Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ELMER GANTRY


ELMER GANTRY (1960). Director: Richard Brooks.

"He rammed the fist of God into me so fast that I never heard my father's footsteps." -- Lulu

Elmer Gantry (Burt Lancaster) is an operator who discovers there's money to be made and power achieved in the Evangelical movement, so he hooks up with one Sister Sharon (Jean Simmons) and her associate William Morgan (Dean Jagger), who doesn't quite trust Gantry. He and Sharon make a highly effective team but things are threatened when Lulu (Shirley Jones, pictured), an old girlfriend and preacher's daughter who's become a hooker, resurfaces in Gantry's life at an inopportune moment. The entire cast is fairly terrific, and that includes Hugh Marlowe [All About Eve; Earth vs. the Flying Saucers] in a supporting part as an anti-revivalism reverend; Arthur Kennedy as a reporter; and the always-flavorful Edward Anderson as Babbitt. Elmer Gantry is interesting and entertaining, but it doesn't always make its points very clearly, and one senses that its opportunities to say something have been blunted. The climactic fire is quite well-handled. The low point is Lancaster and Patti Page doing a duet, with Page in Full Female Vocalist mode. Nice score by Andre Previn.

Verdict: Somehow less than the sum of its parts, but never boring. ***.

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