I saw ELMER GANTRY when it made its network TV debut. I've rented it from my video store a few times. Beside the social issues, it made me aware of good screen acting and the fact that every part, a leading role or a bit part, is important.
Max Showalter also burned himself into my memory with his performance. In later years, it taught me a valuable lesson in acting. Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons and Shirley Jones are stars you know. Max Showalter was not a star although his face was recognizable because he worked in many films and TV programs. You knew his face but you didn't know his name. If you're into classic films, he played the husband opposite Jean Peters who gets involved with the troubled married coupled played by Joseph Cotten and Marilyn Monroe in NIAGARA. He's seen as one of the singing salesman on the train in the opening number of THE MUSIC MAN.
Most of the on-camera acting I've done has been in TV commercials. I did two bit parts in episodes of THE SOPRANOS. My bit part in the Season 3 episode entitled EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH was influenced by Max Showalter's work in ELMER GANTRY. I had only five lines. However, I was given the entire script to read. When I did, I realized what was driving the episode and the action that led up to my brief appearance. That information told me exactly how to play the character. I didn't treat the role as "only a bit part."
ELMER GANTRY, based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis, was directed by Richard Brooks. Brooks also wrote the screenplay. To me, the movie was not just entertaining. It was enlightening and educational. By the way, in that script for THE SOPRANOS, the TV reporter was written as "a young, willowy blonde." The casting director had seen me months before at another audition, remembered me, and gave me the part. She said, "Forget the description of the character. I've seen your work. I know you can do it." And I did.