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Inherit the Wind

Neil Rosen revisits a court room classic and finds much to admire

When I drafted my list of great court movies I omitted Inherit the Wind and was chastised correctly by Michael Cole. All the more so as this film represents all I once admired about American cinema but now find deficient.

Made  in 1960, its a factual representation  of the famous monkey trial when a teacher was tried over advocating his Darwinian theory of man’s evolution from the apes. Spencer Tracy played defence lawyer Clarence Darrow whilst Fredric March played the more strident demagogue William Jennings Bryan.

MarchIt is worth pausing for a moment and considering the career of Fredric March.

Brando reckoned him the best actor he had ever played with. Trained in theatre like many a Hollywood legend, notably Edward G Robinson and Humphrey Bogart, with whom he played chess on set, he went into film acting and after a few notable leading roles became that rarity nowadays, the character actor.

He remained at the top of his trade for 20 years, especially between his two Oscar winning performances in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Best Years of our Lives.

In this film he holds his own with the avuncular Spencer Tracy and the lippy reporter Gene Kelly, both in their senior pomp.

Most of the drama is played out in the Hillsboro courtroom baking with heat. Frederic March both gets the collegiality of the two lawyers and their court room jousting. The central theme of the fundamentalism of creation against Darwinian evolution is brilliantly depicted, all the more so as it actually happened.If only they now both made films like this and cast Fredric March to act in them.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts