Saturday, February 24, 2007


Marjoe is an 1972 Academy Award winning documentary film produced and directed by Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan about the life of evangelist Marjoe Gortner. 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 as a means of earning a living part-time, not as a believer, but as a charlatan. The film Marjoe documents his last revivals before coming out publicly as a phony. At the time of the film's release he generated considerable press, but the movie was never shown in theaters in the Southern United States, based on the fears of the distributor over the outrage it would cause in the Bible Belt.

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.

This brings back memories of some of my holy roller experiences. But honestly, my upbringing was in the Baptist and other denominations that believe that spirituality is within the heart and not outward showing of it. They did not feel the Church was meant for entertainment but for teaching the word of God. If you do watch the film you should notice that no one is carrying the Bible. All Churches I attended regularly there was a competition for which person had the best looking Bible and the one that looked the oldest and most worn.

If I ever attended such Churches now, I would just not come back again.

I feel for Marjoe's loss of childhood and his father running off with the families money that Marjoe earned. So it is amazing that he does not have more hatred and resentment toward the whole system and the exploitation of him by his family.

According to my upbringing, the gifts of the spirit are for tangible benefit. For example speaking in tongues was used only when there was a language problem between worshipers. Thus the way it is used now makes no sense since no one knows what the words are and it does not help in conversation but is just gibberish.

We also got to meet and know the missionaries that we donated money to. They would come around about once per year. The Churches were small and it was easy to see where the money was going to.

He wanted to get into acting, which never worked out. I only wished he had tried other denominations (i.e. more fundamentalist).

Rating: 3.5
Fair representation of the preaching. Honest approaches to the issues of religion.
If nothing else it was interesting to see a slice of America in 1972.


SNAPPING: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change

Marjoe Gortner

No comments: