Elmer Gantry


A fast-talking traveling salesman with a charming, loquacious manner convinces a sincere evangelist that he can be an effective preacher for her cause.

ACTORS : Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, Arthur Kennedy


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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.

Big performance from Burt Lancaster


Elmer Gantry, It’s the prohibition era. Elmer Gantry (Burt Lancaster) is a slick traveling salesman who is a boozer and a dog hound. He is a born salesman well versed with the bible. He is so good that it is hard to tell the difference whether he’s sincere or lying. He is one haunted by his checkered past and his immorality. He is taken with Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons) who runs revival meetings. She’s a true believer. He badgers her until she allows him to preach. He becomes so successful that he becomes indispensable to Sister Sharon’s roadshow. Bill Morgan sees thru Elmer and tells Sharon that in 1917 he was expelled from the seminary for seducing the deacon’s daughter. She ignores the warning and they become a great success in the big city. Then his past comes back to haunt him in the form of Lulu Bains (Shirley Jones) who is now a prostitute.

Burt Lancaster gives such a big performance. It is so big that it always has a tinge of falsehood. His laugh is so outrageous that it plays both sides of the divide. It’s this big performance that is so memorable. Jean Simmons is the perfect compliment. She is the embodiment of purity of spirit. Burt definitely deserves his Oscar win. I can see some people taking offense from the depiction of religious revival. However I see a great role model in Sister Sharon. It’s also a tale of salvation for Elmer Gantry.

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