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Elmer Gantry: A Reason To Get Up In The Morning

By , 31 January, 2012, No Comment

I just discovered that one of my favorite films, Elmer Gantry (1960), will be on TCM today, Tuesday, January 31, 6:00 AM (ET). I’m going to be up to watch it because I haven’t yet purchased the DVD.

Starring Jean Simmons and Burt Lancaster (who won an Oscar for his role as Elmer Gantry), this is a powerful film about faith and fanaticism, foibles and fairness — but above all, it’s character-driven story about human character. It’s the best combination of issues to chew on and characters to consider, long after the film is over.

I love those sorts of stories.

Shirley Jones Seducing Burt Lancaster

In terms of fashion, the spotlight is on Shirley Jones (who also won an Oscar for her role of Lulu Bains) in classic lingerie, most notably visible in the scene in which Lulu attempts to seduce and shame Elmer. (Click the link to watch!)

What may have begun as the vengeful opportunistic act of a lover scorned (deflowered and left to prostitution) is quickly shown to be more complicated, exposing more than unfinished business but unrequited feelings between the two.

It’s brilliant stuff, really. Not what many may expect from the Shirley Jones they remember from The Partridge Family or know from musicals (although I cry every time I see Carousel).

But if you watch Elmer Gantry, this is precisely the sort of thing you learn to refrain from. For Jones’ performance as Lulu (as layered as anyone else’s in the movie), should teach you to look beneath the surface, what you think you know. The perceptions of “who and what Shirley Jones is” that the viewer brings to this classic film is, in this case, a layer of experience that only adds to this film.

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