Starring: Spencer Tracy, Fredrich March, Gene Kelly
Director: Stanley Kramer
Running Time: 128 mins
Inherit The Wind is an American film about the true story of a teacher who was tried in 1925 for teaching evolution in the classroom, and the two lawyers who argued for and against him in a small, deeply religious town.
A captivating courtroom drama led by excellent performances and a gripping screenplay, Inherit The Wind balances a passionate outlook on debates on intellectualism and mob mentality with engaging detail. In that, it’s not a fast, exhilarating watch, but its earnest and hard-working screenplay makes it enormously engrossing all the same.
One thing to know about this film is that, much like its main character mentions throughout, it’s not there to assess the rights and wrongs of the debate between evolution and religion. Though that’s a major part of the film, this case and that debate are used as a metaphor for wider phenomenons.
Released in 1960 around the time of the Red Scare and McCarthyism, Inherit The Wind touches heavily on themes of antagonism towards intellectuals as a part of mob mentality.
Though it doesn’t look at ‘witch hunts’ and the like quite as much, through the lengthy courtroom procedure on whether teaching evolution in school is lawful, the film notes how feverish ideology can take over rational thoughth and fundamental ideas on freedom.
And it’s that contrast between the intense fever and a patient, reasoned approach to storytelling that really makes Inherit The Wind stand out. At times, it’s an enormously passionate drama that sticks up for the freedom to think and believe with all its might. At others, it’s a quietly powerful story of slowly knocking down the walls of opposition.
Spencer Tracy plays an experienced lawyer who spars in court with a charismatic leader of people, played by Fredrich March. Over the course of the film, the pair battle between religious concerns on decency and blasphemy and freedom of thought, interrogating witnesses and working with the local community.
March is fantastic as a bombastic figurehead, but it’s Tracy’s quietly powerful turn that really stands out. His determination in the face of a feverish mob that opposes his presence in their community is inspiring, and his patience to break down the walls of stubborn opposition perfectly embodies what this film is all about.
Although the loud, energetic cries of one side of the debate might stand strong throughout, the slow, reasoned and detailed approach of the other side is what wins out in the end, which is exactly what the screenplay replicates in its style.
A courtroom drama is the perfect way to tackle this issue, and Inherit The Wind does it in gripping fashion throughout. With excellent performances across the board too, it’s a thoroughly captivating watch from beginning to end, so that’s why I’m giving it 7.6 overall.