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Jean Simmons on TCM: Elmer Gantry, The Happy Ending, The Big Country

Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, Elmer Gantry Turner Classic Movies' Star of the Month Jean Simmons' film series comes to a close tonight, with the presentation of seven Jean Simmons movies. Directed by veteran Mervyn LeRoy, Home Before Dark is on right now. Next in line is Richard Brooks' Elmer Gantry (1960), which earned Burt Lancaster a somewhat undeserved Oscar. Lancaster gutsily tackles the role of a charlatan traveling preacher, but as was often the case in his career, "gutsy" didn't exactly translate into "truthful." Simmons, on the other hand, quietly shines as an Aimee Semple McPherson-inspired Christian preacher, and so does Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Shirley Jones as the traveling preacher's pet sex worker. Though hardly as hard-hitting as it could have been, Elmer Gantry should be mandatory viewing at Christian schools and churches everywhere. Adults will learn that if you sin, you'd better not get caught; kids will enjoy the circus fire.

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