Theatre / Inherit the Wind

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He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.
Proverbs 11:29, The Bible

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, into 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 placed under arrest before his class by the police. The town's mayor initially wants to keep the whole affair quiet, and some of the more prominent members of the community urge him to drop the matter entirely...but others (especially in the film; see below) agitate for more publicity, hoping to raise their town's profile to the national stage. That side wins when 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 (Clarence Darrow by another name) as his defense attorney, and E.K. Hornbeck (standing in for 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 with the real story 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.

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 fundamentalists' literal interpretation of the Bible. The ending, by showing Drummond's familiarity with Biblical passages and Hornbeck's disgusted reaction, shows that the former is quite familiar with and respectful of the Bible, having taken up the case not out of hostility to religion but because of his devotion to freedom of thought. Earlier, Drummond makes this plain: "The Bible is a book. It's a good book, but it is not the only book."
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Brady's downfall is played completely tragically, as he inadvertently makes himself look like a fool in front of the courtroom audience, suffers a massive Villainous Breakdown, and suffers a heart attack right in the court room. Drummond especially doesn't take any joy in seeing his Worthy Opponent die in such a pathetic fashion, especially since they had been friends and allies during his presidential campaigns of the past.
  • Anti-Villain: The worst you could say about Brady is that he's a pompous blowhard. Despite his posturing and sanctimonious oratory, he's a decent enough man, especially when compared to the madly fanatical Reverend Brown. Likewise with Hornbeck; he may be a misanthropic Jerkass, but he's only barely antagonistic enough to qualify as a villain at all.
  • As the Good Book Says: Many instances as would be expected. Brady quotes Solomon's inherit the wind passage with great effect to defend Rachel from her father's condemnation.
  • Badass Pacifist: Drummond is an aging man who takes a lot of heat from everybody, but he never loses his cool demeanor and instead turns words into weapons to defend his cause with a respect-worthy 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 three bids for president. This was 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 starts speaking on being inaugurated as President, reflecting his failed hopes. He dies offstage soon after. Truth in Television, as Bryan actually did die (in his sleep) five days later.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: It has nothing to do with inheritance or wind, but a great deal to do with the idea of a community tearing itself apart. The complete quotation, which comes from the Book of Proverbs, is recited by Brady when Reverend Brown turns on his own daughter:
    "He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind:
    and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart."
  • Cool Teacher: The implication is that Cates is one and well-respected by his students. There is even a switch moment when Drummond and Hornbeck see a group of young men staring at them and approach, ask if they are there to help Mr. Cates, then ask if they need help carrying their luggage.
  • Courtroom Antic: A lot of them. Badgering witnesses, limiting the defense's options by claiming areas of science irrelevant to the case at hand, and of course, direct-examining the prosecutor. Truth in Television for the real case too: it was an absolute circus.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Hornbeck, as an Expy of H. L. Mencken, the famously sarcastic "Sage of Baltimore".
    "Darwin was wrong. Man's still an ape."
  • Deep South: A very, very deep and unenlightened 1925 Tennessee.
  • Eureka Moment: When Hornbeck jokingly notes the only book and area of expertise Brady and the prosecutor would permit to be allowed in the court is the Bible, Drummond realizes his next attack should be on the literal interpretation of the Bible and the breakdown of Brady's view.
  • 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 stop condemning his own daughter.
  • Famed In-Story: Brady and Drummond are respectively the champions of traditional religion and secularism in the United States.
  • Friendly Enemy: Drummond and Brady are good friends outside the courtroom, as were their real life counterparts. Several We Used to Be Friends remarks are also pronounced.
  • The Fundamentalist: Brady and Brown.
  • Greek Chorus: Hornbeck's function; he even speaks in verse.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: The plot revolves around this.
  • 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.
  • Heel Realization: While it doesn't stop him from participating in the trial in any sense, Brady has a serious Oh Crap! moment when his wife screams at him in the middle of his verbal beatdown of Rachel. On snapping out of his righteous fury and realizing that he's driven her to tears, Brady sheepishly backs away and suggests the witness should be excused.
  • 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.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Drummond manages to turn the crowd against Brady by using his own knowledge of the Bible against him by forcing him to concede that there are inconsistencies in it.
  • Holier Than Thou: Reverend Brown. Even Brady is appalled by his display.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Hornbeck. His views aren't all that different from his real life counterpart.
    Hornbeck: Ah, Henry! Why don't you wake up? Darwin was wrong. Man's still an ape. His creed's still a totem pole. When he first achieved the upright position, he took a look at the stars — thought they were something to eat. When he couldn't reach them, he decided they were groceries belonging to a bigger creature. And that's how Jehovah was born.
    Drummond: I wish I had your worm's-eye view of history...
  • Hollywood Law: There are so, so many instances of this (however much of it's actually Truth in Television, since the entire trial was staged).
    • Brady badgering Rachel (though that may have been allowed because the town adores him).
    • This is a minor one, but in the play, Rachel goes up to the stand from the audience. A major no-no.
    • One example is actually removed from the play. The judge intentionally and cynically screwed up the sentencing procedure to get the result thrown out on a technicality (the jury were the ones supposed to decide the amount of fine, not him) thus allowing the Tennessee Supreme Court to avoid the constitutional issue entirely and thus prevent the overturn of the law.
  • Hypocrite: The town and Reverend Brown believe themselves to be good Christians for following the Bible. They fail to realize one ought to forgive a man his transgressions, not sing in a mob to hang the man from an apple tree. Also, despite basing their whole position on Biblical literalism, the townsfolk are weirdly loose in their wording when quoting it. For instance, in the prayer meet where they recite Genesis the days of creation are marked by "the morning and the evening" when the Bible says the opposite.
  • Irony: When Brady gives his final address after the trial is ended, the majority of the few people who are really listening to him with sympathy are his enemies.
  • Jerkass:
    • The fanatical Reverend Brown.
    • Hornbeck goes too far with his cynicism when he refuses to show due respect after the death of Brady at the end of the movie.
    • The members of the mob who chant death threats against Drummond and Cates.
  • The Judge: Judge Mel Coffey.
  • Kirk Summation: A variation since the speech is the fight itself. Drummond deconstructs Brady as a self-proclaimed prophet incapable of accepting any view or position but his own.
  • Large Ham: Brady is practically made of ham.
  • Law Procedural: Though a bit lighter on the law aspect than normal.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: Rachel Brown. Not literally a mad scientist, obviously.
  • Memetic Mutation: In-universe by the mob.
    • The song "Give me that old time religion" changes to include the line "If it's good enough for Brady, it's good enough for me."
    • The Battle Hymn of the Republic goes back to its roots to become a death threat towards Cates and Drummond:
      The Mob: We'll hang Henry Drummond to a sour apple tree...
  • Mind Rape: What Drummond eventually (and inadvertently) does to Brady, signified by his Heroic B.S.O.D. / Villainous Breakdown depending on the interpretation. Also somewhat in Brady's brutal cross-examination of Rachel.
  • Moment Killer: Meeker when Rachel and Bert are sharing a passionate hug.
    Cates: Rachel...love me. [They hug]
    Meeker: [Entering with a broom] I gotta sweep.
  • No, You: By Drummond against Hornbeck after the trial is over.
    Hornbeck: What happened today has no meaning...
    Drummond: YOU have no meaning! You're like a ghost pointing an empty sleeve and smirking at everything people feel or want or struggle for!
  • Penultimate Outburst: Drummond's brush with a contempt charge. This also happened in the real trial, but in a far more subdued manner than in the play.
  • Prayer of Malice: Reverend Brown delivers 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 from a sour apple tree, because their God is right.
  • Pun: Evil-ution.
  • Punch Clock Villain: One interpretation of Brady. This was certainly true of his real life counterpart (the "Punch-Clock" part, anyway): as much as Bryan was an anti-evolutionist crusader, the affair in Dayton was more or less something to occupy his time in retirement.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Half the play consists of these.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Play is based on the actual Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920s, but is supposed to be an allegory for the then-current McCarthy witch-hunts that dominated the headlines.
  • Roman Clef: Henry Drummond = Clarence Darrow, Matthew Harrison Brady = William Jennings Bryan, E.K. Hornbeck = H.L. Mencken and Bertram Cates = John Scopes.
  • Simple Country Lawyer: Played with. Hillsboro is an uncommonly provincial town in the Deep South, but the main lawyers are from out of town. Brady does play this up to gain the sympathy of the town, but very little of it is affected on his part.
  • Sinister Minister: Reverend Jeremiah Brown. Okay, a little bit.
  • Smug Snake: Brady, in court only, and Hornbeck.
  • Society Is to Blame: Name-checked. Drummond is an expy of the Real Life Trope Codifier.
  • That Was Objectionable:
    • 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 honorary Colonel. Interestingly enough, this actually happened in the real Scopes Trial.
  • 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 overzealous and damns his own daughter to hell, effectively shutting him up and causing a My God, What Have I Done? moment.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Hornbeck, in his own view.
    Now don't worry, little Eva. I may be rancid butter, but I'm on your side of the bread.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: "We'll hang Bert Cates [and Drummond] from a sour apple tree..."
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Deliberately dramatized from the actual trial, which naturally means that many aspects of the film contradict the actual facts of the Scopes trial:
    • The trial itself was hoax and a publicity stunt designed to put Dayton, TN back on the map. Scopes volunteered to be the defendant and was never in any real trouble, and the prosecutors and several lawmakers were in on the whole thing.
    • Scopes was not a lone renegade teaching evolution in open defiance of the law. Every teacher in the state was required to teach from the same biology textbook — Civic Biology — and thus every teacher in Dayton was violating the law. Any of them could have been a potential defendant, but Scopes volunteered after some convincing. When the law passed, the state university openly declared they would not stop teaching evolution, and were never punished for it. The law itself seems to have simply a means of "looking" good by the politicians to the fundamentalist Tennesseans.
    • In the play, Cates is a Hollywood Atheist and a full time science teacher/part time amateur scientist. Scopes was a football coach who occasionally substituted when other teachers were off work.note  He was also a lapsed Episcopalian who didn't care one bit about the Fundamentalism vs. Evolution controversy, and had in fact skipped the evolution part of his biology class so he didn't have to deal with it.
    • 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. He was not called in by H.L. Mencken, nor was he really invited to take part in the proceedings at all. Darrow more or less butted into the affair, edging out the lawyers who had already agreed to take the case.
    • H.L. Mencken's participation in the whole affair is magnified. In reality, he merely commentated irreverently from the sidelines for the Baltimore Sun and actually left Dayton before the trial was over. He therefore missed Darrow's examination of Bryan, something he sorely regretted.
    • Likewise, Bryan eagerly jumped on the bandwagon despite not having practiced law for 36 years by that point. The extent of his political failures is exaggerated as well, although he did participate in the trial in the twilight of his career, with his voice and oratory both fading. He was also not at all hostile to John Scopes, and even offered to pay his fine if he was convicted.
    • 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. He cherry-picked quotes completely out of context, but was not totally ignorant.
    • Bryan, like Brady, was called to testify as an "expert" on the 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.
    • The townsfolk of Dayton, TN were far more welcoming of Clarence Darrow than the people of Hillsboro were of Henry Drummond. Far from hanging him in effigy, the people of Dayton welcomed him with the same fervor as they welcomed William Jennings Bryan, because his celebrity status would help put the town on the map.
    • Drummond is portrayed as an old friend of Brady and his wife. In real life, Darrow nursed a serious grudge against Bryan due to a political rivalry early in their careers and his hatred of fundamentalism on principle. Bryan himself didn't think much of Darrow and for her part, Mary Bryan absolutely despised Darrow. Darrow expressed little of Drummond's reverence at Bryan/Brady's death.
  • Villainous Breakdown: All antagonist characters receive this.
    • Rev. Brown gets 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 B.S.O.D..
    • 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!"
  • Vote Early, Vote Often: When Brady is told by the townsfolk that they all voted for him three times, Brady quips that he trusts 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 outward displays of piety and righteousness do nothing more than hide the moral decay of the community.
  • Welcome to Hell: Hornbeck's first line to Drummond upon the latter's arrival in Hillsboro.
  • What You Are in the Dark: A Trope Codifier with the "lonelist" speech:
    Robert: It's the loneliest feeling in the world-to find yourself standing up when everybody else is sitting down. To have everybody look at you and say, "What's the matter with him?" I know. I know what it feels like. Walking down an empty street, listening to the sound of your own footsteps. Shutters closed, blinds drawn, doors locked against you. And you aren't sure whether you're walking toward something, or if you're just walking away.
  • White and Grey Morality: Hornbeck and Brady are Smug Snakess, Rev. Brown is a fanatical jerkass, but everyone is more or less doing what they think is right.
  • Women Are Wiser: In the film, Sarah Brady is the only character who can see things from everyone's point of view. In the play, Rachel shows signs of becoming this by the end.
  • Worthy Opponent: Drummond and Brady, who explicitly says so.
  • You Cannot 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.


Alternative Title(s): Inherit The Wind

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Theatre/InheritTheWind?from=Main.InheritTheWind