Elmer Gantry Reviews

  • Feb 20, 2021

    Lancaster's Oscar winning Gantry is perfectly supported by Simmons' innocent Sharon and prostitute Jones, who also won an Oscar. Story becomes an overlong morality play with an overstated ending.

    Lancaster's Oscar winning Gantry is perfectly supported by Simmons' innocent Sharon and prostitute Jones, who also won an Oscar. Story becomes an overlong morality play with an overstated ending.

  • Nov 18, 2020

    Interesting how they had to put that message of warning at the beginning of the movie basically saying you shouldn't show this movie to young kids who might think that it's real because they might be influenced by it. Burt Lancaster does a terrific job playing Elmer Gantry. He definitely has a presence and makes sure everyone knows it. He seems like the kind of person that can get anyone to believe in the tooth fairy or Santa. Seamlessly and without trying, makes an impression on people. Unfortunate that he's a charming fake two-faced con man. God, it's really hard to like Gantry or even look at his face. He's so fake. Wow, but Jean Simmons, the girl who plays Sister Sharon is really pretty. Real cute. It's almost scary to see how this Revivalism can so easily turn into something sinister where you're brainwashing people so you can make more money. The more people you convert, the more money can you make. Now religion has become a money making business for any greedy businessmen. Funny how now Gantry is leading people as if they're an angry mob. Even fitted with torches and axes. Crazy how his ex lover, the prostitute, blackmailed the fuck out of him basically ruining his image. One act of sin publicized from the press and the whole town loses their fucking mind. Holy shit when the church was burning and everyone was losing their shit and screaming at the top of their lungs. Some of the screams and shit were actually funny but also terrifying because it was almost like they were burning in hell. Pretty dark ending how Sister Sharon basically burned to death along with the church. She believed that God was going to save her so much, that she stayed. I guess part of the reason the church burned down was because they were selling lies to followers and the final straw was with the guy at the end who couldn't hear and they wanted to make it seem like the Sister made him hear again. Elmer's purpose was to show that anyone can con their way into being some sort of religious figure for people to look up to. All You need is a loud voice, to make an impression and to have some knowledge at hand. This movie highlights how easy it is for an attractive and confident person to make an impression on people. The problem lies whether the person's intentions are good or evil as we've seen with some of these preachers of mega churches that use their followers for their self interest so they can buy themselves a private jet or a yacht. It's terrifying to know that the media and press are the true gods. They are the one thing that everyone believes in. Very controversial topic to touch on especially for it's time. But I'm glad this movie exists. Hopefully it will make people question a little bit more instead of just being satisfied with what's spoon fed to them. Even though I thought it was a tremendous movie, I don't think I'd watch it again.

    Interesting how they had to put that message of warning at the beginning of the movie basically saying you shouldn't show this movie to young kids who might think that it's real because they might be influenced by it. Burt Lancaster does a terrific job playing Elmer Gantry. He definitely has a presence and makes sure everyone knows it. He seems like the kind of person that can get anyone to believe in the tooth fairy or Santa. Seamlessly and without trying, makes an impression on people. Unfortunate that he's a charming fake two-faced con man. God, it's really hard to like Gantry or even look at his face. He's so fake. Wow, but Jean Simmons, the girl who plays Sister Sharon is really pretty. Real cute. It's almost scary to see how this Revivalism can so easily turn into something sinister where you're brainwashing people so you can make more money. The more people you convert, the more money can you make. Now religion has become a money making business for any greedy businessmen. Funny how now Gantry is leading people as if they're an angry mob. Even fitted with torches and axes. Crazy how his ex lover, the prostitute, blackmailed the fuck out of him basically ruining his image. One act of sin publicized from the press and the whole town loses their fucking mind. Holy shit when the church was burning and everyone was losing their shit and screaming at the top of their lungs. Some of the screams and shit were actually funny but also terrifying because it was almost like they were burning in hell. Pretty dark ending how Sister Sharon basically burned to death along with the church. She believed that God was going to save her so much, that she stayed. I guess part of the reason the church burned down was because they were selling lies to followers and the final straw was with the guy at the end who couldn't hear and they wanted to make it seem like the Sister made him hear again. Elmer's purpose was to show that anyone can con their way into being some sort of religious figure for people to look up to. All You need is a loud voice, to make an impression and to have some knowledge at hand. This movie highlights how easy it is for an attractive and confident person to make an impression on people. The problem lies whether the person's intentions are good or evil as we've seen with some of these preachers of mega churches that use their followers for their self interest so they can buy themselves a private jet or a yacht. It's terrifying to know that the media and press are the true gods. They are the one thing that everyone believes in. Very controversial topic to touch on especially for it's time. But I'm glad this movie exists. Hopefully it will make people question a little bit more instead of just being satisfied with what's spoon fed to them. Even though I thought it was a tremendous movie, I don't think I'd watch it again.

  • Sep 03, 2020

    The movie did not disappoint even though I had read the book. Lancaster is terrific and fully deserved his Best Actor Oscar,

    The movie did not disappoint even though I had read the book. Lancaster is terrific and fully deserved his Best Actor Oscar,

  • Jul 19, 2020

    Nothing like the book, but it is fantastic!

    Nothing like the book, but it is fantastic!

  • Sep 24, 2019

    Films that effectively criticize religion are surprisingly rare as Religulous (2008) is funny but unlikely to reveal anything that your average atheist does not already know and There Will Be Blood (2007) is a tad overzealous for my liking. This is a movie that manages to be a scathing critique of the evangelists who use impressionable people and extract money and unearned admiration out of them. We walk away feeling disgusted by the idea of anybody as manipulative as the characters we watch, they preach overly conservative and sometimes dangerous values while living like hedonists themselves. Furthermore it must be appreciated that this film was made in 1960, just three years after films like Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) and Ben-Hur (1959), was making controversial, progressive statements and that is what makes it more timeless than a film like The Alamo (1960). Struggling salesman Elmer Gantry, Burt Lancaster, becomes inspired when he witnesses traveling evangelist Sister Sharon Falconer, Jean Simmons, attract attention from large crowds and receive financial donations from them. He worms his way into her inner circle and quickly takes to the stage himself as a preacher, experiencing immediate success. Gantry decides that they should hold a ‘revival' in Zenith, a larger city than Falconer has ever visited before, which initially presents it's challenges but brings Gantry and Falconer greater fame. Before long Gantry and Falconer enter into an affair but they face obstacles in the form of attacks from skeptical journalist Jim Lefferts, Arthur Kennedy, and blackmail from Gantry's former lover, prostitute Lulu Bains, Shirley Jones. The two are marred by scandalous pictures that Bains frames Gantry with but Falconer attempts to continue preaching with tragic results. Throughout the film pokes fun at the idea that all of this bible thumping really means anything more than entertainment for the masses. We see crowds eating up Gantry's persuasive but empty rhetoric, men speaking in tongues and the ‘virtuous' Falconer talking about milking cows while encouraging her rapt audience to place their money inside milk pails. All of these images inform us of just how little these revivals are about the values preached in the bible. For the preachers it provides an opportunity to perform and to be loved by an audience in addition to receiving their money, tax-free of course, while for the audience it is an opportunity for excitement. The towns that these characters visit are not particularly exciting and the faces that populate their meetings are those of middle-aged, working class people who do not experience high amounts of drama in their day to day lives. Through these revivals they delude themselves into thinking that they are being observant of religious practices and enriching their minds when really they are looking for cheap thrills. Falconer's character was perhaps the most interesting in the film as while Gantry is a full time hustler she believes that what she is doing is right even as she subconsciously desires the attention and the money. When Gantry first performs and receives loud applause from the audience we witness a sharp jab of jealousy cross her face as the spotlight is taken away from her. Her desire for Gantry is also fascinating to watch as she has always had an ability to justify the ends, in this case sleeping with a man, by the means and when the two step into the darkness we know exactly what they will be doing. Finally, her denial of the truth as she stands in the middle of a burning church and refuses to attempt escape in the belief that god will take care of her. Gantry, while he lacks intelligence in many other ways, is smart enough to make his way out of there and while he retains some feeling of affection for Falconer he is never really converted to her brand of religious fanaticism. Part of the reason that this film works so well is the impressive performances from the leads as Lancaster delivers one of his classic performances and Simmons' plays against type. Many of Lancaster's performances in mainstream films were rather over the top and he played a character who was meant to be brooding and serious in The Rose Tattoo (1955) as an overexcited puppy. Here, that style of acting works as his broad grin and frequent belly laughs add to the sense that Gantry is an insincere figure with the power to charm but also a lack of real identity. It is understandable that he won the Academy Award for Best Actor but strangely Simmons did not receive the same level of recognition as she was not even nominated for Best Actress. She has the appearance of Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette (1943) but we are aware that there is something more going on beyond her green eyes and in small moments she is able to express her character's subconscious thoughts. If there were a weak link in the cast it would be Jones, who managed to win an Academy Award for her performance, as she feels as though she is impersonating Elizabeth Taylor in BUtterfield 8 (1960) and you lose interest when she appears on screen.

    Films that effectively criticize religion are surprisingly rare as Religulous (2008) is funny but unlikely to reveal anything that your average atheist does not already know and There Will Be Blood (2007) is a tad overzealous for my liking. This is a movie that manages to be a scathing critique of the evangelists who use impressionable people and extract money and unearned admiration out of them. We walk away feeling disgusted by the idea of anybody as manipulative as the characters we watch, they preach overly conservative and sometimes dangerous values while living like hedonists themselves. Furthermore it must be appreciated that this film was made in 1960, just three years after films like Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957) and Ben-Hur (1959), was making controversial, progressive statements and that is what makes it more timeless than a film like The Alamo (1960). Struggling salesman Elmer Gantry, Burt Lancaster, becomes inspired when he witnesses traveling evangelist Sister Sharon Falconer, Jean Simmons, attract attention from large crowds and receive financial donations from them. He worms his way into her inner circle and quickly takes to the stage himself as a preacher, experiencing immediate success. Gantry decides that they should hold a ‘revival' in Zenith, a larger city than Falconer has ever visited before, which initially presents it's challenges but brings Gantry and Falconer greater fame. Before long Gantry and Falconer enter into an affair but they face obstacles in the form of attacks from skeptical journalist Jim Lefferts, Arthur Kennedy, and blackmail from Gantry's former lover, prostitute Lulu Bains, Shirley Jones. The two are marred by scandalous pictures that Bains frames Gantry with but Falconer attempts to continue preaching with tragic results. Throughout the film pokes fun at the idea that all of this bible thumping really means anything more than entertainment for the masses. We see crowds eating up Gantry's persuasive but empty rhetoric, men speaking in tongues and the ‘virtuous' Falconer talking about milking cows while encouraging her rapt audience to place their money inside milk pails. All of these images inform us of just how little these revivals are about the values preached in the bible. For the preachers it provides an opportunity to perform and to be loved by an audience in addition to receiving their money, tax-free of course, while for the audience it is an opportunity for excitement. The towns that these characters visit are not particularly exciting and the faces that populate their meetings are those of middle-aged, working class people who do not experience high amounts of drama in their day to day lives. Through these revivals they delude themselves into thinking that they are being observant of religious practices and enriching their minds when really they are looking for cheap thrills. Falconer's character was perhaps the most interesting in the film as while Gantry is a full time hustler she believes that what she is doing is right even as she subconsciously desires the attention and the money. When Gantry first performs and receives loud applause from the audience we witness a sharp jab of jealousy cross her face as the spotlight is taken away from her. Her desire for Gantry is also fascinating to watch as she has always had an ability to justify the ends, in this case sleeping with a man, by the means and when the two step into the darkness we know exactly what they will be doing. Finally, her denial of the truth as she stands in the middle of a burning church and refuses to attempt escape in the belief that god will take care of her. Gantry, while he lacks intelligence in many other ways, is smart enough to make his way out of there and while he retains some feeling of affection for Falconer he is never really converted to her brand of religious fanaticism. Part of the reason that this film works so well is the impressive performances from the leads as Lancaster delivers one of his classic performances and Simmons' plays against type. Many of Lancaster's performances in mainstream films were rather over the top and he played a character who was meant to be brooding and serious in The Rose Tattoo (1955) as an overexcited puppy. Here, that style of acting works as his broad grin and frequent belly laughs add to the sense that Gantry is an insincere figure with the power to charm but also a lack of real identity. It is understandable that he won the Academy Award for Best Actor but strangely Simmons did not receive the same level of recognition as she was not even nominated for Best Actress. She has the appearance of Jennifer Jones in The Song of Bernadette (1943) but we are aware that there is something more going on beyond her green eyes and in small moments she is able to express her character's subconscious thoughts. If there were a weak link in the cast it would be Jones, who managed to win an Academy Award for her performance, as she feels as though she is impersonating Elizabeth Taylor in BUtterfield 8 (1960) and you lose interest when she appears on screen.

  • Aug 28, 2019

    Perfect for the modern age of fundamentalist hypocrisy in politics

    Perfect for the modern age of fundamentalist hypocrisy in politics

  • Mar 03, 2019

    A smart, though tough film, about revivalism and the thin ice it sometimes skates on. Lancaster and Simmons are excellent. The lady who won Best Supporting Actress is terrible.

    A smart, though tough film, about revivalism and the thin ice it sometimes skates on. Lancaster and Simmons are excellent. The lady who won Best Supporting Actress is terrible.

  • Feb 01, 2019

    The best movie ever made! With the best movie score ever composed!

    The best movie ever made! With the best movie score ever composed!

  • Mar 25, 2018

    The film pulls few punches in its story of the hypocrisy, materialism, and opportunism at the heart of the evangelical world of Bible-thumping barnstorming revival troupes.

    The film pulls few punches in its story of the hypocrisy, materialism, and opportunism at the heart of the evangelical world of Bible-thumping barnstorming revival troupes.

  • Mar 16, 2018

    Elmer Gantry is a deep exploration of touring tent revivals that were a big thing years ago. It’s interesting that the film takes us on this journey with a man who is deeply flawed, and living in sin as the movie opens. This calls into question all that he will do with the revivals from that point on. I think the questions it raises are interesting ones, and I enjoy the fact that the film never fully commits to where he stands at any given moment. He preaches with such authenticity, but we are questioning every moment if it is sincere. Then the film also asks us to question if Jean Simmons is on the level as more of her history is shown. But the connection between these two characters confused me a little, because I couldn’t see much chemistry. Also I thought Shirley Jones might have been cast in the wrong role, because she seems more innocent and wholesome. Likewise, there were some poor choices in the plot along the way. It meandered a number of times, and as a result the film is longer than it needs to be. Some of the plot points were repetitive, and that starts to make the excessive length a bit more obvious. That being said, seeing how these tent revivals could be structured, and how they worked with local churches was fascinating. It leads you to a number of questions whether the ends justify the means. I also appreciated that they never took this down the road I expected where we find out that people are being scammed out of large amounts of money, and that the main characters were total con artists. Instead the motives are more ambiguous. Elmer Gantry is a flawed film, but I’m glad I saw it because it explores some interesting themes.

    Elmer Gantry is a deep exploration of touring tent revivals that were a big thing years ago. It’s interesting that the film takes us on this journey with a man who is deeply flawed, and living in sin as the movie opens. This calls into question all that he will do with the revivals from that point on. I think the questions it raises are interesting ones, and I enjoy the fact that the film never fully commits to where he stands at any given moment. He preaches with such authenticity, but we are questioning every moment if it is sincere. Then the film also asks us to question if Jean Simmons is on the level as more of her history is shown. But the connection between these two characters confused me a little, because I couldn’t see much chemistry. Also I thought Shirley Jones might have been cast in the wrong role, because she seems more innocent and wholesome. Likewise, there were some poor choices in the plot along the way. It meandered a number of times, and as a result the film is longer than it needs to be. Some of the plot points were repetitive, and that starts to make the excessive length a bit more obvious. That being said, seeing how these tent revivals could be structured, and how they worked with local churches was fascinating. It leads you to a number of questions whether the ends justify the means. I also appreciated that they never took this down the road I expected where we find out that people are being scammed out of large amounts of money, and that the main characters were total con artists. Instead the motives are more ambiguous. Elmer Gantry is a flawed film, but I’m glad I saw it because it explores some interesting themes.