Elmer Gantry, from the novel written by Sinclair Lewis, adapted and directed by Richard Brooks. This is a film I never get tired of watching. Burt Lancaster is superb as a con man traveling with a feamle evangelist and “selling” religion. Both Lancaster and Shirley Jones won Oscars for their performances in what should have been (in my opinion) the Best Picture of the year for 1960. Lacaster’s depth and charecterization of Elmer Gantry is short of amazing. The storyline with the prostitute Lulu (played by Shirley Jones) I thought was most intriguing. Lulu 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. She hears of his “new found faith” and tries to blackmail him, but instead backs out, but the deed is done and he is destroyed and humiliated. He then comes to her aid when she is abused by her pimp.
Jones gives a remarkable performance and was very oscar worthy. Jean Simmons also gives an outstanding performance as the evangelist. As I said before, I could watch this movie over and over. It deals with emotion, love, lust, greed and revenge. I am sure this story was riveting and an indictment in it’s day, but since then we have seen many of our own “Elmer Gantrys” played out in real life churches and pulpits across the country.