In the early 1900's Tennessee, a loving family undergoes the shock of the father's sudden, accidental death. The widow and her young son must endure the heartache of life following the ... See full summary »
Elmer Gantry is a fast-talking, hard-drinking traveling salesman who always has a risqué story and a hip flask to entertain cronies and customers alike. He is immediately taken with Sister Sharon Falconer, a lay preacher whose hellfire-and-damnation revivalism has attracted quite a following. Gantry uses his own quick wit and Bible knowledge to become an indispensable part of Sister Sharon's roadshow, but his past soon catches up with him in the form of Lulu Bains, now a prostitute. While Gantry seeks and eventually gets forgiveness from Sharon, tragedy strikes when she finally manages to get out of her revivalist tent and opens a permanent church. Written by
In a hate-filled sermon, Gantry denounces a number of "heresies" including "Russellism". This is a reference to Charles Taze Russell, first president of the (current) Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the legal organization used by Jehovah's Witnesses. See more »
The first time Gantry is in Lulu's room and she is staging the blackmail photos, she puts the money he hands her into the top of the stocking on her right leg while he stands on her right side next to her right leg. When we are later shown the photograph as published in the newspaper, Gantry is still standing on her right side next to her right leg, but Lulu is inserting the money into the top of the stocking on her left leg rather than her right leg. See more »
I have here in my pocket - and thank heaven you can't see them - lewd, dirty, obscene, and I'm ashamed to say this: French postcards. They were sold to me in front of your own innocent high school by a man with a black beard... a foreigner.
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Scrolled before the opening credits: "We believe that certain aspects of Revivalism can bear examination- that the conduct of some revivalists makes a mockery of the traditional beliefs and practices of organized Christianity! We believe that everyone has a right to worship according to his conscience, but- Freedom of Religion is not license to abuse the faith of the people! However, due to the highly controversial nature of this film, we strongly urge you to prevent impressionable children from seeing it!" See more »
Lancaster's vitality as a sinful preacher lights up the screen...
Richard Brooks spent years trying to bring ELMER GANTRY to the screen. When he finally got the green light, it was United Artists that agreed to distribute the film. And fortunately for us, it gives BURT LANCASTER the kind of role that would rightly win him an Academy Award as Best Actor in 1960.
He gives the role all the energy and charisma it requires and then some. His chemistry with JEAN SIMMONS, as an Evangelist who at first resists his overtures to join her group, is evident from their first encounter. ARTHUR KENNEDY does a fine job as a cynical journalist who is largely a bystander to the proceedings and DEAN JAGGER is excellent as a fellow Evangelist who has his own doubts about Gantry. Singer PATTI PAGE does nicely in a straight dramatic role.
It's easy to see why Hollywood was afraid of the Sinclair Lewis story. It certainly doesn't paint organized religion in a very positive light and, in fact, deals with the underbelly of revivalism. The story of a an unholy preacher who turned revivalism into a circus side show is so cynical, it makes anything that someone like Billy Wilder ever wrote look like child's play by comparison.
SHIRLEY JONES has the role of the prostitute who is Gantry's undoing when she pulls the con game on him of photographing him offering her money. His Achilles Heel is women and she knew it. A newspaper gets hold of the photos and his goose is cooked.
ARTHUR KENNEDY has the story's best line: "The mobs don't like their Gods to be human." I bought everything but the climactic "fire and damnation" ending with JEAN SIMMONS wandering around like a lost soul amid the flames. It seemed totally out of character for her to suddenly become so unrealistic about what was happening.
Other than that, a great movie. BURT LANCASTER never had a more fitting role.
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