Thursday, 1 November 2012

Inherit The Wind (1960)

Bet you didn't see that one coming!
Another movie review! I should really do more of these, everyone seems to like it. Now, for one of my favorite movies ever: Inherit the Wind (1960)!

I always tell my friends: "If Spencer Tracy is not your favorite actor ever, please proceed to watching Inherit the Wind." And they always tell me I'm right. 

"Inherit the Wind" is the true story of a high-school science teacher in the small town of Hillboro, Oregon, who gets arrested for teaching the Darwinian theories of evolution as opposed to the biblical theories of creation. It was nominated for 4 Academy Awards in 1960, including best adapted screenplay and best actor (Spencer Tracy). Why this wasn't Spence's third Oscar I will never know. Piece of trivia: He lost to Burt Lancaster in "Elmer Gantry". I have never seen this movie, but he better have done a damn good job. 

The movie takes place in 1925. It starts with a science class, interrupted by the sudden arrest of the teacher, Bertram Cates, under the charges of teaching "ungodly material" to the youngsters. Said ungodly material happened to be the widely accepted theories of Charles Darwin, precisely his main work "The Origin of The Species Through Means of Natural Selection". It was a state law that this material should not enter classrooms. That seems pretty outrageous to me, however, the fact that it is indeed true makes the movie all the more interesting. It seems like a lost cause, but the trial catches the eye of the owner and editor of a left-wing newspaper from the big city, named E. K. Hornbeck and played charmingly by Gene Kelly. He travels to the town in an effort to further understand the case and find out what he can do to help the school teacher who, he feels, has been arrested unjustly. He arranges for the most idealistic lawyer in the country, Henry Drummond, portrayed by Spencer Tracy, to come and defend Mr. Cates from the Oregon State Prosecutor (who moonlights as religious fanatic) Mathew Brady, played by Frederick March. The movie is taken, for the most part, by the very accurate and incredibly well-staged trial of Mr. Cates, with various witnesses caught to the stand and with Drummond's arguments knocking the movie's audience right out of their seats. The highlight of the movie is when Drummond calls Brady to the stand and uses the Bible itself to debunk Brady's arguments, whose agenda was clear as a summer day. 
The star of the picture is, without a doubt, Mr. Spencer Tracy. I have an obvious bias in Spence's favor, but in this case, it is a movie with everything I'm interested in: biology, evolution and the historical feud between science and religion; despite that, Tracy's acting still managed to be the standout factor for me. If it wasn't for his passionate, true-to-life argumentation, the movie would fail to create a plausible case. 

Other factors that make this movie one of my top 10 favorites include: It's outstanding writing, that should have been awarded with the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. This is one of the most quotable movies I have ever seen, with lines such as: "Conform, conform! What do you wanna do?! Run the jury through a meat grinder and have them all come out the same?!" or  "I didn't come here to make Hillsboro different, I came here to defend his right to be different from Hillsboro." or even "The things I said to you are questions, questions you ask your own heart, they'll make them sound like answers!". The title of the movie itself is based on a quote, from the Book of Proverbs, 11:29 - "He who troubleth his own home shall inherit the wind." The aura of solemnity and gravity emanated by this quote is present throughout the entire flick, and keeps one on the edge of one's seat. 

The life-likeness of it all is breathtaking. The town population calling Drummond an "atheist" (which he wasn't) as though that was an insult, the zealous preaching of the town's pastor, emphasizing the heinous nature of the "crime" committed by Cates, and the authority and arrogance with which Brady talks about the Bible as though he himself had written it are the best examples of the plot said to be exactly like the actual story that inspired the movie. The way they talk about Christian theories as though its one's lawful duty to believe them makes me cringe, but at the same time, makes Drummond's job harder and more exciting to watch. The ending will surprise you.  

I give it five stars out of five, but I wish I could give it six. 

So long,


  1. Sometimes I made a mess with this film and Written in the Wind. I'll download this one now, because Tracy + Kelly + March will be simply awesome.
    Another Tracy role that I like very much is as a judge in Judgement in Nuremberg.
    Thanks for the tip!

  2. Terrific review of a terrific film. Spencer Tracy is the real star here, but Frederic March plays very well against him.

    For what it's worth... in my opinion, Burt Lancaster's Oscar win over Spencer Tracy was well-deserved.

  3. I need to see this movie. I love the other work Tracy did with Stanley Kramer. Kramer always took risks to make a statement using film. It was both daring and innovative, because not many directors did that at the time. It's amazing how relevant this film still is to what is currently being debated in American school systems. Great post as usual, Marcela!

  4. @Lê: Written in the Wind is nice and Lord knows I love me some Bacall but this movie... UGHH <3

    @silverscreenings: Thank you so much! About Lancaster, I gotta check that out then! :)

    @Maggie: Thank you so much! Yes, you do need to see it! Don't miss Potato's greatest work!