It would be hard to underestimate the power that one film, Inherit the Wind, has had in shaping — and distorting — the evolution debate. In a comment that would be hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic, Judge John E. Jones of Kitzmiller v. Dover fame explained that in getting himself up to speed for the trial he watched ITW to get a sense of the “historical context.” What if someone made a dramatic film that actually told the truth about the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925?
Someone just did.
As of tomorrow, a new and actually quite good movie, Alleged, goes on sale on DVD and BlueRay, covering the same history — the trial of John Scopes for teaching human evolution in a Dayton, Tennessee, classroom — but while staying true to the complicated story rather than, in the manner of Inherit the Wind, turning it into a Darwinian propagandist morality cartoon. We’ll be covering it here at ENV and at our sister site, Intelligent Design the Future, this week.
Written and produced by Fred Foote, Alleged has it all: fine, gravelly acting by Brian Dennehy and Fred Thompson as the heavies in the story, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan; a nice villain’s turn by the appropriately named Colm Meaney as the arrogant and dishonest journalist H.L. Mencken; and a sweet romance (this part is fictional) involving a young reporter and his hometown sweetheart (Nathan West and the lovely Ashley Johnson).
A lot of historical ground gets covered here — from the origins of the trial itself as a town publicity stunt to the facts about the Darwinism-eugenics connection — that somehow never made it into Inherit the Wind with its evolutionary apologetic agenda. Alleged is an excellent resource for educators and parents but also, apart from its good work as a historical corrective to the influential fiction of ITW, rather moving as a drama and a love story.
Stayed tuned here and check out the podcasts we’ll be rolling out at ID the Future:
- “The Story Behind the New Film that Seeks to Replace Inherit the Wind,” in which Dr. John West goes “on the set” for an interview with filmmaker Fred Foote who discusses what inspired him to make a new film about the Scopes trial.
- “Debunking the Biggest Myths about the Scopes Trial,” in which Dr. West continues the conversation with Foote, discussing the biggest myths about the Scopes trial; and finally…
- “Recreating History, Hollywood Style,” in which John West concludes his discussion with Fred Foote, who talks about what it was like producing a film about one of the most famous trials in American history.
The website for the film has a lot of helpful material, too, covering the basics of how and where Inherit departs from the truth.