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Theatrical release poster
Directed byHoward Smith
Sarah Kernochan
Produced byHoward Smith
Sarah Kernochan
StarringMarjoe Gortner
Edited byLawrence Silk
Distributed byCinema 5 Distributing
Release date
  • July 24, 1972 (1972-07-24)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States

Marjoe is a 1972 American documentary film produced and directed by Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan about the life of evangelist Marjoe Gortner.[1] It won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[2]


Marjoe Gortner was a precocious child preacher with extraordinary talents, who was immensely popular in the American South. His parents earned large sums of money off of his earnings until the point he outgrew the novelty of his youthfulness.

Gortner rejoined the ministry as a young adult solely as a means of earning a living, 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 of sorts and decided to give up the revival circuit, but not any of the money he made from it. He offered a 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 that he and other evangelists used to manipulate people and to move them during revivals. Some of the evangelists even revealed where they bought properties kept secret and gave him advice to follow. Gortner said he studied Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, as a model for his routine.[3]


At the time of the film's release, it 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.[4][5]


A soundtrack was released by Warner Bros. Records, consisting of sermons and spoken word segments by Marjoe (from age four), intermixed with songs.[6] "Save All My Brothers", the film's theme song, was written by Sarah Kernochan and Joseph Brooks, who also arranged it, and it was sung by Jerry Keller.[7]

Rediscovery and re-release[edit]

Although released on VHS, the film had long been out of print and had deteriorated.[8] In 2002 the negative and other elements were found in a vault in New York City.[4] The Academy Film Archive preserved Marjoe in 2005.[9] On November 15, 2005, in New York City, the IFC Center showed Marjoe[10] as the closing film in a series of documentaries called "Stranger Than Fiction". The restored film has since been released on DVD[11] and streaming services.


The film won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spirituality & Practice
  2. ^ 1973|
  3. ^ "'Marjoe' (Published 2006)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2022-02-04.
  4. ^ a b "Resurrecting 'Marjoe'". Sarah Kernochan. Retrieved January 30, 2018. 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.
  5. ^ "Marjoe". Horror Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved January 30, 2018. 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.
  6. ^ Marjoe - Original Soundtrack|AllMusic
  7. ^ Marjoe: Original Soundtrack, Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, producers. Warner BS 2667 (1072)
  8. ^ "Sarah Kernochan - Documentaries". Retrieved 2022-03-03.
  9. ^ "Preserved Projects: Marjoe". Academy Film Archive. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  10. ^ Holden, Stephen (2006-01-13). "'Marjoe'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-03-03.
  11. ^ DVD Talk
  12. ^ Documentary Winners: 1973 Oscars

External links[edit]