Burt Lancaster’s starring role in Elmer Gantry as a 1920s-era con artist who becomes a traveling preacher is one of the actor’s fieriest, most intense performances – all hell and brimstone and righteous fury. The role won Lancaster a Best Actor Oscar in 1961; Shirley Jones also won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of a prostitute from Gantry’s past who re-enters his life at an inopportune moment.
The movie, which happens to resonate strongly with the ongoing debate about the role of evangelism in the political arena, will screen at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday March 20 at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami, as part of the Turner Classic Movies’ Road to Hollywood traveling film series. Tickets are free.
As a bonus, Jones – who a lot of people only know as the “Let’s all sing a song!” mom on TV’s The Partridge Family – will attend the screening and participate in a Q&A discussion with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. Who knew Shirley Partridge had been such a sexy temptress in her youth?
Although Elmer Gantry was based on an acclaimed novel by Sinclair Lewis, writer-director Richard Brooks (In Cold Blood, Looking for Mr. Goodbar) focused on a small portion of the book and took great liberties with its plot and characters. The result may have horrified the book clubs of the era, but it remains a powerful and hugely entertaining film. Watching it on the Gusman’s huge screen will only make it better.
Go here for information on how to obtain tickets.