An Actor/Preacher Prepares

Actorpreacher prepares front cover

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  • Title: An Actor/Preacher Prepares: Billy Graham Performs the New Revivalism
  • Author(s): Kurt Edwards
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Religion in Society
  • Keywords: Actor/Preacher, Performative Techniques, Elmer Gantry, Money, Fame and Favor, Celebrity
  • Year: 2012
  • ISBN (pbk): 978-1-86335-982-5
  • ISBN (pdf): 978-1-86335-983-2
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Edwards, Kurt. 2012. An Actor/Preacher Prepares: Billy Graham Performs the New Revivalism. Champaign, IL: Common Ground Research Networks. doi:10.18848/978-1-86335-983-2/CGP.
  • Extent: 157 pages


Throughout Billy Graham’s career, the evangelist used performative techniques to ensure that he would not be perceived as an “Elmer Gantry,” a huckster preacher out to win money, fame, and favor. Graham desired to grow a ministry that would form a new performance paradigm for American revivalism. Graham prepared like an actor: training his voice and body as well as writing a different style of script to capitalize on celebrity, and embracing new media forms to bring his message to the world. At the same time Graham distanced himself from being seen as the character in Sinclair Lewis’ novel Elmer Gantry and subsequent Richard Brooks directed movie version of Elmer Gantry starring Burt Lancaster as a Graham-like Gantry. Taking a cue from Constantin Stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares, this book, An Actor/ Preacher prepares, reintroduces a familiar figure of recent history and elucidates the social and performative transitions essential to Billy Graham’s journey to cast himself as an appropriate evangelist. Starting before the Los Angeles crusade of 1949 to his reaction following the Academy Awards when the movie version of Elmer Gantry won three statues (1961), this book sheds critical light on the way Graham created a new revivalism based on his new performance paradigm.