Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Scopes Trial - Two Views

This is an actual photo of the closing arguments in the Scopes Monkey Trial which tackled the issue of Evolution in 1925. The story is familiar to almost all Americans; and still rages today; Creationism versus Evolution. We will leave that argument for another time. I will only quote the late John Paul II, who said, "Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." I tend to believe that there is much truth in that statement.

The focus of this post is the difference between the movie "Inherit the Wind" with Spencer Tracy as Clarence Darrow, facing off with Fredric March as William Jennings Bryan. I have never understood the need to turn the real life trial into fiction. Don't get me wrong, it's one of my favorite films. Although it takes a bit of license with some of the characters, the courtroom dialogue is almost verbatim with the words spoken during the trial. Except for one little difference; the summation; which was actually held outdoors, just across from the courthouse. The trial had engendered so much interest that there was simply not enough room for all of the interested spectators and press attending the proceedings.

Another great difference is that although lawyers are actors to some extent, the trial was recorded audibly, and listening to the same summations by the actors versus the lawyers is a “no win” for the lawyers. They have the words, but the actors have the greater ability to deliver them with the passion they deserve.

The photo above is of the actual summation; note that William Jennings Bryan (seated) is snapping his suspenders, just as Fredric March did in the film. The man in the foreground, and speaking, is Clarence Darrow. There are radio broadcasts of the trial available on line so that you can compare the two different deliveries for yourself. A scene from the movie is posted below with the link provided. The You Tube embeds from the film have been disabled by request, hence the link, rather than the actual film. By the way; note the resemblance between William Jennings Bryan and Fredric March; in the photograph above, as well as the film, it's positively uncanny.

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