Stanley Kramer – Inherit the Wind (1960)

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Description: Inherit the Wind (1960) portrays, in partly fictionalized form, the famous and dramatic courtroom “Monkey Trial” battle (in the sultry summer of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee) between two famous lawyers (Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan) who volunteered to heatedly argue both sides of the case (over 12 days, including two weekends).

Its story centers around the issue of evolution vs. creationism, in the prosecution of 24 year-old Dayton High School mathematics teacher and sports coach – and substitute science teacher – John T. Scopes for violating state law (the 1925 Butler Act) by teaching the Darwin’s theory of evolution in a state-funded school. The film’s title was taken from the Biblical book of Proverbs 11:29: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”

[In fact, Scopes deliberately agreed to challenge the Tennessee legislature’s statutes and become a “friendly” test case for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by allegedly teaching theories that denied the Biblical story of the divine creation of man. Although Scopes was brilliantly defended by Darrow, Scopes was found guilty and fined $100 on July 21st. In 1927, Darrow and the ACLU appealed the case before the Tennessee Supreme Court, which invalidated the Dayton court decision on a minor technicality – the fine should have been set by the jury, not the judge, they ruled – and the case was dismissed without further appeal. Because the Butler Act was still on the books in the mid-1950s, on July 10, 1955, the ACLU formally requested that Tennessee Governor Frank G. Clement initiate the repeal of that law. But the law remained on the books for over another decade. In 1968, the US Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas that bans such as the Butler Act were unconstitutional, because they contravened the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, since their primary purpose was religious.]

An absorbing, liberal “message” film-maker Stanley Kramer both produced and directed the film that modified and slightly disguised the historical event by changing the names of the prototypical characters and making them fictional figures. His allegorical film was also designed as a protest against the repressive thinking of the 50s McCarthy era.
~ by Tim Dirks

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