Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Inherit the Wind (1960)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Inherit the Wind (1960)

In director Stanley Kramer's great courtroom drama - based upon the true-to-life case of evolutionary science vs. religion in the historic Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee:

  • the opening scene of the 'arrest' of Hillsboro high school biology teacher Bertram Cates (Dick York), who had volunteered to test a state criminal statute that forbade the teaching of the theory of evolution in public schools; as he began his lesson in the classroom: ("We will continue our discussion of Darwin's theory of the descent of man. Now, as I told you yesterday, Darwin's theory tells us that man evolved from a lower order of animals, from the first wiggly protozoa here in the sea to the ape and finally to man"), he was "charged with violation of Public Act 31428, Volume 37, Statute No. 31428 of the state code, which makes it unlawful for any teacher of the public schools to teach any theory that denies the creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from the lower order of animals"
  • the montage of sensational newspaper headlines from around the country: "TEACHER JAILED IN TEST OF EVOLUTION LAW," "ARE WE MEN OR MONKEYS?", "HEAVENLY HILLSBORO: A RETURN TO MIDDLE AGES," and "MONKEY TRIAL IN HILLSBORO"
  • the reenactment of the infamous "Monkey Trial", with two unforgettable lawyers upstaging each other in the sweltering hot town of Hillsboro - notorious agnostic Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) (portraying Clarence Darrow) and three-time Presidential candidate and fundamentalist Matthew Brady (Fredric March) (portraying William Jennings Bryan); Brady prosecuted the case, while Drummond defended the schoolteacher
  • cynical and sarcastic newspaper reporter E.K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly) (portraying H.L. Mencken) of the Baltimore Herald whipped up media hoopla and hysterical frenzy between the opposing forces
  • the scene of Drummond excusing a personally-biased juror Jessie H. Dunlap (Ray Teal), who stated he believed in the Bible and "I believe in Matthew Harrison Brady" - under pressure, Drummond agreed to ask the juror only one question - a simple "How are ya?" - and then pronounced that the man was excused
  • during the trial proceedings, Drummond became frustrated by fanaticism and ignorance and delivered a passionate plea against censorship: "Can't you understand that if you take a law like evolution and you make it a crime to teach it in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and tomorrow you may make it a crime to read about it and soon you may ban books and newspapers, and then you may turn Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant and try to foist your own religion upon the mind of man! If you can do one, you can do the other! Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy and needs feeding. And soon, your honor, with banners flying and with drums beating, we'll be marching backward! Backward! Through the glorious ages of that 16th century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind"
  • after being cited with "contempt of court," Drummond decided to summon Brady to the stand to interrogate him about his literal interpretations of the Bible; immediately, Drummond learned that Brady had not read Darwin's book and then stated: "Then how in perdition have you got the gall to whoop up this holy war about something that you don't know anything about. How can you be so cocksure that the body of scientific knowledge systematized in the writings of Charles Darwin is in any way irreconcilable with the Book of Genesis?"
  • during Brady's testimony on the stand, Drummond also questioned the scientific authority of the Bible: ("The Bible is a book. It's a good book. But it is not the only book....How do you know that God didn't spake to Charles Darwin? ...So, you, Matthew Harrison Brady, through oratory or legislature or whatever, you pass on God's orders to the rest of the world! Well, meet the Prophet from Nebraska! Is that the way of things?! Is that the way of things?! God tells Brady what is good! To be against Brady is to be against God!")
  • through intense questioning, the dramatic moment that Matthew Brady was forced to exasperatingly admit that the Bible could be interpreted non-literally - as he lost his composure and broke down: ("All of you know -- what I said was -- what I believe -- I believe in the truth of the book of Genesis! Exodus! Leviticus! Numbers! Deuteronomy! Joshua! Judges! Ruth! 1st Samuel! 2nd Samuel! 1st Kings! 2nd Kings! Isaiah! Jeremiah! Lamentations! Ezekiel --")
  • in his home with his wife Sarah (Florence Eldridge), Brady broke down and became hysterical when he realized he was losing the case, and he vowed to make the people understand him: "Where's my speech I must have it! I'll make them understand!...It isn't just this case. It's God himself that's on trial. They'll, they'll have to listen to me. They will listen to me"
  • the scene of the trial's decision: the conservative jury convicted Cates (due to Drummond's request to change Cates' plea), when the Judge (Henry Morgan) (to avoid further controversy) leniently fined Cates only $100
Sentencing of Bertram Cates
Death of Matthew Brady in Courtroom
  • as Brady desperately tried to deliver one final religious defense while everyone dispersed, he had a stroke in the courtroom, collapsed and died on the floor - seen in an overhead view under an overhead fan
  • the concluding scene after Brady's death, of debate between Drummond and atheistic reporter E.K. Hornbeck; after Hornbeck accused Drummond of hypocritically believing in God: ("Wh-why, you hypocrite. Y- you fraud. The atheist who believes in God. Aah, you're just as religious as he was"), the lawyer denounced the reporter for believing in nothing: ("You have no meaning. You're like a ghost pointing an empty sleeve and smirking at everything that people feel or want or struggle for. I pity you...Isn't there anything, what touches you, what warms you?...When you go to your grave, there won't be anybody to pull the grass up over your head, nobody to mourn you, nobody to give a damn. You're all alone"); as Hornbeck left the courtroom, he spoke the film's final words: "You're wrong, Henry. You'll be there. You're the type. Who else would defend my right to be lonely?"
  • in the final scene in the courtroom, Drummond (now alone) glanced at copies of Darwin's book and the Bible on the bench - he held up Darwin's volume of On the Origin of Species in one hand, and the Bible in his other hand - thoughtfully weighing them and balancing them against each other in the air; then, with a half-smile and shrug, he clapped them against each other, and then carried them together in one arm as he exited the courtroom, while an acappella voice (of Leslie Uggams) sang the stirring The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Teacher Bertram Cates (Dick York) Arrested

Sensational Headlines

Media Hoopla, Encouraged by Reporter E.K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly)

Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) Excusing Biased Juror

Henry Drummond During Trial - Speech Against Fanaticism and Ignorance

Brady Cross-Examined on the Witness Stand by Drummond

Brady's Lost Composure on the Stand

Brady With Wife Florence in Home

Final Words: Hornbeck vs. Drummond

Drummond With Darwin's Book and the Bible On His Left and Right


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