|Directed by||Howard Smith
|Produced by||Howard Smith
|Edited by||Lawrence Silk|
|Distributed by||Cinema 5 Distributing|
|July 24, 1972|
Marjoe is a 1972 American documentary film produced and directed by Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan about the life of evangelist Marjoe Gortner. It won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Marjoe was a precocious child preacher with extraordinary talents, who was immensely popular in the American South. His parents earned large sums of money off him up until the point he outgrew his novelty. Marjoe rejoined the ministry as a young adult solely as a means of earning a living, and not as a believer; he spent the next several years using his fame and status as an evangelist to earn a living from both tent revivals and televangelism.
Eventually, Gortner suffered a crisis of conscience and decided to give up the revival circuit. He offered the documentary film crew unrestricted access to him during his final revival tour, which took place in 1971. The film contains scenes from revival meetings showing Gortner preaching and praying for people in Los Angeles, Fort Worth, Detroit and Anaheim. This is interspersed with footage of Gortner admitting on camera that he was a non-believer and revealing the tactics used by him and other evangelists to manipulate people and move them during revivals. He said he studied Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.
At the time of the film's release, he generated considerable press, but the movie was not shown widely in theaters in the Southern United States. The distributor feared adverse reaction to the film in the Bible Belt.
A soundtrack was released by Warner Bros. Records, consisting of sermons and spoken word segments by Marjoe (from age 4), intermixed with songs. "Save All My Brothers", the film's theme song, was written by Sarah Kernochan and Joseph Brooks (who also arranged), and sung by Jerry Keller.
Rediscovery and re-release
Although released on VHS, the film had long been out of print and had deteriorated. In 2002 the negative and other elements were found in a vault in New York City. Once the rights were secured, the film was restored with funds provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
On November 15, 2005, in New York City, the IFC Center showed Marjoe as the closing film in a series of documentaries called "Stranger Than Fiction". In their program they called it "a lost gem." The restored film has since been released on DVD.
- "NY Times: Marjoe". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-11-14.
- 'Folks in the Bible Belt, however, never got to see the film. The distributor was too afraid of the furor it would cause, so he refused to open it in any city south of Des Moines.'
- 'Though Marjoe (the documentary) won an Academy Award, its release was limited. The distributor didn't wish to start a backlash in the deep south Bible Belt.'
- Marjoe: Original Soundtrack, Howard Smith and Sarah Kemochan, producers. Warner BS 2667 (1072)
- "Documentaries". Sarah Kernochan. Retrieved 2011-10-10.