Burt Lancaster plays Elmer Gantry, a traveling salesman who can slip into any role he chooses and use whatever means necessary to get what he wants. He can twist any situation to his favor. So he becomes a manipulative evangelist.
When Elmer Gantry finds Sister Sharon Falconer, a successful traveling preacher played by Jean Simmons, he sees his next challenge. She wants long-term success in spiritual things, but isn’t above temptation.
Shirley Jones won her only Academy Award playing prostitute Lulu Bains. The Bains character was so far from her other roles, the Oscar was proof to the world that she could really act.
This film, directed by Richard Brooks, received three Oscars: Best Actor in a Leading Role went to Burt Lancaster, Best Actress in a Supporting Role went to Shirley Jones, Best Writing in a Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium went to Richard Brooks.