Produced in 1960, the critically acclaimed film Elmer Gantry presents what can be seen as a satirical presentation of religion in America. The film, adapted from the eponymous 1927 novel, chronicles the scheme of a con artist and his wife soliciting and propagating a new religious movement. During the era of American history in the 1920s, many people similar to Gantry flooded the religious market, and the film seeks to appeal to viewers who are aware of such.
The 20th Century was home to the creation of religious movements--from the advent of Pentecostalism and its substituents, to the influx of radical cults. Of course, there were many during this time who were skeptical of these "revelations" and such perpetuated by the leaders of these groups. Throughout the 20th Century, many conservative religious leaders held moral double standards on the grounds of sexuality, alcohol, and other personal indulgences.
The film "Elmer Gantry" poses an extreme portrayal of the hypocritical nature and practices that, while growing in popularity, in turn created a base of individuals that despised such religious groups who saw through these people's opulent facades. Those who had such sentiments towards these movements were likely the target audience for this Academy Award-winning feature.
1960 New York Times Review, by A.H. WEILER