Full of banter and meaningful discussions, a dialogue-heavy courtroom drama sees the teachings of Darwinism put on trial in 1920s Bible-belt Tennessee.
Political heavyweights are brought in by both sides as a young teacher (Dick York – My Sister Eileen, TV’s Bewitched) is charged by the State for his satanic teachings. Former presidential candidate, the bilious Matthew Harrison Brady (Fredric March – The Best Years of Our Lives, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) represents the State as renowned lawyer Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy – Captains Courageous, The Old Man & the Sea) is brought in to defend the teacher.
Small town religion and family drama form the backdrop but the main focus is the courtroom as the two heavyweights sound off against each other. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds with lots of soapboxing and bluster – and news reporter Gene Kelly (Singin’ in the Rain, Anchors Aweigh) on fine form with his many asides. Based on a true story and adapted from a stage play, there’s no surprises as to the outcome with the jury made up of local white males but victory ultimately sides with science and common sense.
Nominated for 4 Oscars in 1961 including best actor (Spencer Tracy), editing and adapted screenplay.