An Actor/Preacher Prepares: Billy Graham Performs the New Revivalism

By Kurt Edwards.

Published by Religion in Society, a book imprint by Common Ground Publishing

Format Price
Book: Print $US40.00
Book: Electronic $US15.00

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.

Keywords: Actor/Preacher, Performative Techniques, Elmer Gantry, Money, Fame and Favor, Celebrity

Book: Print (Paperback). Book: Electronic (PDF File; 5.690MB). Published by Religion in Society, a book imprint by Common Ground Publishing.

Dr. Kurt Edwards

Assistant Professor Communication and Performance Studies, Communication and Performance Studies, East Central University, Ada, OK, USA

Kurt was born and raised in Columbia Missouri and studied Theatre at the University of Missouri. From Missouri, Kurt moved to New York City where he pursued professional theatre for five years before completing a PhD at Bowling Green, Ohio in Theatre and Film. Kurt and his wife have two sons and live in Ada, Oklahoma where Kurt is Assistant Professor of Communication and Performance Studies at East Central University. Kurt's research interests surround the idea of religious performance and especially how preachers use quasi-acting theories in their practice.