Theatrical release poster
|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 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 and decided to give up the revival circuit. 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.
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 so it was not shown any farther south than Des Moines, Iowa.
A soundtrack was released by Warner Bros. Records, consisting of sermons and spoken word segments by Marjoe (from age four), intermixed with songs. "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.
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. The Academy Film Archive preserved Marjoe in 2005.
The restored film has since been released on DVD and streaming services.
- "Marjoe". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 28, 2011. Retrieved November 14, 2008.
- "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.
- "Marjoe". Horror Drive-in.com. 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.
- Marjoe: Original Soundtrack, Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, producers. Warner BS 2667 (1072)
- "Preserved Projects: Marjoe". Academy Film Archive. Retrieved January 30, 2018.