Inherit the Wind
(Stanley Kramer, 1960)
The historic case, of course, is fascinating and the acting, if overblown, is sound. What probably bothered me the most in that the screenwriters and director Kramer don’t trust their audience. It feels from an ancient era where black/white and right/wrong needs to be clearly defined with broad strokes. I would have preferred more ambiguity, but didn’t get it.
Even though Spencer Tracy’s arguments come off as anti-religion, the amount of off-topic and out of turn speechifying in and out of the courtroom by his verse-quoting opponent and the one-sided mob that is the town seem designed to ensure the viewer that seeing the reason in Tracy’s Drummond is proper and right.
I realize it’s heightened for dramatic purposes, but it’s also stultifying and simplistic. There are only two scenes — between two separate married couples — that really strike me as emotionally true. These two scenes are void of bombast, but they tug at some underlying reason for the behavior of the characters.
Maybe I say all this as a modern viewer, who can’t believe that anyone, no less an entire community, would adhere to the teachings of the Bible as indisputable facts, as opposed to an imperfect but well-meaning manual for living right. But apparently that’s prosecutor Brady’s fatal flaw. As strange as I find these individuals, perhaps I’m mistaken. I can’t help but think what these characters would think of our modern world.
Spencer Tracy could do this role in his sleep, and may in fact be doing so. March as Matthew Brady is fantastic, but at times can come off like such a cartoon that he’s hard to relate to. Dick York (you know, one of the Darrens) actually surprised me with his acting since I’ve never seen him outside of Bewitched. And while I love Gene Kelly when he’s dancing, he is miscast as a cynical news reporter.