Based on the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 where Clarence Darrow defended and William Jennings Bryan prosecuted a school teacher arrested for teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, the names are changed but a carbon copy of that trial is depicted in Stanley Kramer’s Inherit the Wind (1960).
Written as a parable to address McCarthyism, the film stars Spencer Tracy as the defense, Frederic March as the prosecution, Gene Kelly displaying his versatility as a sharp-tongued, cynical reporter (modeled after H.L. Mencken), Dick York as the accused teacher, and Harry Morgan offering a solid supporting role as the trial’s presiding judge. The film is yet another fantastic work by Stanley Kramer, who dwelled upon social topics and took liberal stands on easily flammable topics - such as evolution here. The arguments heard in Inherit the Wind will sound awfully familiar to modern audiences.
The film was nominated for and lost all four of its Academy Award nominations: Cinematography (B&W), Film Editing, Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor.
It is a film that you would think would be in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry because of its social, cultural, and historical brilliance, yet it has not been inducted quite yet.