A Two Minute & Twenty-Two Second Adventure: Shopping
Let me know if the YouTube isn’t available.
This personal video thing is something new… it may not even stay up. I’m thinking about taking short clips of things I do during the week and post some of them… as is.
I’ve just finished watching a movie called “Heaven’s Gate”, which alternates between being one of the best movies I’ve ever seen and one of the more frustratingly horrible. It’s a 1980 movie about the 1890’s Johnson County War, which was basically a mini-war in Wyoming between wealthy land owners and really poor Eastern European immigrants.
“Elmer Gantry” is on now… there’s a program on TVO, Ontario’s public broadcaster, called ‘Saturday Night At The Movies’. Every Saturday night they play two classic movies — usually with some theme in common — plus interviews done way back in the day with the people who made it. This week the common element is both films, “Gate” and “Gantry”, were both United Artist Studio pictures… Gantry was one of its most successful, winning an Academy Award for Burt Lancaster and Shirley Jones, and “Gate” was the movie which bankrupted the movie studio.
(If you didn’t know, United Artists was co-founded by a Canadian… actually MGM Studios was founded by two Canadians, and Warner Brothers was Canadian as well. I’ve written a bunch of stuff on how Canada invented Hollywood on my “Other Site”, if you’re interested.)
Elmer Gantry is one of my favourites, it’s a 1960’s movie based on a book from the 1920’s… it’s about the American Christian Revivalism Movement, one of the last things Gantry says in the movie is from Corinthians chapter one, 13:11 “When I was a child, I understood as a child and spake as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.” I’ve always loved that…
The history of religion in the United States, and Canada to a much lessor extent, is fairly wrapped up in “Gantry”. I’ve never read the book, but the movie follows a road-side tent Revivalist named Sister Sharon as she crosses the country… Burt plays Gantry, a salesman slash huckster who can preach like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell combined.
At first Sister Sharon is a street preacher “the common people put Christianity on the map in the first place”, but after Gantry falls for her his involvement grows her ministry as they move from town to town. Sister Sharon is too clean, she couldn’t offer sermons from the gutter, but Gantry, who had lived there and learned how to speak the language, could… “like two cops working over a criminal, Gantry offering them the electric chair and you offering them heaven.”
But Gantry was corrupted before finding Sister Sharon, his life as a Saved man was a con he started because of his growing infatuation for Sister Sharon. At the same time Sister Sharon became enthralled with the power he brought and his ability to drag her ministry into ever larger tents… so, of course, in the end every thing goes up in flames because Sister Sharon, as good as Good ever was, had been conned by Gantry into believing in her own Blessedness.
In “Gantry” the established churches take advantage of the religious awakenings Sister Sharon leaves in her wake. After her ministry leaves a town Church attendance soars and money flows to the alter. So the Churches want her to preach “like it or not we are in competition with entertainment”. But as she grows she starts to dream of a standing church of her own… maybe even one in each city and town. So the established churches, fearful of her ministry pulling parishioners and cash from their pews, plot against her.
For all of his best intentions, and Gantry does love Sister Sharon, every thing he does to make his kaleidescope vision of what he believes Sister Sharon wants to come true, just takes her another step away from what she was meant to do… one more step away from what Christianity was meant to be.
Thing is, as Gantry unintentionally drags Sister Sharon’s Christian ministry to the ground, she believes he is building it up… but it all leads to a point in the end where he is the only one of her flock who really seems to find redemption.
So, basically, there’s a True Believer (Gantry) without any faith in the God but only in the messenger (Sister Sharon), who inadvertently kills the messenger by getting her to believe in herself over her God.
In the end Gantry and Sister Sharon split Christ’s fate… Gantry, after three days “missing”, is reborn and tries to bring Sister Sharon back to her street preaching. Sister Sharon sees a shooting star — “a fiery line across the world” — and sees in it her future as the leader of a Greater Church, thanks to the work of Gantry.
Then, during a sermon in which she begins to “faith heal” as though Christ was in her body, she is sacrificed in a fire which also takes her first permanent church… her last words to her congregation are “Those who believe in God will be saved, trust in the Lord. Wait, we must have faith.” Somehow her Bible is the only piece of her they find after the fire burns out.
The common theme between “Gantry” and Heaven’s Gate” — after the United Artists thing — lies in the relationship between establishment and newcomer and how the Newbie’s inevitable corruption will lead them down the same path to becoming the Establishment and if they are to be reborn, if they want to find their path again, it’ll take a really large fire and the sacrifice of something very important.
Or something… this weekend I also rented “Klute” with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, and “Little Miss Sunshine” (for the third time) staring Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Abigail Breslin. I’m watching “Dr. Strangelove” later on…
Next week TVO is playing “Soylent Green”….