Originally a 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, then filmed in 1960 (and adapted for television three times between 1965 and 1999), Inherit The Wind is a very (very) fictionalized account of the "Scopes Monkey Trial," a 1925 Tennessee court case which revolved around the teaching of Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection in public schools. The whole thing was actually a publicity stunt by the backwater town of Dayton, TN, leading to the trial being sensationalized beyond belief. It kind of went Off the Rails from there, bringing many (at the time) 'incontrovertible' tenets of American thought, such as a literal interpretation of The Bible, to question.The play revolves primarily around Bert Cates, a schoolteacher in the small, "simple" town of Hillsboro. Bert is arrested for teaching the theory of evolution in his class in violation of a state law, and the film opens with him being hauled bodily out of his classroom by the police. The town's mayor initially wants to keep the whole affair quiet, and many of the more prominent members of the community urge him to drop the matter entirely. It was all going to happen that way until Matthew Harrison Brady— the analogue of William Jennings Bryan— announces that he's coming to Hillsboro to assist the prosecution. Cates writes to a newspaper in Baltimore for assistance, and is presented with Henry Drummond (in the part of Clarence Darrow) as his defense attorney, and E. K. Hornbeck (playing H. L. Mencken) as a chronicler.The film version was well received, directed by Stanley Kramer with Spencer Tracy as Drummond, Fredric March as Brady, Dick York as Cates, Harry Morgan as the judge, and (surprisingly) Gene Kelly as the all-snarking, never-dancing Hornbeck. It takes a few more liberties from the real trial than the play does, but also incorporates more of the trial transcript; today, most people thinking of the real trial instead remember details from the film. The film also has the distinction of being the first in-flight movie, according to The Other Wiki.Speaking of what the other wiki says, the play was intended as a criticism of of the anti-Communist hysteria of The Fifties. However, with the newly-reborn debate on evolution versus creationism, the film is often shown at face value without the McCarthyism subtext being considered. And it still works beautifully.
This work includes examples of:
Amoral Attorney: Brady's more interested in preaching than prosecuting and his religious devotion is more or less a way to be famous, compensating for all the times he's failed to become president. In contrast, the town accuses Drummond of taking the case solely to denounce religion, though Drummond is an agnostic who has nothing against religion save for the fundmentalists' literal interpretation of the Bible.
The ending, by showing Drummond's familiarity with Biblical passages and Hornbeck's disgusted reaction, even suggests that the former might even be personally religious, who took up the case not out of hostility to religion but because of his devotion to freedom of thought.
Badass Pacifist: Drummond is an aging man who takes a lot heat from everybody, but he never loses his cool demeanor and instead turns words into weapons to defend his cause with a respectworthy dignity. All in the middle of a hostile town where death threats are matter-of-factly sung.
Big Eater: Brady; yet another way of coping with his inferiority complex after losing a presidential race three times.
This was also true for his real life counterpart Bryan as well.
Collapsed Mid Speech: Brady is giving his closing speech, which his old and weary voice tries and fails to make sound passionate. After the microphone is taken away from him, he desperately tries to continue, but suddenly falls silent and collapses. As he is carried out of the courtroom in a semi-conscious state, he strangely starts speaking on being inaugurated as President. He dies offstage soon after.
Even Evil Has Standards: Brady may be a self-aggrandizing religious opportunist, but he is still the one who publicly tells Rachel's hateful pastor father, with his usual eloquence and biblical knowledge, to back off from condemning his own daughter
Famed in Story: Brady and Drummond are respectively the champions of tradition and secularism in the United States.
Heat Wave: The characters are soaked with sweat and most of the courtroom audience are fanning themselves with hand-held fans, which display in-universe Product Placement ("Courtesy of X's Funeral Service"), a reflection of the tradition of funeral homes giving out free fans as promotional items. Some people even collect them.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: It's implied in the film that Drummond and Brady were this in their youth. Drummond and Hornbeck are also this until the finish when Drummond finally tires of Hornbeck's cynicism.
Prayer of Malice: Reverend Brown delivered a fiery sermon praying God will damn Cates to Hell for teaching "evil-lution" and later a mob crowd uses a hymn's tune to claim they want to hang Cates and Drummond to a sour apple tree, because their God is right.
Most of the challenges are well-grounded and reasoned, but Drummond indulges once in a simple "Objection, objection, objection!" .
Drummond complains about Brady being addressed as Colonel, as this honorary treatment makes Brady appear superior. The judge concedes the point and Drummond is made temporary Colonel.
Title Drop: As stated above, the title comes from a verse of the Book of Proverbs. During the play, Brady quotes the verse to Reverend Brown after he gets too over-zealous and damns his own daughter to hell, effectively shutting him up and causing a My God, What Have I Done? moment.
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: There were actually quite a few speakers who stated that Christians could believe in Evolution too (a position espoused by Charles Darwin himself), if one actually reads the transcript of the original case. But such complexity is beyond the "Us Vs. Them" simple message, and is inconvenient.
And, as mentioned above, the actual Scopes Monkey Trial was a hoax and a publicity stunt designed to put Dayton, TN back on the map. Clarence Darrow had announced publicly that he would defend, pro bono, anyone who was arrested for teaching Evolution in a state where it had been outlawed. Scopes agreed to claim to have taught Evolution and be tried, though nobody could prove that he had actually taught it. (He did use a textbook with evolution in it, but all science teachers used that text.) Likewise, Bryan eagerly jumped on the bandwagon despite not having practiced law for 36 years by that point. The teacher on "trial" also never spent any time in jail, instead only receiving a fine that was ultimately waived by the judge.
Brady is shown as totally and willfully ignorant of Darwin's book and evolution in general. In the actual case Bryan quoted parts of it from memory. Cherry picked quotes completely out of context, but definitely not total ignorance.
Bryan, like Brady, was called to testify as an "expert" on Bible. This was not, however, due to his claims of actual expertise (he claimed no such thing), but because of his theology. He embraced literal interpretation because he felt a "democratic" religion required an interpretation of the scripture that anyone could make sense of, not just a handful of experts. Given his views, he could not decline on the basis of lacking sufficient expertise.
Rev. Brown ges so fanatical that he damns his daughter to Hell, which also counts as a Moral Event Horizon.
Brady loses it in court and starts yelling the names of all the books in the Old Testament even though no-one is listening to him anymore. The breakdown continues to the next day and up to his death. As he dies, all the pent-up speeches he was to make if elected President finally come out. This may also count as a Heroic BSOD.
Hornbeck, previously a Deadpan Snarker with no real emotional attachment to anything, gets really pissed off when Drummond chews him out for insulting Brady after his death. He even slips up in insulting Drummond, calling him "an atheist who believes in God!" Er, Hornbeck, Drummond is an agnostic, not an atheist, remember?
Vote Early, Vote Often: When Brady is told by the townsfolk that they all voted for him three times, Brady quips that he trust it was in three separate elections.
Wanting Is Better Than Having: Attorney Henry Drummond tells a story about a rocking horse he wanted when he was a child. It was far too expensive for his family to get for him, but his father scrimped and saved and managed to purchase the rocking horse for Drummond as a Christmas present. And the first time Drummond got on it to ride, it fell apart from dry rot. The Horse looked shiny, new and wonderful on the outside, but was really rotten to the core. This is a metaphor for his view on the fundamentalist literal interpretation of the Bible. The scrimping and saving, and the depressingness of the realization, might also be part of the analogy, respectively standing for the hardship and hopes stored up in the struggle for salvation, and the possible overwhelming sadness that comes from realizing that work was wasted and those hopes false if it turns out they were.
Welcome to Hell: Hornbeck's first line to Drummond upon the latter's arrival in Hillsboro.
You Can Not Kill An Idea: Works both ways. The Fundamentalists do their spiteful best to "kill" the concept of evolution because, for some, they fear science will come and "kill" their literal view of the Bible.