Thursday, December 17, 2009
Review: Elmer Gantry (1960)
Some movies never get dated. This one is not one of those movies. I guess it must have been a shock for the audiences back then, but now it's just simply a sometimes boring and sometimes quite entertaining movie.
It's about Elmer Gantry, a hard-drinking traveller salesman, who joins Sister Sharon (Jean Simmons), an evangelist and very soon he also becomes a preacher. And his hard-hitting "performances" attract people, but the scandal is unavoidable when a hooker and ex-lover of Gantry, Lulu Baines (Shirley Jones) turns up and mixes things up.
I really like Burt Lancaster as an actor, I really do and I think that he was an actor who definitely deserved an Oscar for something (Atlantic City for instance), but not this role. I thought he could only give either horrible (The Rose Tatoo) or brilliant performances (Atlantic City, The Leopard, Sweet Smell of Success), but I was wrong. He could also be so-so. His work is a really decent one and I certainly liked it, but the scenes when he was laughing annoyed me so much. His best scene was the very last one, it was a really brilliant one and the ones with Lulu were also quite good. It's only the beginning which is very distracting (or at least for me). I'm saying that he did not deserve to win the Oscar, but the nomination was deserved (my pick is either Jack Lemmon or Spencer Tracy).
Jean Simmons gives a quite weak performance as Sister Sharon. Many people are disappointed that she did not receive a nomination for this work, but in my opinion her acting in this movie is far from nomination-worthy.
Enough about the leads, because the two very best performances are given by the members of the supporting cast. Arthur Kennedy should have received a nomination for his very strong and memorable performance, which I really admired, and to tell the truth his character was the most decent one.
And there's Shirley Jones. I deliberately left her to the end, because she gives such a dazzling, exciting and sexy performance that it certainly earned that Oscar. She gives so much to the movie. Shortly: life. She appears 70 minutes into the movie and she's in it for 10 minutes maybe, but this short time was enough for her to make an impression. Many people are sad, because she won over Janet Leigh in Psycho, but I think the Academy made the right choice by choosing Jones, because she was both worthy of the award and SUPPORTING. I think Jones' Oscar was the only deserved one.
Richard Brooks' direction and screenplay are both quite dated. It's sad, because I really like his movies, I just did not get anything out of this.
But the last scene is excellently made so it's worth mentioning and there were some very good scenes throughout the movie, so it's not bad at all.
My Grade: 7/10
Nominations: Best Picture; Best Director (Brooks); Best Actor (Burt Lancaster; WON); Best Supporting Actress (Shirley Jones; WON); Best Adapted Screenplay (WON); Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
My wins: Best Supporting Actress for Shirley Jones.