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.
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.