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HISTORY

None of the people or performers who appeared in the film was listed in the credits. Onscreen credits read “Produced & Directed by Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan." The film switches back and forth between Marjoe giving "backstage" interviews to the documentary film crew and actual events. According to Filmfacts , Smith, a WABC FM radio talk show host and New York newspaper columnist for the Village Voice , met revivalist preacher Marjoe Gortner in 1971 when Marjoe submitted to a four-hour interview. When Marjoe confessed that his preaching was a money-making fraud, Smith withheld their taped conversation, and rather than air it on the radio, decided to develop the idea into a documentary film.
       With his girl friend Kernochan, who was also a writer for the Village Voice , Smith contacted Donald Rugoff, the head of Cinema 5 distribution, a company noted for handling “offbeat” films, and arranged for an advance of $200,000, partially funded by computer company executive Max Palevsky, to film Marjoe’s farewell tour through America's Bible Belt. Marjoe marked the first Rugoff-Palevsky production under the banner of Cinema 10, a company jointly owned by Rugoff and Palevsky. A Jul 1972 Var article noted that Mauser Productions, Inc., which co-produced Marjoe , was jointly owned by Smith and Kernochan. According to Filmfacts , Smith originally wanted Marjoe to “expose himself as a fraud” to a revival audience rather than discussing his deception with the film crew, but Marjoe refused. Onscreen credits note that the picture was filmed on location in Los Angeles and Anaheim, CA, Detroit MI, Fort Worth, ... More Less

None of the people or performers who appeared in the film was listed in the credits. Onscreen credits read “Produced & Directed by Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan." The film switches back and forth between Marjoe giving "backstage" interviews to the documentary film crew and actual events. According to Filmfacts , Smith, a WABC FM radio talk show host and New York newspaper columnist for the Village Voice , met revivalist preacher Marjoe Gortner in 1971 when Marjoe submitted to a four-hour interview. When Marjoe confessed that his preaching was a money-making fraud, Smith withheld their taped conversation, and rather than air it on the radio, decided to develop the idea into a documentary film.
       With his girl friend Kernochan, who was also a writer for the Village Voice , Smith contacted Donald Rugoff, the head of Cinema 5 distribution, a company noted for handling “offbeat” films, and arranged for an advance of $200,000, partially funded by computer company executive Max Palevsky, to film Marjoe’s farewell tour through America's Bible Belt. Marjoe marked the first Rugoff-Palevsky production under the banner of Cinema 10, a company jointly owned by Rugoff and Palevsky. A Jul 1972 Var article noted that Mauser Productions, Inc., which co-produced Marjoe , was jointly owned by Smith and Kernochan. According to Filmfacts , Smith originally wanted Marjoe to “expose himself as a fraud” to a revival audience rather than discussing his deception with the film crew, but Marjoe refused. Onscreen credits note that the picture was filmed on location in Los Angeles and Anaheim, CA, Detroit MI, Fort Worth, TX and New York. Marjoe won an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary.
       Filmfacts noted that Rev. Ray Boatwright, who was shown in the film talking about the land he and his wife purchased from donations from church parishioners and were now planning to sell to developers, was a distortion of the truth. According to Boatwright, the film was artfully edited so that it appeared that Boatwright bought the land in his own name rather than in the name of the church. Marjoe’s officiation at the sailor’s wedding ceremony resulted in the passing of a law forbidding minors to preside at marriages. Following his appearance in the documentary, Marjoe recorded a record album titled “Bad, but Not Evil,” appeared in several low-budget movies and television programs and in 1980, briefly hosted a televised interview show titled Speak Up America . In the late 1990s, Marjoe became involved in organizing celebrity golf tournaments and other events.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Aug 1972
p. 4506.
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 516-20.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 1972
p. 3, 10.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
11 Aug 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
9 Aug 1972.
---
New York Times
25 Jul 1972
p. 24.
Newsweek
31 Jul 1972.
---
Variety
10 May 1972
p. 21.
Variety
26 Jul 1972
p. 3, 24.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Cinema 10 Presentation
Cinema 10 Presentation
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam
Cam
Lighting
Lighting
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Gaffer's asst
Gaffer's asst
Prod stills
Cam equipment
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
SOUND
Sd asst
Sound transfer by
Posthorn Recordings
Sd mix
Manhattan Audio
VISUAL EFFECTS
Blow-up & opticals by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod asst
Efficiency by the
Protection by
ANIMATION
Photo anim
SOURCES
SONGS
“Save All My Brothers,” music by Joseph Brooks, words by Sarah Kernochan, sung by Jerry Keller
“I’ve Got Confidence,” words and music by Andrae Crouch, sung by The Holland Sisters
“Going to Heaven to Meet the King,” words and music by Mattie Clark, sung by the Lighthouse Tabernacle Choir with June Samuels
+
SONGS
“Save All My Brothers,” music by Joseph Brooks, words by Sarah Kernochan, sung by Jerry Keller
“I’ve Got Confidence,” words and music by Andrae Crouch, sung by The Holland Sisters
“Going to Heaven to Meet the King,” words and music by Mattie Clark, sung by the Lighthouse Tabernacle Choir with June Samuels
“God I Love You,” words and music by Reverend Jerry Short, sung by The Countrymen
“Thank God My Troubles Are Over” and “All You Need Is Faith in God,” words and music by Reverend Bud Chambers, sung by Reverend Bud Chambers.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1972
Premiere Information:
Cannes Film Festival screening: 7 May 1972
New York opening: 24 July 1972
Production Date:
ended December 1971
Copyright Claimant:
Mauser Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
24 July 1972
Copyright Number:
LP43124
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
TVC
Duration(in mins):
88 or 92
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At the age of five, Marjoe Gortner, billed as the “world’s youngest evangelist,” made headlines when he officiated at the marriage of a sailor and his bride. Now an adult, Marjoe, whose name is a contraction of “Mary and Joseph,” recalls that his mother forced him to memorize the wedding ceremony by smothering him with a pillow or holding his head under a water faucet whenever his attention waned. Marjoe explains that as a child, he never believed in God, but that his mother, who was also a minister, through artful coaching, taught him how to modulate his babyish voice and gesture flamboyantly to convince his audience that he was delivering the word of Jesus. Marjoe also reveals that his parents would sew extra pockets into his little suits to hold the multitude of cash thrust onto him by grateful worshippers. From the age of four to fifteen, Marjoe estimates that he earned $3,000,000, all of which was appropriated by his parents. After his father left the family, Marjoe continued to tour with his mother until the age of fifteen when he began to lose interest in preaching and decided to give it up. Marjoe then settled down in Los Angeles for two and a half years with an older woman, a sort of surrogate mother who he states, loved him for himself rather than his earnings. Having switched his belief in Jesus for that of “karma,” Marjoe forgave his father for squandering his money and deserting him. Running out of money, Marjoe later returned to the evangelical circuit, but soon became even more disillusioned and decided to expose the chicanery inherent ... +


At the age of five, Marjoe Gortner, billed as the “world’s youngest evangelist,” made headlines when he officiated at the marriage of a sailor and his bride. Now an adult, Marjoe, whose name is a contraction of “Mary and Joseph,” recalls that his mother forced him to memorize the wedding ceremony by smothering him with a pillow or holding his head under a water faucet whenever his attention waned. Marjoe explains that as a child, he never believed in God, but that his mother, who was also a minister, through artful coaching, taught him how to modulate his babyish voice and gesture flamboyantly to convince his audience that he was delivering the word of Jesus. Marjoe also reveals that his parents would sew extra pockets into his little suits to hold the multitude of cash thrust onto him by grateful worshippers. From the age of four to fifteen, Marjoe estimates that he earned $3,000,000, all of which was appropriated by his parents. After his father left the family, Marjoe continued to tour with his mother until the age of fifteen when he began to lose interest in preaching and decided to give it up. Marjoe then settled down in Los Angeles for two and a half years with an older woman, a sort of surrogate mother who he states, loved him for himself rather than his earnings. Having switched his belief in Jesus for that of “karma,” Marjoe forgave his father for squandering his money and deserting him. Running out of money, Marjoe later returned to the evangelical circuit, but soon became even more disillusioned and decided to expose the chicanery inherent in the church. Now accompanied by a film crew to document his tour, Marjoe takes the pulpit at a prayer meeting, where, after working up the crowd with tales of fire and brimstone, he exhorts them to line up and purchase the prayer cloths he is offering to “save the sinners.” The demand is so great that the congregation’s minister tears them in half so that there will be enough to go around. After the service, the minister and Marjoe split the proceeds and congratulate each other on their histrionics. Later, at his motel room, Marjoe dumps the paper sack of cash he has collected and chortles how he galvanized the crowd into speaking in tongues and collapsing in rapture. Some time later, at a tent revival hosted by the Rev. Bud Chambers, Marjoe recounts to a rapt audience of believers that at the age of four, Jesus spoke to him, asking him to preach the “word.” When Marjoe “lays his hands” on several of the audience members, they begin to speak in tongues, after which a bucket is passed to collect money for "Jesus." Marjoe then hawks at the meeting his record album featuring sermons he gave when he was a boy. Afterward, Marjoe tells the film crew that the evangelical circuit works like a business and explains that many churches and preachers compile mailing lists of their congregant’s addresses that they sell to other churches. The ministers use the lists to solicit the “true believers” to invest money in sanctified projects, from which they will skim a share of the proceeds. While dining at the house of Rev. Ray Boatman, Marjoe and Boatman discuss “shysters” in the ministry and marvel at the size of one minister’s mailing list. Boatman also mentions the land he has bought in Brazil, stating that although a bible school will be built on part of the land, a large chunk of the property has been sold to a mill for a pretty profit. At the twenty-four-hour crusade at the Lighthouse Tabernacle Church, a Pentecostal church led by Sister Allie Taylor, who trolls the largely black audience for big donations, exhorting that the congregants must deny themselves material comforts for the well-being of the church. After parting with their offerings, the parishioners, led by the choir, erupt in song. Another time, at the tent of Rev. Chambers, the reverend thanks Jesus for his new Cadillac, then introduces Marjoe’s father, who also is an evangelical minister. Calling his son a “preaching machine,” the reverend recalls that while sitting in the bathtub at the age of five, Marjoe began speaking in tongues. Marjoe then steps forward and “cures” several congregants by the “laying on of hands.” Later, at a party attended by hippies, Marjoe explains that faith healing works through the power of suggestion and that 90% of the illnesses he “cures” are psychosomatic. Marjoe muses that if he had not been an evangelist, he would have been a rock singer and admits to emulating some of Mick Jagger’s gestures. At his girl friend’s home, Marjoe declares that he is “sick of going in and out of two lives,” and feels that he should repent to his audience. Although he has tried to give up preaching, he has always found himself drawn back in because of financial incentives. With the release of the documentary, however, Marjoe acknowledges that his preaching career is over. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.