Legendary American actor Burt Lancaster earned the only Oscar (out of four nominations) for Best Actor for his role as a traveling salesman and tramp, both a sweet-spoken and resourceful con man who will become a preacher, Elmer Gantry. The film, named after the main character, had a total of five nominations, including Best Picture, and Richard Brooks wrote a screenplay for which he also won an Oscar and directed a film based on the novel of the same name by Sinclair Lewis. It is still one of the most current and relevant and very interesting films that shows how little human nature has changed in these hundred years as it divides the present and the plot of the film and how people have always tended to trust various charismatics who tell them what they want. hear.
But the story is not so straightforward, it is complex, and despite the fact that the film lasts almost two and a half hours, Brooks shot a dynamic and interesting epic drama whose characters will undergo an interesting transformation to the end. As everything has always been show business in America, religion is no exception, and all those countless Christian denominations there have been founded by all sorts of guys over the years. Religion is also often an extremely lucrative business and there are also countless preachers and charismatics who have become very rich by shouting all sorts of nonsense and pretending to be Jesus’ messengers.
One such traveling preacher who attracts more and more believers, mostly illiterate and semi-literate poor, will be targeted by the title character. At the beginning, we meet Elmer as a charming tramp, a well-read guy who knows a lot of quotes from the Bible and likes to honestly peek into a glass and is extremely resourceful when someone needs to make money. The money certainly belongs to preacher Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons), a young evangelist who will attract Elmer’s attention and very soon he will squeeze into her caravan, and then with various deceptions and charm will also become a preacher who will travel side by side with her and fuck with her to God, to the sins and evil of Satan that lurks.
And while we know from the beginning who Elmer is and what he is, he will succeed in completely seducing and enchanting the preacher who will become more and more popular with his new partner. The guy who was practically a typical sinner until yesterday, a womanizer and a drunkard, will now become the main instigator in the hypocritical fight against viciousness, alcohol and will embark on a dangerous game in which he could be left without everything again. And nothing will be black and white and unambiguous until the end, and of course that someday his past will have to be revealed and become a weight for the preacher who has become synonymous with chastity, virtue and orthodoxy.
And the role of Elmer was perhaps the best in the career of Burt Lancaster, one of the biggest stars of the fifties alongside Marlon Brand, James Dean and Paul Newman, but also a star who could be called a casual actor. After working as a circus acrobat in his youth to then join the U.S. Army in World War II, he happened to end up on Broadway in the mid-1940s. He had his first film role at the age of 33, and very quickly became a big star and one of the most sought-after actors of his time.