Spencer Tracy received his seventh Oscar nomination for portraying Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind.
The problems of the characters of the film certainly carry on over to the performances. Fredric March I find overacts a bit by Brady especially with his mouth movements constantly, and is not able to create too much of character, because his character is written as a basically one dimensional religious dunderhead, as all religious people are portrayed in this film. On the other side though the scientific people are portrayed as almost perfect reasonable people (except Gene Kelly's overly cynical reporter), these are just as one dimensional though which include Tracy's Henry Drummond.
Spencer Tracy's character luckily for him is not required to do much more than espouse his belief in evolution, and attack the others beliefs. This allows plenty of scenes of Tracy giving loud speeches in the court room, and more quiet scenes of breaking apart particular witnesses. I will say that his performance is fine in showing his character's passion for his cause which is strong, and energetically portrayed by Tracy.
He is fine as well in breaking apart witnesses, as well as breaking up his opponents ideas as well, being properly quick, and adept in his manner. I think something quite lacking though is his lack of competition in the court room. I also think he was good in portraying Drummond with particular mannerisms with making them completely realistic, although I can't say that add that much to his performance on a whole. I think his performance could have been more interesting if the film allowed Drummond to really have to fight with a more intelligent Brady.
The film could have still portrayed Drummond as being in the right, but it could have allowed for far more interesting if the people Drummond was proving wrong weren't just portrayed as complete fools to begin with. This makes it so Tracy's passion, and persuasion in the role although good, it really did not really need Tracy to truly be persuasive or as powerful, which perhaps it could have if the film was written more intelligently.
Tracy is completely fine throughout his performance, and has some good moments, but I never felt it was much more than fine. He had his moments of big actory speeches which he handles well, but his performance is lacking because the film itself requires less of him than it might if it simply had been a better more fully written film. Overall his performance is good, but his character is lacking as are his scenes.