Elmer Gantry (film)
|Directed by||Richard Brooks|
|Produced by||Bernard Smith|
|Screenplay by||Richard Brooks|
|Based on||Elmer Gantry
by Sinclair Lewis
|Music by||André Previn|
|Editing by||Marjorie Fowler|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||146 minutes|
|Box office||$5.2 million (US/ Canada rentals) |
Elmer Gantry is a 1960 drama film about a con man and a female evangelist selling religion to small town America. Adapted by director Richard Brooks, the film is based on the 1927 novel of the same name by Sinclair Lewis and stars Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons.
The movie presents fewer than 100 pages of the novel, deleting many characters and fundamentally changing the character and actions of female evangelist Sharon Falconer, played by Simmons. The story's use of a female evangelist bears a resemblance to true-life Sister Aimee Semple McPherson.
Elmer Gantry (Burt Lancaster) is a hard-drinking, fast-talking traveling salesman with a charismatic personality. He is drawn to the road show of Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons) and is immediately attracted to the saintly revivalist.
Gantry soon cons his way into Sister Sharon's good graces and joins the troupe as a fiery preacher. Gantry and Falconer develop what her manager calls a "good cop/bad cop" routine, with Elmer telling the audience members that they will burn in Hell for their sins and Sharon promising salvation if they repent.
The group makes its way out of exclusively provincial venues and into Zenith, Winnemac, a larger city. Falconer eventually admits to Gantry that her real name is Katie Jones and that her origins are humbler than she publicly admits. Falconer also becomes Gantry's lover and loses her virginity to him.
Gantry's on-stage antics draw the attention of a big-city reporter, the skeptical Jim Lefferts (Arthur Kennedy). Lefferts is shown to be torn between his disgust for religious hucksterism and his genuine admiration for Gantry's charm and cunning. The two men begin a public feud which increases the notoriety of both.
The success of the Falconer-Gantry team comes to the attention of Lulu Baines (Shirley Jones), a former girlfriend of Elmer's who fell into disrepute and became a prostitute when her affair with Gantry ruined her standing in her minister father's eyes.
Gantry, acting as a moralist, unwittingly invades the brothel where Lulu works. With police and media in tow, he sends the prostitutes out of town. Lulu proceeds to frame Gantry out of revenge for this and out of jealousy for his relationship with Falconer.
Lulu blackmails him. Falconer is asked to bring $25,000 in exchange for the negatives of incriminating pictures. Falconer brings the money, but Lulu refuses to accept; it is unclear why she has had a change of heart.
Lulu had at first offered Lefferts the exclusive story of Gantry's sexual indiscretion, but he refused, shrugging the pictures off as merely proof that Gantry is as human as anyone else. Later, when an angry mob threatens Gantry at the tent revival following the publication of the incriminating photos in another newspaper, Lefferts fights in Gantry's defense.
Lulu joins the congregation at this tent revival and is a witness to Gantry's humiliation. As she watches the mob curse Gantry and smear him with eggs and other produce, she is emotionally shaken and flees the scene.
Lulu returns to the brothel, which is now in a dilapidated state from Gantry's publicity stunt. Her pimp, who with the photographer had helped frame Gantry, is there to collect the $25,000. Lulu tells him she did not take Falconer's money, whereupon he beats her. Gantry comes to Lulu's rescue. He disposes of the pimp and apologizes to Lulu, who then publicly confesses to having framed Gantry.
Elmer returns to Sharon on the night her new tabernacle opens. He wants them to live like a more normal couple. Sharon is unable to give up her soul-saving ventures, though, and insists that she and Elmer were brought together by God to do His work. Sharon then tragically dies in a fire at the tabernacle, unable or unwilling to see past her own religious zeal when the place is engulfed in flames.
Deeply saddened by Sharon's death and having reached something of a moral awakening, Elmer decides to stop evangelizing, quoting from the Bible: "When I was a child, I understood as a child and spake as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11)
- Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry
- Jean Simmons as Sharon Falconer
- Arthur Kennedy as Jim Lefferts
- Dean Jagger as William L. Morgan
- Shirley Jones as Lulu Bains
- Patti Page as Sister Rachel
- Edward Andrews as George F. Babbitt
- John McIntire as Rev. John Pengilly
- Hugh Marlowe as Rev. Philip Garrison
- Joe Maross as Pete
- Dayton Lummis as Eddington, newspaper publisher
- Harry Antrim as salesman in a speakeasy
- Barbara Luna as a prostitute (un-credited)
|Soundtrack album by André Previn|
|Released||August 25, 1998|
A remastered and enhanced soundtrack was released on CD on August 25, 1998.
All compositions by André Previn.
- "Main Title" (1:45)
- "Long Distance" (1:38)
- "Mr. Babbitt" (3:15)
- "Lulu's Room" (2:49)
- "Do You Believe" (1:55)
- "Not As My Lover" (1:10)
- "Under The Pier" (3:14)
- "Shall We Gather At The River" (1:43)
- "Kiss Me Goodbye" (4:06)
- "Stand Up For Jesus" (1:16)
- "Elmer And Lulu" (1:25)
- "End Title" (1:35)
- "Orchestral Suite" (2:56)
- "Onward Christian Soldiers (Instrumental)"(1:25)
- "Shall We Gather At The River" (1:43)
- "Stand Up For Jesus" (1:15)
- "I'm On My Way" (Burt Lancaster – Vocal) (2:47)
Awards and nominations 
The film won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Burt Lancaster), Best Supporting Actress (Shirley Jones) and Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Richard Brooks). It was also nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture and Best Picture.
- "All-Time Top Grossers", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 69
- Wheeler Dixon. "Cinematic Adaptations of the Works of Sinclair Lewis." Sinclair Lewis at 100: Papers Presented at a Centennial Conference. Ed. Michael Connaughton. St. Cloud: St. Cloud State University, 1985. 191–200.
- Elmer Gantry at the Internet Movie Database
- Elmer Gantry at the TCM Movie Database
- Elmer Gantry at AllRovi