“I’m on my way”

I’ve been doing some digging around for great cinematic sermons, and during my relatively fruitless search I came across the scene below from Elmer Gantry (1960). This is a film I have yet to see, but after watching Burt Lancaster bust out in song like this I might have to get this film as soon as possible.

By the way, I’m trying to think of great cinematic sermons, and I am drawing a compete blank save for Orson Welles’s masterpiece in John Huston’s Moby Dick –any help out there?

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13 Responses to “I’m on my way”

  1. 5tein says:

    The only one that comes to mind–and this is not great except in it’s humor–is sir Ian McKellan’s “No Butter In Hell” sermon from “Cold Comfort Farm”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7Ge0fWvgr8

  2. Scott Leslie says:

    I’ll keep thinking, because there have to be plenty, but the only ones that came to mind were “World’s Greatest Sinner” (can’t find the clip), Mitchum’s love/hate speech in “Night of the Hunter” (this has to qualify as a sermon, doesn’t it?) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X20XIg38GcE and of course the Reverend Cleophus James – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k5N4KrZ0pw

  3. jmcclurken says:

    What about the sermons in John Sayles’s Matewan?

  4. Brad says:

    The sermon that serves as the centerpiece for Vernon, Florida. It’s a terrible sermon logistically, but it’s downright hilarious in the context of the film.
    I mean if you ask me, though, the entire film is a sermon in itself…

  5. Reverend says:

    @5stein: Brilliant, I have yet to see that film, but McClellan nails the tone, delivery, and rhetoric I am thinking about–beautiful–thanks for this!

    @Scott: Yeah, Mitchum’s “love abattlin’ hate” is certainly a sermon, I just plumb forgot it. I got “The World’s Greatest Sinner” on your recommendation and will be sitting down with it shortly now. As for Cleophus James, gem, gem, gen –I know there are so many I have seen, and as soon as I hit that YouTube link my mouth turned into a huge smile. Awesome!

    @Jeff: The boy preacher, nice. Which also reminds me of There Will Be Blood, but that actor is far inferior to the kid in Matewan.

    @Brad: That sermon in Vernon, Florida is wild, I must admit. And it is the most outlandish example of a muddled reading I may have heard on film. But that is what Morris is going for in that film, and the film is definitely a sermon, and I struggle with that fact. We have to talk about this one in detail over dinner.

  6. Joe says:

    Oh, Jim! You must (if you haven’t yet) see Robert Duvall’s 1997 “The Apostle” (he wrote, directed, produced and stars). Chock-full of spectacular preaching–some by actors (Duvall himself isn’t bad) and some by non-actors.

  7. Brad says:

    There isn’t a clip on Youtube, but the sermon in La Notte di San Lorenzo is absolutely devastating. An instant pulpit classic.

  8. Reverend says:

    Nice, very nice. I’ve seen it and forgot it as well when racking my brain. Duval is awesome in that, an I think that movie is really powerful. I’m a huge fan, so you rule for bringing it into the list.

    I haevn;t seen that film, I’m going to put it on my list now. is that one you saw at UMW? Can I get my hands on it that way–keep them coming Judges. I am modeling the approach for my next presentation on your blog. You do inspire me, even if I fight you about Vernon, Florida 🙂

  9. Brad says:

    Yea, it’s the one we watched for Ital. 202. Really powerful all the way through, proof that there are a million film classics out there that are sorely neglected just for being “foreign.” American-dominated media is out the door, my friend!
    I think you could get it from the school? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely worth a check.
    And if you wanna talk Vernon, I’m taking my gloves off, brother.

  10. Jerry says:

    I believe “Inherit the Wind” contains a sermon, as well as some of the courtroom scenes approach sermon status.

    Also, in the Blues Brothers movie, James Brown is the preacher in a musical sermon.

  11. Brian says:

    I second World’s Greatest Sinner – which is essentially built around Tim Carey’s lunatic sermons.

    But I keep coming back to John Huston’s Wise Blood… sermon sampled by Ministry in “Jesus Built My Hotrod”

  12. Reverend says:


    Inherit the Wind is a classic, William Jennings Bryant’s parts in the courtroom are classic sermons, good call.

    I never saw Wise Blood, but Huston is awesome, and just thinking about him in Chinatown excites me for how insane his sermon just might be, added t the list. Thanks bro.

  13. Brad says:

    Public access unsyndicated sermons forever!

    I found my new favorite internet video.

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