Despite being produced explicitly as a propaganda film during World War II, this adaptation of Ted W. Lawson’s account of his own experiences as a pilot during the famous Doolittle raid on Tokyo is a remarkably authentic account of the daring air attack on April 18, 1942. Still, some elements of this are sufficiently dated that this is one classic film that could stand a modern remake.
Stanley Kramer’s second courtroom drama starring Spencer Tracy in as many years is mostly an actor’s tour de force, but surprisingly not for the film’s nominal stars, Tracy and Burt Lancaster. Both of these veterans step back and let a handful of others take center screen. The talent pool is so deep in this film that the fifth-billed actor, Maximilian Schell, took home a Best Actor Oscar, the deepest that award has gone into a film’s “bench.”
It is sad and a bit puzzling that, 80 years after the events that inspired this film, the battle is still going on. In 2005, almost six years into the 21st Century, numerous school district all over this country are attempting to insert the dubious concept of intelligent design into biology textbooks. Despite claims that it represents an alternative theory to Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution, the primary intellectual thrust of intelligent design never seems to extend past the same anti-evolutionism that led to the passage of the Butler Act which precipitated the actual Scopes Trial.
Inherit the Wind, both this film and especially the original 1955 play on which it was based, were not meant to give a historical account of the Scopes but rather to use it as an allegory for the Red Scare era. Even so, playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee used the trial transcript for much of their in court dialogue, so the scenes that focus on the trial itself stay close to the historical record.