The light, the heat… (Pt. 2)

One of the most evident signs of heat is sweat. Yes, I’m being Mrs. Obvious, but go with me here. In the last post, I touched briefly on 12 Angry Men and the presence and importance of heat within the film. The same can be applied to many courtroom dramas (though 12 Angry Men barely takes place in a courtroom). Of course, a Southern setting alongside a court case about the theory of evolution will increase the temperature; then add a Bible verse in the title… and you’re in for a sweaty 2 hours of filmmaking:

Proverbs 11:29 “Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise.”

Inherit the Wind is such a controversial film for 1960. Although the Motion Picture Production Code was slowly fading and would be ousted in 1968, the subject matter at hand dapples with some features of the code regarding the church and upholding the church and morals within a film. If you are unfamiliar with the Scopes Monkey Trial, it is about a teacher in Tennessee during the 1920s attempting to teach Darwinism in a science class rather than creationism. Inherit the Wind is loosely based on this court case. I’d rather not go into personal opinions about proper teaching in schools, but, needless to say, this type of instruction is scandalous in a Southern state. Creating a Hollywood film with Spencer Tracy at the helm is equally as controversial in the early 1960s (though Hollywood leans more towards the liberal side of the spectrum in some cases).

Heat intensifies, in my opinion, one of the greatest scenes in filmic history in which Henry Drummond (Spencer Tracy) questions Colonel Brady (Frederic March) on the stands. Tracy is drenched in sweat and March fans himself nervously as he is questioned. This level of discomfort from heat is integral to the success of this cinematic moment. All biases aside, this is acting at its finest. Take a look:

Now, I highlighted courtroom dramas… but there are plenty of other films in which heat is an ever present character in the film. Which ones can you think of?


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