Jeff Price In The Age Of Corona: "Inherit The Wind"

Jeff Price is a screenwriter best known for “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Doc Hollywood,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Shrek III.” He also directed and co-wrote “For Cryin’ Out Loud” and co-wrote “My Brother’s Keeper” for “Tales From the Crypt.” Jeff’s debut novel, “Improbable Fortunes,” came out in 2016. It’s a tall tale about the West, hits very close to home, readily available at Between the Covers Bookstore and on Amazon. (Go here for my review.)

Jeff and his wife, Jennie Franks (of SPARKy Productions ) have lived in Telluride since 1993, where he is an avid outdoorsman – and prevaricator of some renown.

To whitJeff’s riffs on America the Beautiful in the Age of Corona, included in his “Howdy Friends & Neighbors,” are all here. His barbed social commentaries, redolent of Will Rogers, lay naked the humor in human foibles. Also the tragedy, real or potential.

For more red meat (and images) from Jeff, check out his alter ego at weegee211 on Instagram

Image, Jennie Franks (Price).

Howdy Friends and Neighbors,

I watched with great interest the President sending forth from the Rose Garden the other day. I took note of a couple of things. The first was a small thing. His hair color was different. It was gray and not his typical shade of L’Oreal “I’m Worth It” Aryan Sunrise. I’ve always said, a man who up and quits coloring his hair is akin to a fella laid off from his factory job and stayin’ in his pajamas all day. A sure sign of depression. So that was one thing. The other thing was what he was sayin’. It was a whole jumble of things. It reminded me of somethin’ and I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then I remembered it was a movie I saw as a kid, directed by the great Stanley Kramer, called “Inherit the Wind.”

“Inherit the Wind”starred Spencer Tracy and Frederic March and was a take-off of the 1925 Scopes Trial. Scopes was a high school teacher in Tennessee who had the temerity to teach evolution to his class. The Creationists on the School Board had him canned. In real life, Scopes was defended by the great trial lawyer, Clarence Darrow. Representing the Creationists was the failed Presidential candidate, Williams Jennings Bryan.

You might remember him as the blurry figure of the man in the old photograph giving the “Cross of Gold” speech in front of Telluride’s Sheridan Hotel. Bryan is played by Frederic March. Darrow is played by Spencer Tracy. The real trial and the movie trial deal with Religion versus Science. Stanley Kramer and the writers (one of whom was the victim of the 1950’s McCarthy blacklist) give each argument its fair due. Scene after scene, Spencer Tracy and Frederic March bash each other back and forth, like Rocky Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott. The battle takes its toll on old Frederic March. He starts to fray at the edges. His wife and daughter, in the courtroom, begin to worry about him. In the movie, the Scopes character loses the case, but the judge only assigns him a hundred dollar fine. Court is gaveled to adjournment. Brady, incensed by the light punishment, goes high dudgeon and marches outside to make another bombastic speech. It’s a bunch of breathless fire and brimstone drivel. The Crowd, at this point, isn’t even listening to him. But he works himself into such a lather that he has an abdominal aneurism, collapses to the ground and dies.

That’s the part that reminded me of Trump the other day. His oratory took flight as the highest departure from reality as I’ve heard from any American President.

Now, when I was a kid watchin’ that movie in 1960, even through my young eyes, I thought the whole notion of letting Religion rule over Science was kinda… well, quaint. To put things in their proper context, back then, my generation and the rest of America had a lotta hope. We just elected a young President, John F. Kennedy who said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Yes, he said we were going to the moon. And guess what? We did.

Lookin’ back, I realize now that I was brought up with the idea that my country could do anything. And I could do anything if I studied and worked hard enough. Great things lay ahead.

Now, we’re the only developed country that couldn’t muster the gumption to stop a virus in its tracks – the country that locks Science in a closet while promoting “eye of the newt and toe of the frog.” How did this happen? How did we waste our vast inheritance and wind up with a mad man babbling in the Rose Garden?

At the end of “Inherit the Wind,” Spencer Tracy takes a copy of the bible and a copy of Darwin’s “Origin of the Species” and weighs them each in his hands and puts them in his briefcase. The idea conveyed here is that both ideas have their equal place in a civilized society.

Folks, problem is, the people in control right now, the people who’ve somehow convinced the Republican electorate that there is a paucity of religious freedom in this country, have put their fat thumbs on that delicate scale. The inconvenient truth is, Science and Religion should never be given equal weight.

That’s how you get yourself a dandy pandemic and possibly the end of American democracy.

Friends and neighbors, I’m signing off with this post. I’m angry and tired of preachin’ to the choir.

One last thing, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll close your Facebook account.

Adios, til that time, amigos.

And you might want to take one tip from our religious friends: Vote like it could be the End of the World.

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One Response

  1. Amy Harris says:

    Hi Sus: I have not used facebook for over five years now. I saw what it was turning into and made a fast exit. xx