Inherit the Wind (1960)

Thanks to master actors Spencer Tracy and Fredric March this remains one of the most powerful courtroom dramas ever filmed. Both the film and the original Broadway hit by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee are based on the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, in which Clarence Darrow defended and William Jennings Bryan prosecuted a Tennessee teacher on trial for teaching the theory of evolution. Newspaperman H.L. Mencken helped the trial become a national circus by pitting old-time religion against modern science. For the film version, Tracy essays the Darrow role as Henry Drummond, with March as the Bryanesque Matthew Harrison Brady and Gene Kelly as the reporter who revels in the fact that people hate him. With two legendary actors in the leads, extras from all over the Universal lot crowded the sets to watch them work. At one point, they ruined a take by applauding March’s work. As an acting duel, it might have emerged as a draw had not Tracy filmed Drummond’s lengthy closing statements in a single take, a masterful piece of acting and filmmaking. Producer-director Stanley Kramer was famous for tackling major issues in films like this and JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961). He tackled them offscreen as well, defying the American Legion to hire formerly blacklisted writer Nedrick Young to work on the screenplay.
(d. Stanley Kramer, 128m, 35mm)