Film Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Christian Con Game Exposed by Academy Award-Winning Documentary
Marjoe Gortner’s parents were a couple of conmen who carefully indoctrinated
their son from a tender age to follow in their footsteps. Their hustle?
Jesus. By the age of 3, Marjoe was already quoting scriptures. By 4, he was
performing marriages, miracles and faith healings, while raking in big bucks
on the revival circuit where thousands flocks to see the little preacher
billed as “The World’s Youngest Evangelist.”
Despite the fact that his act was legitimized by mainstream media sources
such as Life Magazine, by 14 Marjoe matured, tired of the hypocrisy and
refused to participate in the charade any longer. Although he abandoned the
family business, he did return to evangelism on his own in his twenties,
just for the money, knowing full well his whole act was a fraud.
Then, in 1972, he again had a crisis of conscience, and decided to make a
film exposing all the gimmicks he had used to fleece plenty of Pentacostal
congregations all across the country. The movie, entitled Marjoe, won an
Oscar for Best Documentary, and it is now returning to theaters to warn
another generation of believers that, as the saying “The closer to Church,
the further from God” implies, there are still many sleazy crooks out there,
preaching purely for profit.
Marjoe is just as engaging as when first released. Especially entertaining
is his exposing all the tricks of the trade, from sewing extraordinarily
deep pockets into his pants in order to stash all the cash handed to him as
he walks up and down the aisles, to how he heals confederates feigning
illnesses, to the special gestures and vocal cadences designed to hypnotize
his gullible followers. Also of interest were the telling exchanges between
Marjoe and his girlfriend, who happened to be black, a fact which, if known,
probably would not have sat well with Bible Belters back then.
PG for mature themes.
Running time: 82 minutes
Studio: Emerging Pictures