'll have to find a copy of the book you refernced and read for myself, I guess.

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Fred, again, interesting. It says that being anti-eugenics was part of WJB's motivation, but it still doesn't say if that was brought out at the trial. Of course motivations are important, even if left unstated. The eugenics angle obviously would have complicated the film tremendously, had it been treated as a major element. This is after all, not a documentary. So, I can't condemn the artistic choices of the film. However, if a modern film were to be made on the subject, I would very much like the eugenics aspect to be included, even if only as background.

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> {quote:title=ValentineXavier wrote:}{quote}

> The eugenics angle obviously would have complicated the film tremendously, had it been treated as a major element. This is after all, not a documentary. So, I can't condemn the artistic choices of the film.

 

You really need to read the full transcript of the actual trial before you make that decision.

 

The film clearly pretended to be a factual "docu-drama", which it was not, not any more than "JFK" was a factual docu-drama.

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I suppose people will differ about Bryan being simple-minded, but there's little

doubt, reading his examination by Darrow, that he was a Biblical literalist, nttawwt.

I don't remember if this short colloquy from the trial transcript made it into the film,

but if not it certainly should have:

 

 

 

 

Darrow: What do you think?

 

Bryan: I do not think about things I don't think about.

 

Darrow: Do you think about things you do think about?

 

Bryan: Well, sometimes. {Laughter}.

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I agree with Fredbaetz's post (the third of this thread). Superb acting by Tracy and March. This is one of my favorites. Putting historical facts and the bible aside and back to the art of moviemaking, I have a question: Was this Gene Kelly's first non-dancing, non-singing role? Are there others?

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> {quote:title=FilmAficionado wrote:}{quote}

> I agree with Fredbaetz's post (the third of this thread). Superb acting by Tracy and March. This is one of my favorites. Putting historical facts and the bible aside and back to the art of moviemaking, I have a question: Was this Gene Kelly's first non-dancing, non-singing role? Are there others?

 

I've got a DVD copy of a film-noir type movie he made in 1944 called "Christmas Holiday". Not bad. Doesn't have much to do with Christmas, but he wasn't singing or dancing. Deanna Durbin was the co-star and she didn't sing either, that I remember.

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There is one very, very important historical viewpoint to this film that seldom ever gets mentioned. Originally, there was talk to have Tracy costar with Humphrey Bogart, but this deal probably would have never worked out. Once before, Tracy and Bogart were supposed to costar in the 1955 Paramount crime drama, ?The Desperate Hours.? Although Spence and Bogie were close friends, they couldn?t agree on of all things, as to the issue of getting top billing! So, Spence bowed out and Bogie remained with the project. He would get top billing over the replacement, Fredric March! From that time on, Spence and Bogie continued taunting each other with the idea of making the film version of ?Inherit The Wind.? Sadly, Bogie wouldn?t live long enough to ever reconsider the idea of the movie.

 

Several years later, producer Stanley Kramer felt the time was right, especially for Spence and once again the great and wonderful Fredric March stepped into the picture. As soon as word got out around town about this gargantuan teaming of the two great actors, there was a scramble among many in Hollywood to be a part of the production or at least witness something historic. Suddenly, Culver City where the movie was to be filmed hadn?t seen anything so exciting since the days of ?Gone With The Wind!? Well, as it turned out, Kramer who would also direct the film as well as having finally brought the idea to a reality had to face and deal with scores of people sneaking onto the set; especially young aspiring actors and actresses from all over Hollywood. Many of the onlookers and uninvited were currently working in television, while others came from the various studios across the neighborhood just to get whatever possible glimpse of movie royalty at work!

 

There were moments during filming, especially the trial scenes, when after each shooting session, there would be periodic bursts of applause, even from various members of the cast and the many extras. The majority of supporting players hired to be in the film and those just visiting were really responsible for spreading the word around town that created the frenzy or monomania for producer Kramer to get under some control. Day after day, the famous and anyone being able to crash the set came and watched as long as they could. Some of those who snuck in can be listed like a who?s/who of people that later on became big stars themselves! It?s amazing how many of these aspiring performers in the years to follow, as they became major movie stars, mentioning that they came onto the set of ?Inherit The Wind? to watch.

 

Both Spence and March ate it all up! They were like majestic elder statesmen, being idolized, revered and hounded at times by the various younger people on the set who saw the two of them as Gods having stood at the heights of movie glory. Spence joked with March that they were two old beacons of light, expected by all those around them to light things up or lead the way. Well, in a technical way of thinking, the two great actors certainly did lead the way towards special moments you generally don?t get to see on the movie screen. These were moments when those who are idols to their profession, managed to somehow to come together and take themselves to a level that?s expected of their greatness, talents and all the skill that time and experience lend towards signifying a definition to what it takes to be the best. After the film was finished, producer Stanley Kramer commented that while it was a momentous occasion to have two of the greatest American actors in one film, it was probably expected that it turned out to be more of a learning experience for everyone else involved and anyone who managed to see how these two legendary performers displayed a professionalism that should be considered a standard to motion pictures.

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Fascinating input Dobbsey!

 

I know The Three Musketeers (1948) was a non-singing or dancing role for Kelly so this was not his first...It's funny though, every time I watch Inherit I feel like Gene's the weak link in the flick. He overdoes it, which I understand as he was working opposite MARCH and TRACY and Florence Eldridge (March's well-respected wife); also musicals were on the wane and he probably felt like this was a "make or break" role. I'm sure he felt a lot of pressure to *ACT!* but there are moments watching him where I cringe.

 

However it is interesting that it's via his character that the film's one critique of the "left side" of the aisle takes place, and maybe it's his tearing into the role like a terrier with a tube sock that helps makes the case that carrying an issue too far in any direction is wrong.

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One issue as to why the film was somewhat fictionalized was due to John T. Scopes, the real school teacher, being very much alive in 1959. He eventually went to his local drive-in theater to see ?Inherit The Wind.? At the time of the movie?s release, Scopes didn?t have much to say. He did however write an interesting autobiography published in 1967, entitled, ?Center of the Storm.? He most likely decided on writing the biography, due in part to the distorted views created by the 1959 film. Scopes mentioned in his book that a person?s fate can be shaped by heredity, the environment and an occasional accident. He believed what happened to him was stranger than anything the imagination can produce.

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> {quote:title=MovieProfessor wrote:}{quote}

> One issue as to why the film was somewhat fictionalized was due to John T. Scopes, the real school teacher, being very much alive in 1959.

 

No, the real reason the film changes the names of the characters is because (drum roll)...those are the names of the characters in the 1955 Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee play whose film rights Stanley Kramer purchased. Kramer wasn't about to change the names and situations in the property he'd purchased (even if his rights had included the freedom to do so, which I doubt). It was a very successful play and, while it hews to, and distills the basic facts surrounding the Scopes trial, a significant amount of what's in the play and film is fictionalized for largely dramatic purposes, and not to coddle the sensibilities of John Scopes.

 

 

> {quote:title=MovieProfessor wrote:}{quote}

> There is one very, very important historical viewpoint to this film that seldom ever gets mentioned. Originally, there was talk to have Tracy costar with Humphrey Bogart, but this deal probably would have never worked out. Once before, Tracy and Bogart were supposed to costar in the 1955 Paramount crime drama, ?The Desperate Hours.? Although Spence and Bogie were close friends, they couldn?t agree on of all things, as to the issue of getting top billing! So, Spence bowed out and Bogie remained with the project. He would get top billing over the replacement, Fredric March! From that time on, Spence and Bogie continued taunting each other with the idea of making the film version of ?Inherit The Wind.? Sadly, Bogie wouldn?t live long enough to ever reconsider the idea of the movie.

 

Wrong again. Director William Wyler had already cast March as Dan Hilliard when Bogart, who'd co-starred in Wyler's DEAD END eighteen years earlier, approached him about playing fugitive Glenn Griffin. Wyler told him that in writer Joseph Hayes's novel Griffin and Hal Griffin were brothers of similar ages. Bogart asked why the brothers ages couldn't be a couple of decades apart and, after a protracted deliberation, Wyler agreed that there was no pressing dramatic reason. It was at that point that Bogart was cast. While Tracy would have been terrific in the part (especially if the script could have been re-worked so that his daughter was played by Elizabeth Taylor, with the whole family in the middle of wedding preparations. Comedy ensues), Wyler knew that Bogart, one of the biggest stars in movies at that time, would be the film's top drawing card. Both Wyler and Paramount weren't at all keen on the idea of having him billed below Tracy.

 

 

> {quote:title=traceyk65 wrote:}{quote}

> I wonder how much of the Scopes trail focused on the eugenics angle and how much on the evolution angle? I'll have to find a copy of the book you referenced and read for myself, I guess.

 

> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

> I was shocked at what I learned. This was a very popular racist biology textbook early in the 20th Century, and by today?s standards it?s quite shocking, because it taught the eugenics theory as being a fundamental part of the evolution theory.

 

This is redolent of the current Republican/Fox News tactic of, well, just making stuff up, such as the current claim on the right that the Founding Fathers, especially southerners like Jefferson and Washington, were opposed to slavery, and that the "3/5 rule" placed in the U.S. Constitution mandating that the Census would count each blacks as 3/5 of a human being was actually an attempt to end the institution of slavery when, in fact, its appallingly cynical purpose was to inflate Southern states' populations so that they received more seats in Congress without their having to acknowledge blacks as equal to whites.

 

The core of Darwin's On the Origin of Species is the concept of natural selection, with the emphasis on natural. This is the diametric opposite of eugenics, which is the deliberate, arbitrary and, ultimately, self-serving and aggrandizing actions on the part of humans in selecting the traits in their own species they deem most appealing.

 

What's merely called breeding in the creation of superior livestock or show dogs is called eugenics when applied to one's own species, though most in our society would be loath to make that comparison. The whole argument, then, is a philosophical one as to whether pets and beasts of burden have souls like humans, something George Orwell touched on in his Animal Farm. The sad fact is that, St Francis of Assisi aside, Western religions' unshakable belief that humans are the center of the universe because of their belief in God also institutionalizes the belief that selective breeding of animals is not a form of eugenics.

 

In the end, the only form of eugenics in which we should be allowed to indulge is in the selection of a mate based on his or her physical characteristics (excessive emphasis on which will typically doom a marriage). Beyond that, the idea of shaping the human race according to a generally accepted or government-mandated idea (see entry on Lebensborn, the system of maternity homes, financial assistance and encouragement of those with approved "Aryan" traits to produce offspring established by Nazi Reichsminister and SS head Heinrich ****) is, and should forever be, repugnant.

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