Inherit the Wind Parent Review
Implying there is room for both old time religion and newfangled theories, the film hints at a balance our world has yet to achieve.
“Give me that old time religion,” is all that is asked by the simple folk of Hillsboro, Tennessee. So they take great exception when they discover a young teacher named Bert Cates (Dick York) is preaching evolution is his biology classroom. And thanks to a state law that prohibits anything but The Bible’s explanation of creation in public schools, town officials decide to take the radical Darwinist to court for his crime.
After word of the arrest gets out, the whole country responds. Journalists turn the “monkey trial” into headline news, and liberal-thinkers from the north are quick to mock the narrow-mindedness of those in the south. This spurs Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March), a former politician and well-known fundamentalist, to announce his intention to bolster the prosecution by personally assisting them in their case against Cates. In return, Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy), a controversial and agnostic Chicago lawyer, is sponsored by a sympathetic newspaper to represent the defendant and challenge the archaic ideals represented in the act.
From the opening moments of the film, which features the aforementioned classic gospel hymn being sung almost as a funeral march, there is no question which side of the argument the story favors. The self-appointed Brady is depicted as self-righteous and gluttonous, even though he is met with great approval and fanfare by the uneducated locals. Drummond faces ridicule and insults when his quiet arrival is finally noticed, however his prudent self-confidence never looks like conceit. Another clue is the portrayal of a fire and brimstone preacher (Claude Akins) who curses Cates and extends that condemnation to his own daughter (Donna Anderson) if she continues her foolhardy romantic interest in the sinner. With all this melodrama, plus some condescending comments about faith being a panacea for the ignorant, the movie seems destined to be just an excuse for anti-religious rhetoric. Amazingly, it manages to redeem itself.
Perhaps the script’s saving grace is the way it shifts its focus from whether or not Christianity should be protected or persecuted, to the flaws of the foes and the appropriateness of the law. Not surprisingly, neither legal representative is as much interested in the novice teacher’s innocence or guilt as they are about championing their own causes. Brady wants the publicity of crusading for God. Drummond wants the satisfaction of striking down any obstacles to progress and freedom of thought. As the court case proceeds, it becomes apparent that Cates’ mind is not the only one contemplating what constitutes truth. Yet with so many people with just as many opinions it is hard to know whose interpretation to use. And that is when the shrewd Drummond decides to put pride – not faith—on trial.
To modern viewers the whole kafuffle may seem too farcical to be believed – but in reality such a scene was played out in Dayton, Tennessee during the 1925 Scopes Trial, with the hope of removing the anti-evolution Butler Act from the State’s law. It may also be hard to fathom how much popular opinion has changed over the years. Today’s science worshiping society is now engaged in the opposite argument: Should religious ideas be allowed in the classroom?
And that may be the real genius of this 1960 movie. Under Stanley Kramer’s direction, the conflicting characters (who were formerly friends) still show mutual respect for each other despite their differences. Drummond even points out to a cynical reporter (Gene Kelly) that denouncing all convictions will only lead to a lonely and meaningless existence. Implying there is room for both old time religion and newfangled theories, the film hints at a balance our world has yet to achieve. Until then, we might be wise to continue to heed the title’s warning (taken from Proverbs 11:29), “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”Directed by Stanley Kramer. Starring Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly. Running time: 128 minutes. Updated April 25, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Inherit the Wind here.
Inherit the Wind Parents Guide
Each of the characters have different reasons for wanting to take Bert Cates to court. What motivates the town’s businessmen? The Reverend? Brady for prosecution? Drummond for defense? The reporter from Baltimore? The common people?
This movie uses stereotypes to imply that religious people are ignorant and intolerant, where as those who believe in science are enlightened and open-minded. Do you agree? Are there any examples of intelligent people with faith? Are their any science supporters who are bigots? Can science and religion co-exist? Why is encouraging respect for differences such a difficult thing to achieve?
The movie’s title is taken from Proverbs 11:29, “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” What do you think the words “troubleth” and “house” refer to? How can stirring up controversy, at home, in your community or even in your country sometimes turn into a storm against the person(s) behind it? Which of the characters or groups of people depicted in the movie “inherit the wind”? Have you seen examples like this in real life?