Accuracy of the Film "Inherit the Wind"

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Inherit the Wind (1960) is a film directed by Stanley Kramer that is based on the play of the same name that debuted in 1955. The play was not intended to be an exact historical account of the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee, and so the movie also contains various differences from what actually happened. The film allows the viewer to understand the basic concepts and outcomes of the trial, but there are many inaccurate details which make the trial of Inherit the Wind significantly different from reality. However, in order to learn the facts about the trial it is necessary to compare the portrayal of the trial in Inherit the Wind with historical accounts of what actually occurred. Menton observes that the film has been used as “educational,” although the film should be supplemented by a historical account of the trail.

The trial in the movie and historically was cause by a violation of the Butler Act. The movie simply portrays this law as a statute passed by the state of Tennessee that prohibited the teaching of evolution in public schools. In reality, the Butler Act only made it illegal to teach that humans evolved. During 1925 in the state of Tennesse, one could teach that all species evolved except humans and not have violated the Butler Act. The film also demonstrates that the Butler Act favored fundamentalist Christianity over science in public schools. This is continually emphasized in the movie by the speech and actions, such as the parade when Brady arrives in Tennessee, of the characters who are all clearly fundamentalist Christians. In reality, the Butler Act was intended to actually increase the neutrality of the two views. This is because the Bible could not be taught in public schools, yet this new scien...

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..., in 1925 only about half of the community members were religious and the majority were members of various Protestant denominations. There were only a few Christians, and most of them were not strict fundamentalists. They did not literally believe in the six day Biblical creation account that is portrayed with great fervor in the film. The film also shows that the local people were very disappointed at the arrival of Henry Drummond, the character name for Clarence Darrow, and clearly expressed the belief that they wanted him to leave town. In the trial transcript, Darrow comments on the hospitality of the people of Tennessee. The film changes the context in which the trial was held. Although it is possible for one to understand the basic arguments of the trial, it is not possible to obtain an accurate historical account of the events that prefaced the Scopes trial.

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