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Elmer Gantry [VHS]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, Arthur Kennedy, Dean Jagger, Shirley Jones
  • Directors: Richard Brooks
  • Writers: Richard Brooks, Sinclair Lewis
  • Producers: Bernard Smith
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, HiFi Sound, Original recording reissued, NTSC
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Fox Home Entertainme
  • VHS Release Date: August 3, 1999
  • Run Time: 146 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0792837967
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,334 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Handsome, opportunistic, immoral. Traveling salesman Elmer Gantry is all this and more. So when he stumbles into a revival meeting and discovers that he can hustle money in a tent-show as easily as in a saloon, Gantry converts to evangelism. Joining forces with Sister Sharon Falconer, he delivers demon-bashing oratories that bring him fame and fortune. But when an old flame re-appears, Gantry is forced to confront demons of a more worldly order. Elmer Gantry was nominated for five Oscars, and won for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Writing. Approx running time 2 hrs 27 min, color, not rated. Stars Burt Lancaster (Best Actor), Jean Simmons, and Shirley Jones (Best Supporting Actress).


Brothers and sisters, can we get a witness for this woeful tale of saints and sinners? Burt Lancaster earned his only Oscar as the wide-smiling, glad-handing, soul-saving charlatan Elmer Gantry, a salesman who turns his gift for preaching into a career at the pulpit. Climbing on board the barnstorming evangelical tour of revivalist Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons), a true believer in the Aimee Semple McPherson mold, Gantry declaims, invokes, and sermonizes his way to the top until a former flame-turned-prostitute (Shirley Jones in an Oscar-winning performance) threatens to reveal his dark past as a womanizer and con man. Lancaster harnesses all his physical vigor and natural charisma for this role, literally throwing himself into his preaching with the vigor of an acrobat and the sing-song delivery of a gospel singer--he even brays like a hound to show the Holy Spirit within him. Gantry is a showman, pure and simple, and while he doesn't fool true-believer Sister Sharon, he gives her a few object lessons in playing the crowd. Director Richard Brooks, who also took home an Oscar for his screenplay (adapted from the Sinclair Lewis novel), creates a rousing drama both on and off the pulpit, and provides fine roles for an excellent supporting cast, including Arthur Kennedy, Dean Jagger, John McIntire, and singer Patti Page. --Sean Axmaker

Customer Reviews

"You're better than the people," Lancaster explains.
William Hare
What impressed me about the film was the complexity of it's characters with all their virtues and failings.
David Baldwin
Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, and Shirley Jones all gave superb performances!!
Marlene Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 63 people found the following review helpful By William Hare on March 5, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This was Burt Lancaster's Oscar winner, a film in which the great performer achieved a Best Actor statuette for, according to those who knew him from his East Harlem days, largely playing himself. The fast talking Elmer Gantry, the colorful lead of the film of the same name, uses his gift of gab to get him by in what the Bible pounding revivalist recognizes is a tough world. When the film was released Lancaster reportedly heard from friends during his New York youth that he had not seen in years, who recalled the youthful Lancaster's gift of gab, which had become a neighborhood staple.
Lancaster, along with the film's producer-director-writer Richard Brooks, recognized the cinematic potential of the Prohibition era novel by America's first Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Minnesotan Sinclair Lewis. Gantry alternates as a poker playing, whisky drinking, brawling brothel habitue and a stern-faced preacher extolling the masses in packed tent services to toe the mark for the Lord or face the fires of hell.
Lancaster and Brooks spent six months in the director's office hashing out the story, two emotional creative forces hellbent on achieving the major success which resulted. The effort earned a Best Screenplay Oscar for Brooks. The story that was put on the screen in the 1960 classic involved non-stop action and biting irony, along with a needed touch of humor to lighten the story's heavy impact.
Lancaster's transitory existence is revealed in the first scene of the film, when he barely escapes with his life after being attacked by a group of hobos in the box car of a train on which he is riding.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Mr Peter G George on March 21, 2001
Format: DVD
If Elmer Gantry were merely a satire and an exposé of revivalism it would not be as powerful and subtle as it is. Gantry, as played by a brilliant Burt Lancaster, may be a hypocrite in that he does not practice what he preaches, but there is no doubt in my mind that he genuinely believes. This makes him a complex character for we are not altogether sure what his motives are. When he joins Sister Sharon's evangelical crusade it is unclear whether he does it because he is attracted to her, because he hopes to make money, or whether along with these motives he really wishes to spread the word.
The characters in this film have all the failings of human beings. Jean Simmons, acting the part of Sister Sharon, makes her seem almost like a saint. In the end she comes to resemble Joan of Arc. However, her image of purity is mixed with other factors. She has ambition and she has desire. This mixture makes her a rounded and interesting character. It would have been easy to make a film where Gantry and Sharon were mere charlatans, but then we would not care about them. Instead the film presents a complex but ultimately sympathetic view of faith. Even Arthur Kennedy's sceptical newspaperman admits that he wishes he could believe. Gantry may have many faults but he is a good man. He is kind to the prostitute, played by Shirley Jones, even after she has tried to destroy him. Thus, despite his lapses, he shows the strength and the quality of his faith.
The print used for this DVD is presented in its original ratio, it is clear and has very little apparent damage. The DVD also includes the original theatrical trailer.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By J. Botha on April 13, 2004
Format: DVD
Elmer Gantry, (Burt Lancaster), is a travelling evangelist with one eye on the Lord and one eye on the ladies! Elmer put's his amazing gift of the gab to use by preaching in tent meetings. Along the way he meets Sister Falconer, (Jean Simmons), who takes him under her wing, there working relationship soon turns personal.
Elmer Gantry is one of the greatest, (in my opinion), movies ever made. Burt Lancaster won his only oscar for his dynamic manic performance as the charlatan with a heart of gold. His preaching style is bombastic, his personal life morally bankrupt. It's really eerie how he resembles a number of "Evangelists", that I have come across in person or on the television. Elmer Gantry truly represents a lot of the tele-evangelists that have come and gone over the last 50 years or so as does Sister Falconer.
Watching Burt Lancaster in full flight as he belts out his sermons and slides across the platform is a true joy to behold. It's a really great actor in his prime, and wonderfully entertaining.
All in all it's a great romp with fantastic dialogue, wonderful performances and it's controversial theme packs a punch even today when Tele-evangelist, whilst know less popular, are still racking in the big bucks and filling stadiums with willing followers. To the Christian, let this film be a lesson for all of us, there are wolves in sheeps clothing around.
Thanks for reading and enjoy and maybe be educated by this wonderful film.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Adams on May 29, 2001
Format: DVD
A superb film. Simply profound. The sermons are as stirring today as when the screenplay was written.
Words can't express how great Burt Lancaster is in this film.
But like most truly significant movie classics, the supporting cast adds substance and strength to the overall impact of "Elmer Gantry." Shirley Jones is as sexy as any female that has appeared on the screen. Jean Simmons is spellbinding as Sister Sharon.
The film's highlight for me was the meeting involving Sister Sharon, Gantry, and William Morgan with a group of ministers negotiating the terms of a planned extended tent ministry in the fictious city of Zenith. Distrubing and embarassing -- always thought provoking.
A memorable film, worthy of repeated viewings and serious contemplation.
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