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

Thursday, July 7, 2022


  • Jean Simmons and Burt Lancaster
(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), 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. ***.


angelman66 said...

I agree totally with you about this movie, a lot of good things in it but doesn't hold together well or stay with you. Love Shirley Jones in her small role, playing against type.
Maybe the issue is Lancaster...though I loved him in Judgment at Nuremberg, his stoic hyper masculine persona comes off as wooden in a lot of his films, like Separate Tables. He is handsome but not a deeply emotional or exciting actor (unlike a Mitchum)...what do you think?

William said...

I very much agree with you about Lancaster. One of those actors, however, who can be fine in certain roles and with certain directors, "Come Back, Little Sheba," for instance.

angelman66 said...

***Yes! Great movie and Burt is perfect in that one!

William said...

Better than poor Larry Olivier when he attempted the role for television! Terrible miscasting!