Re: Inherit the Wind

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Sun Jan 18 2004 - 18:29:02 EST


    I first saw "Inherit the Wind" in college as a film when it was first released. I was attending the University of the South in Sewanee, TN. Having accepted evolution and having found no conflict with my understanding of creation, I was not prepared to look at the firm objectively and critically, and of course cheered on the Clarence Darrow character. After all, I was studying in a town just a few miles down the road from Dayton, TN, where, until the Tennessee anti-evolution law was repealed, my biology professor Dr. Malcom Owen sent in his $100 fine yearly and proceeded to teach his course in evolution.

    Later, as a young professor at Berea College in Kentucky, I saw a stage performance by the college's drama department. By that time I was able to look at the presentation with a more critical eye. As I had lived in the South long enough to gain a better understanding of mountain religion, I could see more of the caricature of fundamentalism that the play presented, and I recognized that the portrayal of the William Jennings Bryan character also did the real Bryan less than justice. However, I also discovered that the playwrights had taken most of the courtroom dialogue directly from a transcript of the trial. Those dramatic scenes in the courtroom, I came to see, were a more or less faithful representation of the trial itself.

    Finally, there is a scene toward the end where the Bryan character attempts to read the speech to the assembled that the judge had not permitted him to read into the record. In the play/film, the charcter has a stroke and dies in the courtroom. Actually the real Bryan died four days later. I recommend that anyone who can get their hands on it read Bryan's speech. It is a revealing window into Bryan's thinking about evolution, and it becomes clear that the major concern of this populist politician and moral leader was the destructive influence of Social Darwinism in American culture. Several years ago Stephen J. Gould wrote an appreciative essay about Bryan and gave him credit where credit was due.

Bob Schneider
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Michael Roberts
  Sent: Monday, January 19, 2004 4:58 PM
  Subject: Inherit the Wind


  Those who have watched this film with Spencer Tracy will have enjoyed it.

  What I want to know is what you thought of it when you first saw it.

  Did you think it was a basically correct film portrayal of the Scopes trial or what?

  Please be honest as I want some comments to test some ideas

Received on Mon Jan 19 18:28:40 2004

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