Thursday, March 09, 2017

Elmer Gantry. 1960

Simplistic, loud and over long adaption of the Sinclair Lewis novel that was quite the thing back in 1960. The film was controversial for its taking down of organized religion with the bulk of the story focusing on revival tent preachers and evangelists who roamed the back woods and rural wastelands of the country during the late 1920's. We can look at this film and see our past and sadly our present state of affairs. Lewis was attacking the simple schnooks who because of their lack of everything hung on to the false hopes of salvation that these phonies and fakes promised them if only they would believe and also part with the few pennies they had. The main character is the sometimes salesman, gambler and phony played with zest and color by Burt Lancaster whose wake you up performance finally won him an Oscar, mainlyi think for his teeth and smile. He does move and he's fun to watch as he always was, but its a one dimensional performance without much subtly and shade. He takes up with a tent show preacher played more low keyed by Jean Simmons who of course falls for Burt's red hot sexuality which ultimately does her in. There are the usual stereotypes hanging around including the cynical news reporter played by Arthur Kennedy who excelled at these kind of roles, Dean Jagger as Simmons's right hand man, an unexpected Patti Page and the prerequisite prostitute who had an early run in with Elmer when she was an innocent country girl thing played by Shirley Jones, who in a few brief scenes walked off with an undeserved supporting actress Oscar. Hollywood loves when their good girls go bad. I was pretty much bored by the whole thing, the film is so obvious and overloaded but I have to give the writer and director Richard Brooks credit for giving the film a decent period look which was uncommon in Hollywood films at the time. With a good thumping score by Andre Previn and saturated color cinematography by the great John Alton.


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