"Fanaticism and bigotry is forever busy and needs feeding and soon your honor, with banners flying and with drums beating, we'll be marching backward, backward through the glorious ages of that 16th century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind."
Admittedly, I am sucker for Inherit the Wind. Be it Stanley Kramer's 1960 film version, which premiered 50 years ago yesterday in Dayton, Tenn. (the site of the real Scopes monkey trial), before its wide opening in November, or the 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee from which it was adapted, fictionalizing the infamous 1925 trial where a high school teacher was convicted for violating a law barring the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution. However, it's not because I'm a die-hard Darwin disciple that I love this play and this movie: That's not even why the playwrights wrote it. They were intending it as a parable against the McCarthyism of the time. The truth is Inherit the Wind always seems to be relevant, because we never find ourselves running short of fanatics of all stripes afraid that if anyone thinks differently than they do, their own belief structure will crumble like saltines. You look at the belligerent shouters and name-callers now and their issues might not be evolution, but it's not a huge leap from there to where those of us who prize free speech and free thought fear the petrified wish to take us. As Gene Kelly, in a rare straight role as E.K. Hornbeck, the H.L. Mencken equivalent, says, "Darwin was wrong. Man still is an ape." That's why I celebrate Kramer's film today.
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