Truthful review of inherit the wind
Inherit the Wind Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee wrote Inherit the Wind as a response to the threat to intellectual freedom presented by the anti-communist hysteria of the McCarthy era. Lawrence and Lee used the Scopes Trial, then safely a generation in the past, as a
vehicle for exploring a climate of anxiety and anti- intellectualism that existed in 1950.
Inherit the Wind does not purport to be a historically accurate depiction of the Scopes trial. The stage directions set the time as “Not long ago.” Place names and names of trial participants have been changed. Lawrence and Lee created several fictional characters,
including a fundamentalist preacher and his daughter, who in the play is the fiancé of John Scopes. Henry
Drummond is less cynical and biting than the Darrow of Dayton that the Drummond character was based upon.
Scopes, a relatively minor figure in the real drama at Dayton, becomes Bertram Cates, a central figure in the
play, who is arrested while teaching class, thrown in jail, burned in effigy, and taunted by a fire-snorting preacher.
William Jennings Bryan, Matthew Harrison Brady in the play, is portrayed as an almost comical fanatic who dramatically dies of a heart attack while attempting to deliver his summation in a chaotic courtroom. The
townspeople of fictional Hillsboro are far more frenzied, mean-spirited, and ignorant than were the real denizens
Nonetheless, Lawrence and Lee did draw heavily from the Scopes trial. A powerful Darrow condemnation of
anti-intellectualism, an exchange between Darrow and Judge Raulston that earned Darrow a contempt citation,
and portions of the Darrow examination of Bryan are lifted nearly verbatim from the actual trial transcript.
Although Lawrence and Lee completed Inherit the Wind in 1950, the play did not open until January 10, 1955. The Broadway cast included Paul Muni as Henry Drummond, Ed Begley as Matthew Harrison Brady, and
Tony Randall as E. K. Hornbeck (H. L. Mencken). The play received rave reviews and was a box office success. Nathan Douglas and Harold Smith wrote the play into a screen script in 1960. The Douglas and Smith screenplay differs from the stage version in several respects, most
notably perhaps in its downplaying of some academic and theological points, and its playing up of the trial’s circus
A made-for-TV rewrite of the 1960 Stanley Kramer movie ran on NBC in 1988. In this Inherit the Wind
adaptation, Jason Robards played Darrow, Kirk Douglas
played Bryan, and Darren McGavin played Mencken. The TV rewrite departed in only minor respects from the plot of the earlier Hollywood
I encourage you to read this play 4 times and learn about the scope trials.