If you haven't noticed from my reviews, I watch a lot of courtroom dramas. I'm a big fan. While studying screenwriting, I found a book that talked about why they were so appealing. The inherent drama of trying to get information from a witness, chipping away at the unknown, all that stuff is an outstanding way for writers to bring out great stories.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a great example. Expressing a horror movie through testimony was particularly neat. But I digress. The point here is to talk about Inherit the Wind, one of my favorite movies of all time. In this case, I'm referring to the 1960 version with Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, and Gene Kelly.
There are three other versions of this story available but they just don't have the same magic as this version. Back in 1988, Kirk Douglas took on the role of Brady with Jason Robards as Drummond. Darren McGavin played Hornbeck. The actors are well cast, but it was clearly a made for TV film. Something about it just...lacked.
They tried again in 1999 with Jack Lemmon as Drummond, George C Scott as Brady and Beau Bridges as Hornbeck. I liked this one better than the middle one but as this does come from a play, and it pretty much follows straight no matter which version you watch, I find it best to stick with the original.
One thing about the black and white rendition is that it feels closer to the proper time in which it's depicted. So what is Inherit the Wind about?
A teacher in a small Tennessee town decides to teach his children about evolution. It's against the law to teach anything but the creation theory as according to the bible. He's jailed and two attorneys come together to try the case: one a reasonable thinking man, the other an advocate of the bible to the extreme as well as a politician and orator.
This is all based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. The play doesn't try to be historically accurate and changes all the names, but the ultimate concept comes down to a person's right to think and voice their thoughts in an open minded way. It attacks bigotry, depicts the power of a mob, and how it can be easily twisted into something ugly.
Everyone in this movie brings 10,000%. The lawyers really get to thunder away. I'd easily consider it a classic just from the perspective of performance and direction. Gene Kelly in particular plays one of my favorite roles. The cynical, snarky reporter worked for him incredibly well.
The movie recorded a loss of just shy of 2 million dollars. I'm sure it's found that money back in the years that followed, especially with the three other versions coming out to renew interest.
In any event, if you like courtroom dramas, classic Hollywood, or any of these actors, you should certainly check this out. It's an awesome experience all around.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Author of several books, composer of several CDs. Please check out the rest of the site for some of my work.