Inherit the Wind (1960)

126-127 mins | Drama | November 1960

Director:

Stanley Kramer

Producer:

Stanley Kramer

Cinematographer:

Ernest Laszlo

Production Designer:

Rudolph Sternad

Production Company:

Lomitas Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film’s title, as noted in the picture, comes from the Biblical passage of Proverbs 11:29: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” Although the picture was copyrighted twice by Lomitas Productions, Inc., the first copyright, dated 2 Sep 1960 under number LP17779, lists the production company as Lomitas Productions, Germany, and was for a 16mm version. This version was probably shown at the film's premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on 25 Jun 1960. The second copyright, also held by Lomitas Productions, Inc. and for a 35mm version, was registerd on 12 Nov 1960 under number LP17367, and the company is listed by the copyright records only as Lomitas Productions. Director Stanley Kramer stated in a Nov 1959 NYT article that he considered Inherit the Wind the third in his trilogy of socially provocative films beginning with The Defiant Ones (1958, see above) and On the Beach (1959, see below).
       The film is based on the play Inherit the Wind , which was inspired by the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” in Dayton, TN. During that trial, then dubbed “The Trial of the Century,” Chicago labor lawyer Clarence Darrow (1857—1938) defended teacher John T. Scopes (1900—1970). Scopes was accused of propounding Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in defiance of Tennessee’s Butler Law, which prohibited the teaching of any theory other than creationism. The prosecution was led by fundamentalist politician William Jennings Bryan (1860—1925), who was known as “The Great Commoner.” Bryan ran for United States President three times, in 1896, 1900 and 1908 and served as Secretary of State from 1913--1915. Unlike as ... More Less

The film’s title, as noted in the picture, comes from the Biblical passage of Proverbs 11:29: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” Although the picture was copyrighted twice by Lomitas Productions, Inc., the first copyright, dated 2 Sep 1960 under number LP17779, lists the production company as Lomitas Productions, Germany, and was for a 16mm version. This version was probably shown at the film's premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on 25 Jun 1960. The second copyright, also held by Lomitas Productions, Inc. and for a 35mm version, was registerd on 12 Nov 1960 under number LP17367, and the company is listed by the copyright records only as Lomitas Productions. Director Stanley Kramer stated in a Nov 1959 NYT article that he considered Inherit the Wind the third in his trilogy of socially provocative films beginning with The Defiant Ones (1958, see above) and On the Beach (1959, see below).
       The film is based on the play Inherit the Wind , which was inspired by the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” in Dayton, TN. During that trial, then dubbed “The Trial of the Century,” Chicago labor lawyer Clarence Darrow (1857—1938) defended teacher John T. Scopes (1900—1970). Scopes was accused of propounding Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in defiance of Tennessee’s Butler Law, which prohibited the teaching of any theory other than creationism. The prosecution was led by fundamentalist politician William Jennings Bryan (1860—1925), who was known as “The Great Commoner.” Bryan ran for United States President three times, in 1896, 1900 and 1908 and served as Secretary of State from 1913--1915. Unlike as depicted in the film, Bryan died not on the day the trial ended but five days later, of complications from diabetes.
       Another famous figure represented in the play and film versions of the story was H. L. Mencken (1880—1956), a journalist celebrated for his clever wit and iconoclastic liberalism. In the play and film, the names of the major characters are changed from Clarence Darrow to Henry Drummond; William Jennings Bryan to Matthew Harrison Brady; H. L. Mencken to E. K. Hornbeck; and John T. Scopes to Bertram T. Cates.
       Although the film’s version of the trial hewed closely to actual events, in other areas many facts were changed. For example, unlike in the film, the real trial was initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which considered the Butler Law, prohibiting the teaching of evolution in Tennessee classrooms, unconstitutional. When Dayton resident George W. Rappelyea learned of the ACLU’s desire to test the law, he convinced Scopes, who rarely even taught evolution, to join the case. According to modern sources, because the theory of evolution was included in the state’s textbook, many Tennessee teachers included it in the curriculum. Also in contrast to the film, according to some historians, Darrow wanted Scopes to be found guilty so he could appeal the decision to a higher court.
       As shown in the film, the trial began on 10 Jul 1925 during an extreme heat wave. The town filled with onlookers and salespeople, and the trial was covered by reporters from around the world. After Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, the decision was overturned on a technicality by a higher court. Although the Butler law was upheld by the court, the trial succeeded in embarrassing its proponents, and no one in the state was ever again prosecuted for defying it. In 1967, the Tennessee courts overturned the law.
       In 1950, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee wrote the play Inherit the Wind , which opened on Broadway on 21 Apr 1955, directed by Herman Shumlin and starring Ed Begley (as Brady) and Tony Randall (as Hornbeck). Paul Muni originated the role of Drummond, which was later taken over by Melvyn Douglas. Contemporary reviewers saw the play as a parable of the anti-Communist fervor pervading society in the 1950s. The playwrights added the fictional characters of "Reverend Brown" and "Rachel" and lightly fictionalized much of the action. The printed play contained a note cautioning that “ Inherit the Wind is not history.”
       Modern sources note that, unlike the playwrights, the film’s writers, Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith, took most of the courtroom scenes’ action and dialogue from the real court transcripts. Other changes invoked by the filmmakers included expanding the romance between Bert and Rachel; promoting Bert to a major character; the addition of the focus on economics and the boon to Hillsboro’s business; and the polarization of Drummond and Brady, who in the play were not presented as old friends.
       In Mar 1956, LAEx reported that Kramer had acquired the screen rights to the play for an "astronomical" amount "in six figures." Kramer reported in his autobiography that he paid $200,000. In Mar 1959, LAEx stated that Theodore Bikel had agreed to play the role of Hornbeck, but by Sep 1959 HR reported that Gene Kelly had been cast in the role. The HR news item also mentioned Roddy McDowall and Anthony Perkins as contenders for the role of Bert. Kramer wrote in his autobiography that he considered no one but Tracy and March for the starring roles and that he asked Kelly to play a rare dramatic turn because of his mixture of intelligence and devilish humor.
       Controversy surrounded the film’s production and release. In Dec 1960, Limelight reported that critics of the film were accusing Kramer of “attempting to burlesque religion.” As noted in Kramer’s autobiography, religious groups complained throughout the production and protested the picture’s release.
       Kramer also came under attack for hiring Young, a blacklisted writer. Young had earlier written The Defiant Ones with Smith, and although he used the pseudonym of Nathan E. Douglas, his real identity was revealed in a 1 Jan 1959 NYT news item. Two weeks later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences repealed an amendment that prohibited Academy Award recognition to anyone admitting or refusing to deny membership in the Communist Party. Douglas and Smith were then nominated and subsequently won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for The Defiant Ones . In Sep 1959 NYT reported that the American Legion had condemned Kramer and United Artists for hiring him for both films, and in Feb 1960 HR noted the statement of Legion commander Martin B. McKneally specifically condemning Kramer for contributing to “a renewed invasion of American filmdom by Soviet-indoctrinated artists.” Days later, NYT published an interview with Kramer’s response rebuking the Legion and the film industry in general, and asserting that “he would hire any writer he pleased.” As a result, on 14 Feb 1960 Kramer and McKneally engaged in a debate televised on CBS’s FYI program. As noted in a 30 Jul 1996 HR article, the Writers Guild of America officially restored Young's credit in 1996.
       The film's production ran from Oct—Dec 1959. According to press materials, Kramer shot the courtroom scenes, in continuity, for twenty-two days, before a crowd of 300 spectators. Many modern sources relate that Tracy and March competed playfully during their scenes together. Modern sources describe the banter between the two, spurred on by the many visitors who came to watch their scenes being filmed, including reporters, studio personnel and friends.
       Inherit the Wind marked the seventh and last onscreen pairing of March with his wife, Florence Eldridge. Although a Dec 1959 HR news item stated that Kramer placed the name of On the Beach on a cinema marquee in the town of Hillsboro, no such marquee was visible in the viewed print. 1959 HR news items add John Lawrence, Peter Virgo, Gloria Clark, Jay Jostyn, Susan Vann, Hank McGuire, William McLean , Hampton Fancher, Doodles Weaver, David White, Burt Ramsey, Bernard Sells, George DeNormand , John Barton, Tony Regan, Sally Vernon, Syl Lamont, and Harry Spear to the cast. However, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources also add Donald Elson, Sam Harris , Frank Mills, Bob Perry, Snub Pollard and Harry Tenbrook.
       The film first screened at the Berlin Film Festival on 25 Jun 1960, where it represented the official United States entry and won awards for Best Foreign Actor (March) and Best Feature Film Suitable for Young People. The London premiere took place on 7 Jul, after which the film had its American premiere in Dayton, TN on 21 Jul, the 35th anniversary of the trial’s conclusion. Although a Jun 1960 Newsweek article reported that Scopes was unsure if he would attend the premiere, as noted by an 8 Jul 1960 HR news item, he was the guest of honor.
       Although Time magazine called Inherit the Wind “a sluggish, confused manipulation of ideas and players” that caricatured both sides of the debate, most reviewers praised the film highly. NYT called it "one of the most brilliant and engrossing displays of acting ever witnessed on the screen.” The Var review stated that the “pairing of Tracy and March was a master stroke of casting….If they aren’t top contenders in the next Academy sweepstakes, then Oscar should be put in escrow for another year.” However, only Tracy was nominated, as well as Ernest Laszlo for Best Cinematography (black-and-white), Frederic Knudtson for Best Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay, Young and Smith. In addition, the picture was nominated for the BAFTA Best Film Award and has gone on to be recognized as a classic of its genre. Despite the critical acclaim, the film was not a box-office success. According to a HR news item, in Dec 1960, Trans-World Airlines tested its new in-flight film program by showing Inherit the Wind on a 707 en route from New York to Los Angeles, using a miniaturized screen in the first-class cabin. The screening was meant to showcase new technology, which the HR article called “a possible new source for distributors.”
       Other versions of the film include a 1988 NBC television movie, starring Jason Robards and Kirk Douglas, and a 1999 cable movie starring Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott. In 1996, Tony Randall, who appeared in the first staging of the play as Hornbeck, directed a stage version of the play starring Scott and Charles Durning.
       The story’s central conflict has continued to have resonance in the American justice system and in American society. For example, in 1968 the Supreme Court invalidated a law in Arkansas similar to the Butler law, and in 1987 they ruled unconstitutional a Louisiana law requiring public schools to teach creationism alongside evolution. On 19 Jan 2005, NYT published an editorial criticizing creationist activists for attempting to modify state science curricula in Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina, to preclude the teaching of evolution. The article stated that “Recent surveys of high school biology teachers have found that avoidance of evolution [for fear of reprisals] is common among instructors throughout the nation.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Apr 61
p. 229.
Box Office
11 Jul 1960.
---
Box Office
18 Jul 1960.
---
Daily Variety
1 Jun 1960
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
29 Jun 60
p. 3.
Daily Variety
16 Dec 1960.
---
Daily Variety
7 Sep 1984.
---
Film Daily
29 Jun 60
p. 10.
Filmfacts
11 Nov 1960
pp. 249-51.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 1958.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 1959
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Oct 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 1959
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 1959
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Oct 1959
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 1959
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 1959
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 1959
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 1959
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1959
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 1959
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1960
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1960
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 60
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jul 1960
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 1960
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 1960
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 1960.
---
Life
26 Sep 1960
pp. 77-78.
Limelight
15 Dec 1960.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
28 Mar 1956.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
13 Mar 1959.
---
Los Angeles Times
2 Oct 1960
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Jul 60
p. 764.
New York Times
3 Sep 1959.
---
New York Times
1 Nov 1959.
---
New York Times
20 Jan 1960.
---
New York Times
21 Jan 1960.
---
New York Times
8 Feb 1960.
---
New York Times
9 Feb 1960.
---
New York Times
13 Oct 60
p. 41.
New York Times
19 Jan 2005.
---
Newsweek
27 Jun 1960.
---
Newsweek
24 Oct 1960.
---
Time
17 Oct 1960.
---
Variety
6 Jul 60
p. 6.
Variety
3 Apr 1997.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Stanley Kramer presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Company grip
Asst company grip
Chief gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
2d prop master
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd eng
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst to the prod
Scr supv
Pub campaign coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, as produced and directed by Herman Shumlin (New York, 21 Apr 1955).
SONGS
"(Gimme Dat) Old Time Religion," traditional spiritual, vocals by Leslie Uggams
"Battle Hymn of the Republic," music by William Steffe, lyrics by Julia Ward Howe, vocals by Leslie Uggams.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
November 1960
Premiere Information:
World premiere at the Berlin Film Festival: 25 June 1960
London opening: 7 July 1960
American premiere in Dayton, TN: 21 July 1960
Production Date:
21 October--mid December 1959 at Universal Studios
Copyright Claimants:
Lomitas Productions, Inc. Lomitas Productions, Inc.
Copyright Dates:
2 September 1960 12 November 1960
Copyright Numbers:
LP17779 LP17367
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
126-127
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19499
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

The townsmen of Hillsboro, Tennessee, led by Rev. Jeremiah Brown, arrest high school biology teacher Bertram T. Cates for violating a state law that prohibits the teaching of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Soon, the landmark case becomes a national cause célèbre , earning the nickname in the newspapers of “The Monkey Trial.” The community leaders are at first dismayed that many Northern journalists are painting the townspeople as closed-minded reactionaries, but when they learn that world-famous politician Matthew Harrison Brady has volunteered to prosecute, they welcome the trial as a boon for both Hillsboro’s commerce and the cause of Biblical fundamentalism. In the jailhouse, Bert’s fiancée, Jeremiah’s daughter Rachel, urges him to apologize, but he counters that the mind’s freedom is as important as that of the body. By the time Brady and his wife Sarah arrive in Hillsboro, the town has been overrun by vendors, religious zealots and picketers condemning Darwin. After the mayor proclaims Brady an honorary colonel, the orator thrills the crowd by denouncing “evil-ution” and promising to bring the people back to the word of the Lord. Baltimore Herald newspaperman E. K. Hornbeck, an infamously smooth-talking cynic, then angers the crowd by announcing that his paper has hired the brilliant agnostic Henry Drummond to defend Bert. That night, when Rachel informs her father that she will not abandon Bert, the reverend accuses her of betraying him by “spewing atheistic filth” and, ignoring her pleas to stop, ... +


The townsmen of Hillsboro, Tennessee, led by Rev. Jeremiah Brown, arrest high school biology teacher Bertram T. Cates for violating a state law that prohibits the teaching of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Soon, the landmark case becomes a national cause célèbre , earning the nickname in the newspapers of “The Monkey Trial.” The community leaders are at first dismayed that many Northern journalists are painting the townspeople as closed-minded reactionaries, but when they learn that world-famous politician Matthew Harrison Brady has volunteered to prosecute, they welcome the trial as a boon for both Hillsboro’s commerce and the cause of Biblical fundamentalism. In the jailhouse, Bert’s fiancée, Jeremiah’s daughter Rachel, urges him to apologize, but he counters that the mind’s freedom is as important as that of the body. By the time Brady and his wife Sarah arrive in Hillsboro, the town has been overrun by vendors, religious zealots and picketers condemning Darwin. After the mayor proclaims Brady an honorary colonel, the orator thrills the crowd by denouncing “evil-ution” and promising to bring the people back to the word of the Lord. Baltimore Herald newspaperman E. K. Hornbeck, an infamously smooth-talking cynic, then angers the crowd by announcing that his paper has hired the brilliant agnostic Henry Drummond to defend Bert. That night, when Rachel informs her father that she will not abandon Bert, the reverend accuses her of betraying him by “spewing atheistic filth” and, ignoring her pleas to stop, prays fervently on the soul of her dead mother. The next day, Drummond arrives without fanfare, greeted only by Bible salesmen, Hornbeck and a few of Bert’s students. In the hotel, Drummond, who was once close friends with the Bradys, warmly greets Sarah and tolerates Brady’s boisterous welcome. The next day, the trial begins during a record heat wave. Reporters and onlookers crowd the courtroom, where the judge and jury consist of devout Christian locals. The two seasoned attorneys equal each other in cleverness, vigor and passion. When Drummond refuses to accept a jurist after he affirms his belief in “God and Brady,” Brady protests, and later Drummond objects to Brady’s use of the honorary title “Colonel,” after which the court hastily pronounces Drummond a “temporary honorary colonel.” Drummond points out other elements that may prejudice the jury, including the in-court announcement of later Bible meetings, prompting Brady to accuse him of trying to dirty the minds of the young. Later, Rachel once again asks Bert to call off the trial, and despite his growing misgivings, Drummond’s support convinces him to press her to choose between him and her father. That night, while Brady eats heartily and pontificates to a table of reporters, Drummond eats alone, joined later by Sarah. They all attend Jeremiah’s prayer meeting, where the reverend denounces Bert and urges the crowd to curse him. When Rachel begs him to stop, Jeremiah extends the curse to her, alarming even Brady, who exhorts the crowd to practice forgiveness and looks after a distraught Rachel. Upon their return to the hotel, Brady joins Drummond on the porch rockers and questions how the old friends grew so far apart, stating that the poor people of the region need their dream of a beautiful heaven to buoy them. In response, Drummond compares Brady’s vision of Paradise to a gilded rocking horse he coveted when he was young, only to discover that it was shoddily made, “all shine and no substance.” In court the next morning, Brady interrogates Bert’s student on his lessons, including the demeaning principle that man evolved from monkeys. Drummond asks the boy if the lessons corrupted him, and when Brady objects, the two spar heatedly about the preeminence of “right,” Brady’s moral approach, versus “truth,” Drummond’s scientific position. Brady then calls Rachel as a witness and demands that she reveal what she told him in confidence the night before about the reason why Bert left her father’s church. She recounts how years earlier, when young Tommy Stebbins drowned, Bert was horrified to hear Jeremiah preach that the boy’s soul would writhe in Hell because he had never been baptized. Inflamed, Brady rails at Rachel to divulge the questions Bert raised about religion and the existence of God, until the girl collapses in sobs and Sarah implores her husband to stop. Although Drummond can offset some of the damage by cross-examining Rachel and clarifying her statements, Bert, unwilling to distress her further, insists that he excuse her. Next, Drummond begins his defense, but Brady remains vigilant that he focus not on the law, which is not on trial, but on Bert. To that end, the judge dismisses as irrelevant all of Drummond’s expert witnesses who plan to testify to the incontrovertible truth of evolution. With a reluctant defendant and no witnesses, Drummond, infuriated, requests permission to quit and accuses the court of bias, stating that there can be no impartial administration of a “wicked” law. The judge holds him in contempt of court and sets a $4,000 bail, for which John Stebbins, Tommy’s father, posts bond. That night, as the townspeople burn Bert and Drummond in effigy, Hornbeck asserts to Drummond that man is still an ape and chides him for not standing firm behind Bert. Drummond gleans inspiration from the sight of the hotel Bible, and the next morning apologizes to the judge and, to the shock of the spectators, calls Brady to the witness stand as an expert on the Bible. Brady, confident that his faith and eloquence will protect him from aiding the defense, asserts that every word of the Bible is literally true. Drummond, who plans to prove that Darwin is not irreconcilable with Genesis, questions Brady on how various passages of the book could occur, but Brady counters that God is able to create, destroy or suspend any natural law. When Drummond examines the concept of original sin, the local prosecutor, Tom Davenport, tries to curtail the interrogation, but Drummond insists that he be able to question his only witness. Querying why God would have given man the power to reason if He wanted us to deny science, Drummond moves on to fossilized evidence of life, dated ten million years old. Brady asserts that the fossil is real, but must be six thousand years old, according to the Bible-based calculations of Bishop Usher, who determined that the world began on 4004 BC at nine a.m. Drummond then craftily presses Brady to clarify the exact length of the first day, which occurred before the sun was created. When Brady admits that the day could have been twenty-five hours long, Drummond pushes him to agree that it could have been ten million years long, scoring a critical concession to Drummond’s case. Flustered, Brady accuses Drummond of destroying people’s faith in the Bible, to which the defense attorney asserts that the Bible is a good book, but not the only book. Brady responds that God spoke to the writers, and when Drummond asks how he knows God did not speak to Darwin, an impassioned Brady answers that God told him. As the spectators gasp in shock, Drummond shouts that Brady considers himself a prophet, and Brady, shaken and silenced, leaves the stand. That night, Rachel visits Sarah, planning to accuse Brady of cruelty, but Sarah responds that he carries the burdens of all his idolizers, and exhorts Rachel to believe in Bert as much as Brady believes in his cause, and as much as Sarah believes in Brady. At the courthouse the next morning, Rachel returns to Bert’s side as they await the verdict. The jury unanimously pronounces Bert guilty, but the judge, warned by the mayor that national bias has swung against them, imposes a sentence of a mere $100 fine. Although Brady wants to address the court with a speech, hoping to regain the adoration of the crowd, the judge proclaims the case closed, and the crowd files out noisily. As Brady attempts to make his speech to the backs of his former supporters, he collapses and dies. Soon after, Hornbeck plans Brady’s obituary, using the words the orator invoked at the prayer meeting: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.” When Drummond quotes from the Bible and defends Brady as a once great man, Hornbeck realizes that the “agnostic” is a believer, and decries him as a hypocrite. Drummond replies that Hornbeck’s cynicism has stripped him of either feeling or meaning. After Hornbeck leaves, Drummond packs his belongings and takes his leave of Hillsboro, holding his Bible and his Darwin side by side. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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