Classic Movie Reviews

Elmer Gantry Review

Movie Memorabilia

1927 Autographed Copy of Elmer Gantry

Signed by Author Sinclair Lewis


Sister Sharon Falconer, the character portrayed by Jean Simmons in Elmer Gantry, strongly suggests a real-life counterpart, Aimee Semple McPherson (Oct 1890 - Sep 1944), a Canadian-American evangelist. McPherson preached her first sermon at Mt. Forest, Ontario, in 1915 and quickly drew a large following. In 1918 she moved to Los Angeles and founded the Angelus Temple, later renamed The Church of the Foursquare Gospel, where she preached for over 20 years. Sister Aimee pioneered the use of modern media, especially radio, in the service of evangelism. She was the second woman ever granted a broadcast license in the U. S. She was at the center of the greatest celebrity scandal/mystery of the time when she disappeared and was presumed dead. There were rumors that she had gone off with a married lover and others thought she had been kidnapped. Her mother even received a ransom demand. When she later walked out of a desert in Mexico, claiming she had escaped from kidnappers, there was a lot of skepticism, spurred by circumstantial evidence of a lover's tryst with a married man, but nothing was ever proved one way or the other. At the time of her death in 1944, Sister Aimee's evangelical organization had 400 branches across the U. S. and Canada.

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"Don't you know that hurts?"  


     Burt Lancaster's Oscar-winning portrayal of a fast-talking salesman and small-time con man drives this film about religious revivalism in the 1920s. He even manages to sell Sister Sharon (Jean Simmons) on the idea of adding him to her travelling "come to Jesus" campaign and he discovers he was born to be a preacher. Shirley Jones won an Oscar as a woman "ruined" by Gantry in her youth and who seeks revenge. Dean Jagger plays Sister Sharon's business manager and Arthur Kennedy is a cynical reporter covering the revivalist movement. The film's five Oscars also include "Best Picture."

1960, Directed by Richard Brooks

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