|Stewart as attorney Paul Biegler.|
2. Inherit the Wind. The “Scopes Monkey Trial”—in which a Tennessee teacher was tried for teaching evolution—gets first-class treatment in Stanley Kramer’s gripping adaptation of the stage play. Spencer Tracy and Fredric March are magnificent as fictionalized versions of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. But equally good is the behind-the-scenes look at the trial: the tribulations of family members, the media coverage, and the impact on the town itself.
|Henry Fonda, in center, and the other 11.|
4. Witness for the Prosecution. For all its cleverness, the most entertaining aspect of Billy Wilder’s adaptation of the Agatha Christie play is its unexpected humor. Much of it is derived from the relationship between the cantankerous Sir Wilfrid (Charles Laughton) and his fastidious nurse, Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lanchester). One of their best scenes contains no dialogue and takes places during the heat of the trial. Miss Plimsoll sits in the gallery and watches closely over Sir Wilfrid, looking for any signs of his failing health. Turning to face her, Sir Wilfrid smiles as he takes a sip of “lukewarm cocoa” from a thermos filled by Miss Plimsoll…only the devious barrister has swapped thermoses so that he’s actually drinking brandy.
|Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.|
Honorable Mentions: Conduct Unbecoming, Adam’s Rib, Judgment at Nuremberg, Breaker Morante, The Caine Mutiny, Fury, and Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys.