Filmsite Movie Review
Inherit the Wind (1960)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Lynching Mob Threatening Cates in Jail and Drummond in Mansion House:

A mob of fundamentalists from town was rallied together to assemble outside Cates' jailhouse, singing the modified refrain (sung to "Battle Hymn of the Republic") and threatening to lynch him: "We'll hang Bert Cates to a sour apple tree, We'll hang Bert Cates to a sour apple tree..., Our God is marching on, Glory, Glory, Hallelujah." The frenzied group was also burning Cates' image in effigy. Meanwhile, Rachel was treated by a doctor for a nervous breakdown, and refused to speak to her father. Cates was injured by a rock thrown through the jail window.


  • John T. Scopes was never burned in effigy by the frenzied crowd of the town.
  • Scopes was never jailed, and therefore never injured by a thrown rock.

The group moved on to the Mansion House where Henry Drummond was staying, with a changed refrain: "We'll hang Henry Drummond to a sour apple tree..." Hornbeck knocked on the door - and entered with a hooded mask, exclaiming cynically: "Hooligans of the world, unite! You've got nothing to burn but your intellectuals. (He pointed to the mob that was harrassing them) Well, those are the boobs that make our laws. It's a democratic process." Although he complimented Drummond for part of the day's proceedings, he also was critical of mankind and the entire human race for its basic stupidity:

Hornbeck: "Why don't you wake up! Darwin was wrong. Man's still an ape, and his creed's still a totem pole. When he first achieved the upright position, he took a look at the stars - thought they were something to eat. When he couldn't reach them, he decided they were groceries belonging to a bigger creature. That's how Jehovah was born."
Drummond: "I wish I had your worm's-eye view of history. It would certainly make things a lot easier."
Hornbeck: "....Why don't you take your blinders off? Don't you know the future's already obsolete? You think man still has a noble destiny. Well, I tell you, he's already started on his backward march to the salt and stupid sea from which he came."

Hornbeck considered Cates as "a monkey who tried to fly. Cates climbed to the top of the totem pole but - then he jumped, and there was nobody there to catch him, not even you."

Drummond was stymied and frustrated about how to defend Cates with the presence of such ignorance and myopia. He was particularly frustrated for being denied permission to have a group of scientific expert witnesses testify. He stated that he needed "a miracle." Hornbeck tossed a Bible (courtesy of Brady) at Drummond (who caught the Bible), suggesting that there was a "whole bagful" of miracles inside. Hornbeck poured drinks for the two of them, turned, and realized that he had inspired Drummond to initiate a new way to argue his case. Drummond was clasping the Bible between his hands and smiling - realizing that he would make the Bible the centerpiece of his new strategy.


  • Clarence Darrow had been formulating questions about the veracity of the Bible for many years. To think that he just happened to be spontaneously inspired by H.L. Mencken was just literary fabrication. Darrow was an avowed anti-Christian agnostic and had already debated and criticized religion in public. However, he did prep for his climactic interrogation of Bryan with his defense team.

The Climactic Court Trial - Prosecuting Attorney Brady Called as a Defense Witness:

After being cited with "contempt of court" the previous day, Drummond offered his sincere apology to the Judge the next morning: "Any remarks leading up to the contempt citation I regret very much. I realize your Honor is trying to be fair and I, uh, I'm very sorry for any remarks that were made in the heat of the moment." The Judge was accepting of Drummond's apology, gave a brief speech about the importance of forgiveness, and promptly withdrew the contempt citation. Drummond was allowed to continue as counsel for the defense of Mr. Cates.


  • In the trial, Darrow's "contempt" charges were also dropped with his subsequent act of contrition.

Drummond decided to announce his new strategy: "Your Honor, the court, uh, has ruled out any evidence as to scientific knowledge or the Darwinian theory. Would the court admit evidence, expert evidence, on a book known as the Holy Bible?" When given the go-ahead by the prosecution, Drummond summoned his opponent Brady to the stand, calling him: "One of the world's foremost experts on the Bible and its teachings." Although the defense's move was "unorthodox," Brady's over-confident ego prevented him from declining and he welcomed the challenge: ("If the interests of right and justice will be served, I will take the stand...I shall speak out as I have all my life on behalf of the living truth of the Holy Scriptures"). Brady didn't foresee that he would become highly defensive and lose his credibility when interrogated and discredited by Drummond for his literal interpretations of the Bible.


  • On the 7th day of the trial, Darrow took the unusual strategy of calling William Jennings Bryan, counsel for the prosecution, to the stand as a witness. The questioning took approximately two hours during a hot afternoon.
  • Although Bryan thought he would be able to reciprocate by cross-examining Darrow, that opportunity was curtailed when Judge Raulston ruled that Darrow's examination of Bryan was entirely irrelevant and would be 'expunged' from the record. It also was prevented when Darrow changed Cates' plea to "guilty."

Immediately, Drummond learned that Brady had not read Darwin's book Origin of Species ("I am not the least interested in the pagan hypotheses of that book"), and then stated:

"Then how in perdition have you got the gall to whoop up this holy war about something that you don't know anything about. How can you be so cocksure that the body of scientific knowledge systematized in the writings of Charles Darwin is in any way irreconcilable with the Book of Genesis?"


  • It was the exact reverse - it was Darrow who was ill-informed about Darwin's book, while Bryan had read Darwin's The Origin of Species, and The Descent of Man.

When Drummond continued to pursue his line of questioning regarding Darwin's book, he was ordered by the Judge to "confine" his questions to the Bible. Drummond assented to the restrictions - without protest: ("We'll play in your ballpark, Colonel"). He began to reveal Brady's ignorant and contradictory statements when forced to explain certain unusual Biblical events, such as the Jonah-and-the Whale and Joshua-and-the-Sun stories, and when he struggled to interpret them as completely literal:

Drummond: "You believe that every word written in this book should be taken literally?"
Brady: "Everything in the Bible should be accepted exactly as it is given there."
Drummond: "Now what about this part right here, where, uh, uh, it talks about, uh, Jonah being swallowed by the whale? You figure that really happened?"
Brady: "The Bible does not say a whale. It says a big fish."
Drummond: "As a matter of fact, it says a 'great' fish. But I guess that's - one's pretty much the same as the other. What do you think about that business?"
Brady: "I believe in a God who can make a whale and who can make a man, and make both do what he pleases."

Drummond also referenced the Biblical story of Joshua making the sun stand still. Brady was scornful at Drummond's question: "I do not question or scoff at the miracles of the Lord, as do ye of little faith." Drummond brought up some understandable scientific issues with the Biblical account:

  • "Have you ever pondered what would actually happen to the Earth if the sun stood still?"
  • "If, as they say, 'the sun stood still,' they must have had some kind of an idea that the, that the sun moved around the Earth. Do you think that's the way of things or don't you believe the Earth moves around the sun?"
  • "If Joshua stopped the sun in the sky - the Earth stopped spinning on its axis, continents toppled over one another, mountains flew into space, and the Earth shriveled to a cinder, crashed into the sun. Now, how come they missed that little tidbit of news?...It must have happened according to natural law, or don't you believe in natural law?"
  • "Would you ban Copernicus from the classroom along with Charles Darwin?"
  • "Would you pass a law throwing out all scientific knowledge since Joshua? Revelations, period?"

Then, Drummond read an excerpt from Genesis (chapter 4, verse 16-17): "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife." He then asked: "Now, where the hell did she come from?...If in the beginning, there were just Cain and Abel and Adam and Eve, where, where did this extra woman come from? Did you ever stop to think about that?...Never bothered you?...Never tried to find out?...You figure somebody else pulled another creation over in the next county somewhere?" Brady admitted that he boldfacedly accepted God's word, without ever questioning it or expressing curiosity:

"The Bible satisfies me. It is enough."

The touchy subject of sex in the Bible was also brought up - Drummond noted the endless string of generational records in the Bible that were tied together with the word "begat." He inquired:

Drummond: "How'd they go about all this begattin'?...Did they begat in much the same way as folks get themselves begat today?...In other words, all of these folks were conceived and brought forth by the normal biological function known as sex. What do you think of sex, Col. Brady?...What is the Biblical evaluation of sex?"
Brady: (flustered and prudish) "It is considered original sin."
Drummond: "All these holy people got themselves begat through original sin? Well, all that sinnin' make them any less holy?"


  • Darrow never questioned Brady on the witness stand about "begatting" and sexual intercourse. [In the Bible, adultery was considered sinful, not the act of 'begatting.']

Brady was willing to endure Drummond's persistent questioning that began to amuse the spectators: "I am willing to sit here and endure Mr. Drummond's sneering and his disrespect, for he is pleading the case of the prosecution by his contempt for all that is holy." Drummond asserted that the one thing he considered "holy" was the power of human thought, and that human "progress" always meant a trade-off:

Drummond: "Yes! The individual human mind. In a child's power to master the multiplication table, there is more sanctity than in all your shouted 'Amens' and 'Holy holies' and 'Hosannas'! An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral, and the advance of man's knowledge is a greater miracle than all the sticks turned to snakes or the parting of the waters. But now, are we to forgo all this progress because Mr. Brady now frightens us with a fable? (To the jury) Gentlemen. Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there's a man who sits behind a counter and says, 'All right, you can have a telephone, but you lose privacy and the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote, but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air, but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.' Darwin took us forward to a hilltop from where we could look back and see the way from which we came. But for this insight and for this knowledge, we must abandon our faith in the pleasant poetry of Genesis."
Brady: "We must not abandon faith! Faith is the most important thing!"
Drummond: "Then why did God plague us with the power to think? Mr. Brady, why do you deny the one faculty of man that raises him above the other creatures of the earth? The power of his brain to reason! What other merit have we? The elephant is larger, the horse is swifter and stronger, the butterfly is far more beautiful, the mosquito is more prolific, even the simple sponge is more durable, or does a sponge think?..."
Brady: "If the Lord wishes a sponge to think, it thinks."
Drummond: "Do you think a man should have the same privilege as a sponge?"
Brady: "Of course."

The absurdity of Brady's answer was clearly evident, that Drummond's client Bert Cates was being denied the "same privilege as a sponge - he wishes to think." Brady shouted out: "But your client is wrong! He is deluded! He has lost his way!"

One of film's most famous lines was delivered by Brady after being asked by the tousled-haired Drummond how old he thought a 10 million year-old rock was:

"I am more interested in the 'Rock of Ages' than I am in the age of rocks."

Drummond also held up the fossil remains of a marine prehistoric creature from millions of years earlier. Brady thought it was only 6,000 years old, and used the opportunity to present his literal interpretation of the Bible's Great Flood and God's Act of Creation, calculated by Biblical scholar Bishop Usher to be in the year 4004 B.C. - on the 23rd of October at 9 am. He insisted it was a "literal fact" and not an opinion, and declared that only his particular interpretation of the Bible was correct.


  • William Jennings Bryan was never asked on the stand how old the Earth was.

He refused to answer Drummond's pestering questions about the time zone, and the length in hours of a day: ("I do not think about things that I do not think about"), and finally conceded that a day could have been 25 hours long instead of 24:

Drummond: "Then you interpret that the first day as recorded in the Book of Genesis could have been a day of indeterminate length?...It could have been 30 hours. It could have been a week. It could have been a month. It could have been a year. It could have been a hundred years, or it could have been 10 million years!"

Objections were raised by the prosecutorial bench that the questioning was "irrelevant" and "immaterial," seconded by Brady who asserted Drummond's true motive: "He wants to destroy everybody's belief in the Bible and in God." Drummond argued otherwise:

Drummond: "That's not true and you know it. The Bible is a book. It's a good book. But it is not the only book."
Brady: "It the revealed word of the Almighty God, spake to the men who wrote the Bible."
Drummond: "How do you know that God didn't spake to Charles Darwin?"
Brady: "I know because God tells me to oppose the evil teachings of that man."
Drummond: "Oh, God speaks to you?"
Brady: "Yes."
Drummond: "He tells you what is right and wrong?"
Brady: "Yes."
Drummond: "And you act accordingly?"
Brady: "Yes!"
Drummond: "So, you, Matthew Harrison Brady, through oratory or legislature or whatever, you pass on God's orders to the rest of the world! Well, meet the Prophet from Nebraska!"
Brady: "I... Please!"
Drummond: "Is that the way of things?! Is that the way of things?! God tells Brady what is good! To be against Brady is to be against God!"
Brady: "No! Each man is a free agent."
Drummond: "Then what is Bertram Cates doing in a Hillsboro jail? Supposing Mr. Cates had the influence and the lung power to railroad through the state legislature a law saying that only Darwin could be taught in the schools."
Brady: "Ridiculous. Ridiculous. There is only one great truth in the world."
Drummond: "The Gospel. The Gospel according to Brady! God speaks to Brady, and Brady tells the world! Brady, Brady, Brady Almighty!... Suppose that a lesser human being - suppose a Cates or a Darwin had the audacity to think that God might whisper to him, that an un-Brady thought might still be holy. Must a man go to prison because he differs with the self-appointed prophet? Extend the Testaments. Let us have a Book of Brady. We shall hex the Pentateuch and slip you in neatly between Numbers and Deuteronomy!"

An exasperated evangelical, Brady lost his composure on the witness stand by the incessant grilling and brow-beating from Drummond - and blurted out, like a bumbling, mindless, stammering buffoon. He was ultimately forced to frantically call out the Books of the Bible in order - clearly shaken and defeated:

"All of you know what I stand for - what I believe! I believe in the truth of the Book of Genesis! Exodus! Leviticus! Numbers! Deuteronomy! Joshua! Judges! Ruth! First Samuel! Second Samuel! First Kings! Second Kings! Isaiah! Jeremiah! Lamentations! Ezekiel!"


  • William Jennings Bryan never broke down on the stand.

Brady's admissions lost him the support of other fundamentalists in the courtroom, who looked crushed. He had opened the door to the idea that evolution was not opposed to Biblical teachings, and that Cates was free to "think" for himself without being silenced by Biblical literalists. As a result of the intense questioning, Brady had implicitly admitted that the Bible could be interpreted non-literally. Court was adjourned until 10:00 am the following morning.

At the Mansion House That Evening:

Rachel entered the Mansion House and spoke to Sara following the climactic day of Brady's testimony - she insisted on seeing the prosecutor: "He's got to tell Bert it wasn't my fault...Why should I be quiet? I want the whole world to know that Matthew Harrison Brady's a fake." Sara slapped Rachel across the face, to quiet her, but then apologized. Rachel described her nightmare of being on the witness stand: "I was dreaming I was in the witness chair, chained to it. I kept begging him to let me go." She remained distraught and hurt that she had confided in him and then he had betrayed her trust:

Rachel: "I turned to your husband for help. He encouraged me to open up my heart to him, and then he twisted my words. He tricked me. Why? Why did he do it?"
Sara: "I don't know why he did it. Maybe it meant too much to him. Maybe he was tired or afraid."
Rachel: "I taught my pupils that Matthew Harrison Brady was a great man, next to God, almost. What do you want me to teach them now?...If he could do such an evil thing, then he must be an evil man, and everything he stands for must be evil, too."
Sara: "Oh, stop it! stop it! Youth can be so pure. What do you know of good or evil? What do you understand of the sum of a man's life?"
Rachel: "He betrayed me."
Sara: "You betrayed yourself. You see my husband as a saint, and so he must be right in everything he says and does. And then you see him as a devil, and everything he says and does must be wrong. Well, my husband's neither a saint nor a devil. He's just a human being, and he makes mistakes....I'm defending the 40 years I've lived with this man and watched him carry the burdens of people like you. If he's been wrong, at least he stood for something. What do you stand for? Do you believe in Bertram Cates? I believe in my husband. What do you believe in?"

Brady was awakened from sleep by their discussion, and after Rachel left, Sara expressed her life-long support for her husband: "You were always a good man. That's why I loved you, even from the very beginning. People said you made mistakes, wrong decisions. You could have been President three times over, but I never doubted you, Matt, because your decisions were honest. You never sacrificed your principles just to win."

Brady broke down and became hysterical when he realized he had personal flaws that had caused him to lose the case:

"A victory here would be a monument to God that would last a 1,000 years!...They didn't understand. I'll make them understand. They'll have to understand. My speech. Where's my speech?... I'll make them listen...Where's my speech? I must have it! I'll make them understand!...It isn't just this case. It's God himself that's on trial. They'll, they'll have to listen to me. They will listen to me....Mother, they laughed at me...I can't stand it when they laugh at me....They laughed."

The Last Day of the Trial (The State v. Bertram Cates) on July 21, 1925 - The Sentencing of Cates:

Before the last day of the trial began, Rachel confessed to Bert that she had left her father. He was supportively understanding of her decision and her disastrous courtroom testimony against him: "It wasn't your fault, Rach. I know how Brady can twist things..." The verdict was going to be covered by a nationwide radio broadcast delivered straight to a million people on WGN in Chicago.

After the jury filed in, radio broadcaster Harry Esterbrook (Harp McGuire) set the scene for listeners regarding "the historic Hillsboro 'Monkey Trial' case" --- "In a few moments, we will know whether Bertram Cates will be found innocent or guilty. I wish I could describe the tension, in this courtroom today."

The mayor of Hillsboro whispered to the Judge that the Lieutenant Governor of the state was suggesting that the Judge "let this whole thing kind of simmer down," due to the negative newspaper publicity and political embarrassment.

Drummond technically lost the case when Cates was unanimously convicted by the conservative jury and found "guilty as charged." Esterbrook reported the live announcement of the verdict: "Bertram Cates, schoolteacher, keystone, and defendant in one of the greatest ethical contests known to our country, Bertram Cates has been found guilty. The law has been satisfied. But what profound repercussions of what has happened in this courtroom will be known only to the future."


  • The jury heard very little of the actual case. Much of the trial consisted of legal arguments. They did not hear any of the expert witness testimony (actual or written), and officially did not witness Darrow's interrogation of Bryan.
  • The jury deliberated for eight minutes, after which they returned to the courtrom with a guilty verdict. The reason their deliberations were so short was because Darrow had purposely asked Judge Raulston to bring the jury in and instruct them to return a "Guilty" verdict.

As Cates was about to be sentenced in the hushed courtroom, he was allowed to speak. He mentioned that he would no longer be a school teacher, but disavowed the verdict: "I feel that I've been convicted of violating an unjust law. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can." According to the Judge, the sentence for the statute's violation would be either a fine or imprisonment. To avoid further controversy, however, the Judge leniently fined Cates only a token fee of $100 dollars:

"But since there has been no previous violation of this statute, there's no precedent to guide the bench passing sentence. Court deems it proper to sentence Bertram Cates to pay a fine of $100 dollars."


  • The actual historical sentencing was not as suspenseful as in the film. On the last day of the trial in his closing speech, Darrow himself requested that the Judge change Cates' plea to 'guilty' to effectively end the trial (and force an appeal). It was a strategy designed to deny the prosecution (particularly Bryan) from addressing the court with a final statement that he had fastidiously prepared for weeks.
  • Scopes' job as a schoolteacher was not jeopardized. However, he did not continue school teaching, but pursued graduate school.
  • Judge Raulston fined Scopes the minimum amount under the law, $100 dollars.
  • William Jennings Bryan had offered to pay Scopes' fine if he was convicted.

Although Brady had won the case, he was outraged and protested the Judge's decision: "Your Honor, the prosecution takes exception! Why, the issues are so titanic, the court must mete out more drastic punishment!" Drummond stood up to oppose Brady's grand-standing, and announced his intention to appeal:

"The amount of the fine is of no concern to me, because Bertram Cates has no intention of paying this or any other fine. If it were one single dollar, he would not pay it. We are going to appeal this decision to the state Supreme Court."

The Judge granted 30 days for the preparation of the appeal, and set bail bond at $200 dollars.


  • Scopes was fined $100 dollars, but was never required to pay the fine. Defense lawyer Darrow promptly rejected the small fine and called for an appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The Tennessee Supreme Court later disallowed the fine on a technicality.

Brady valiantly struggled to deliver one final religious defense - his prepared closing statement ("a few short remarks") to be entered into the record, although Drummond's request for official adjournment ("Our business in Hillsboro is completed") had already been confirmed by the Judge. In the hot and chaotic courtroom as everyone clamored to exit, spectators were disinterested in hearing Brady's oratory: ("Here in this courtroom, we have seen vindicated the faith of our fathers, living still in spite of dungeon, fire and sword. Oh, how our hearts be high with joy whenever we hear the glorious word, faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee - till death!"). Those at the defense table looked at Brady - aghast with pity, including his dismayed wife in the audience. A rambunctious young child banged the gavel on a desk, and a vendor (Jack Daly) sold Eskimo Pies.

As he lost his voice and gasped for breath, the "holy prophet" Brady suffered a massive heart attack (or stroke), and collapsed and fainted with a loud thud - seen in an overhead view under an overhead fan. He died shortly later.


  • There was no final closing statement by William Jennings Bryan in the courtroom.
  • Bryan was not a glutton who gorged himself on fried chicken in the courtroom.
  • Bryan did not die in the courtroom during a final summation. He died peacefully during a Sunday afternoon nap after a heavy meal, five days after the trial ended on July 26, 1925.

The Concluding Aftermath of the Verdict:

In the concluding scene after Brady's death, the camera focused on a statue of the blindfolded Lady Justice, holding a balance and a sword. Hornbeck was calling in his story to the Baltimore Herald, and mentioned the cause of death to Drummond: "He died of a busted belly." The defense lawyer accused Hornbeck of callousness, while offering praise for Brady: "There was much greatness in the man."


  • Darrow was actually quoted as saying: "(He) died of a busted belly."
  • Mencken was allegedly quoted as saying: "We killed the son-of-a-bitch!"

For Brady's obituary, Hornbeck thought of using Brady's Biblical quote (Proverbs 11:29 - the "Inherit the Wind" verse) earlier spoken to Reverend Brown at the prayer meeting rally, when the preacher was about to curse his own 'flesh and blood' daughter Rachel. Drummond was able to quote the entire verse verbatim for him:

"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind. And the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart."

Hornbeck was shocked by Drummond's memorized recall of the Biblical verse: "Well, Colonel Drummond, we're growing an odd crop of agnostics this year!" Drummond took the opportunity to debate the atheistic reporter ("I'm getting damned sick of you") who had unjustly accused Drummond of extreme sentimentality for Brady. Drummond listened as Hornbeck denounced Brady for his life-long bigotry:

Hornbeck: "What is this, be-kind-to-bigots week? Why should we weep for him? Because he's dead. Oh, no. Besides, he cried enough for himself during his lifetime. The national tearduct from Weeping Water, Nebraska. He flooded the nation like a one-man Mississippi. You know what he was, that Bible-beating bunco artist."
Drummond: "A giant once lived in that body, but Matt Brady got lost because he looked for a God too high up and too far away."

Hornbeck chastised Drummond for hypocritically stating a belief in God: "Wh-why, you hypocrite. Y-you fraud. The atheist who believes in God. Aah, you're just as religious as he was." Drummond countered by accusing Hornbeck of heartless cynicism, for believing in nothing, and for only whipping up media hoopla and hysterical frenzy between the opposing forces:

"Everything is grist for your mill, isn't it? Well, go ahead, grind it up: Brady's past, Cates' future. My god, don't you understand the meaning of what happened here today?...You have no meaning. You're like a ghost pointing an empty sleeve and smirking at everything that people feel or want or struggle for. I pity you...Isn't there anything, what touches you, what warms you? Every man has a dream. What do you dream about? What-what do you need? You don't need anything, do you? People, love, an idea, just to cling to you? You poor slob. You're all alone. When you go to your grave, there won't be anybody to pull the grass up over your head, nobody to mourn you, nobody to give a damn. You're all alone."

As Hornbeck was preparing to leave the courtroom, he spoke the film's final words: "You're wrong, Henry. You'll be there. You're the type. Who else would defend my right to be lonely?"

Alone in the final scene in the courtroom, Drummond glanced at copies of Darwin's book and the Bible on the bench. He held up Darwin's volume of On the Origin of Species in his left hand, and the Bible in his right hand - thoughtfully weighing them and balancing them against each other in the air. He half-smiled, shrugged, clapped them against each other, and then carried them together in his right arm as he exited the courtroom, while an invisible chorus and sole acappella voice (of Leslie Uggams) sang the stirring The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

End credits were missing from the film.

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