First things first: we are not getting embroiled in the creation vs. evolution debate.
However, you yourself might want to dive into this timeless dinner-party topic after viewing the movie, Inherit the Wind.
This 1960 drama is based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which schoolteacher John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution. However, a closer look at the script suggests the film might actually be a condemnation of McCarthyism.
But we digress. We are not here to discuss the origins of the universe nor the socio-political atmosphere of the post-war United States. We would much rather turn our attention to the fabulous Fredric March, who plays prosecutor Matthew Harrison Brady.
March proves he’s an actor who is unafraid to appear unglamorous, both in appearance and deed. He’s a looker in his potbelly and balding skullcap; in fact, he’s a dead ringer for our seventh-grade history teacher.
We could be mistaken, but does March seem to have a bit too much fun in the early parts of the movie? He struts around crowing to the masses; his self-congratulatory manner a sharp contrast to Spencer Tracy‘s understated character, the counsel for the defense.
But, as the Good Book says, pride goeth before a fall (don’t we love it when that happens?), and we know what’s coming for March’s ego-stuffed character. Get this: not only has our blustery prosecutor not prepared for this trial, he hasn’t even defined his own belief system! Naturally, Tracy’s character takes him apart, brick by brick, especially when he calls March to the witness stand.
Now we see March as a man stripped of his confidence and – nearly – his convictions. His character is so utterly pitiful you cringe for him. He looks terrible, of course; hot and uncomfortable in his chair, failing miserably under cross-examination; clutching his Mason’s Funeral Parlor fan as though it were his only defense, the last bulwark of a world he thought he understood.
Many actors have said it’s hard to steal a scene from Spencer Tracy, but March does it effortlessly. He’s so believable as a man who grabs at the pieces of his imploding world, you can almost feel it happening to yourself.
Aha! We’ve convinced you, haven’t we, to re-hash the Scopes Monkey Trial at your next dinner party. Come on! Show your guests an evening they’ll never forget.
Inherit the Wind: starring Fredric March, Spencer Tracy and a serious Gene Kelly. Written by Nathan E. Douglas and Harold Jacob Smith. Directed by Stanley Kramer. United Artists, 1960, 125 mins.
This blog is part of the March-in-March blogathon, hosted by Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence. Click here for more blogs on our man of the hour, Fredric March.
You guys are writing great things during the March-in-March blogathon. I’m really enjoying it.
I love Frederic March, but I’ve never even heard of Inherit The Wind! So excited to to see it. Another wonderful review, thanks so much for writing it!
You have written a well-styled discussion of one of the best movies ever made. Both Tracy and March were cast perfectly as the old bulls butting heads. March was just plain brilliant in that difficult role. The depths of his character and his great desire to remain faithful were so poignant, yet he could also be so annoying in the egotistical part of his nature. That cross-examination scene is heartbreaking, and Tracy’s take on his character was not just determined, but he also saw the sadness of having to take March apart with his questions. Wonderful article!
A fantastic movie!
The Scopes Monkey Trial took place in a small town right outside of my hometown of Chattanooga, TN. Not something I’m proud of though!
Thanks so much for participating!
I can’t beleive I haven’t seen this film. After reading your excellent and interesting review I will have to watch it.
All the acting is superb in this film – well worth a watch.
Thanks for dropping by!
Thanks. You should check out my reviews when you get the chance.
Vinnie, I think I started following your blog this week. You posted about the Witches of Eastwick.