'Marjoe': Evangelical Christian Scammers Exposed in Academy Award-Winning Documentary

Marjoe Gortner 1972 documentary: Religion as show business + con artistry is Oscar winnerMarjoe Gortner, “Evangelism's answer to Mick Jagger,” as seen in the poster of the 1972 documentary Marjoe. Sarah Kernochan and Howard Smith's Oscar-winning film about Evangelical Christian scammers shows how religion, show business, and con artistry have a whole lot in common, as millions of people – whether due to despair, stupidity, and/or madness – are not only willing but eager to be deceived by the industrious snake-oil sales force of God, Inc. A former child preacher, Gortner went on to have a two-decade career in films and on television, including a key role in Mark Robson's 1974 all-star disaster blockbuster Earthquake.[1]

An evening with Sarah Kernochan: 'Marjoe' & 'Thoth' Academy screenings

“Oscar's Docs: An Evening with Sarah Kernochan” will kick off the 2007 “Monday Nights with Oscar” film series, with screenings of Kernochan's two Academy Award-winning documentaries: the feature Marjoe and the short Thoth, on Monday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Academy Theater at Lighthouse International in New York City.

Hosted by historian and journalist Perry L. van der Meer, the presentation will feature a post-screening chat with Kernochan.

'You Keep the Faith … Marjoe Keeps the Money'

Co-directed by Sarah Kernochan and Howard Smith, Marjoe tells the story of Evangelical preacher Marjoe Gortner, a non-believer who, when not heard singing hymns such as “Oh, How I Love Jesus” and “Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?” candidly discusses the tricks of his trade – thus demonstrating that religion, show business, and, in countless instances, con artistry – have a whole lot in common.

Marjoe's tagline was “You Keep the Faith … Marjoe Keeps the Money.” That may help to explain why this exposé of fraudulent divine messengers was reportedly kept away from movie houses in the obsessively religious – and ungodly profitable – American South.

Update: Sarah Kernochan discusses Marjoe in the Dec. 2014 Vice article/interview “A Look Back at Marjoe, the 1972 Documentary About Evangelical Con Men.”

Marjoe Gortner

The Long Beach-born Marjoe Gortner (Jan. 14, 1944), who began his career as a child preacher (“The World's Youngest Minister”), would later become a Hollywood actor, going on to appear in a number of television series (Kojak, Fantasy Island, Falcon Crest) and in B features such as Acapulco Gold, The Food of the Gods, Starcrash, Mausoleum, and Hellhole.

More importantly, Gortner was part of the stellar ensemble in Mark Robson's 1974 blockbuster Earthquake, in which he was cast as Los Angeles store manager/National Guard member Jody Joad, a man with a thing for weapons and bodybuilders.

Gortner's most recent big-screen role – as a preacher – was in Walter Hill's 1995 Western Wild Bill, starring Jeff Bridges, Ellen Barkin, John Hurt, Diane Lane, and Keith Carradine.

'Thoth': Scantily clad divine inspiration in Central Park

Thoth spotlights Stephen Kaufman, a.k.a. Thoth, a performance artist in New York City's Central Park. To the accompaniment of a violin, the scantily dressed Thoth acts out one-man operas, a.k.a. “prayformances,” in an attempt “to bring divine inspiration and healing to the world.”

The name Thoth refers to the ancient Egyptian deity, a master in divine law generally represented as either an ibis- or a baboon-headed man. Thoth, the short, was directed by Sarah Kernochan and Lynn Appelle.

'Mondays Nights with Oscar'

“Monday Nights with Oscar” is a monthly series showcasing “high quality prints” of Oscar-winning and/or -nominated movies.

The Academy Theater at Lighthouse International is located at 111 East 59th Street in New York City. Tickets cost $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID.

For more information on the “Monday Nights with Oscar” film series, visit www.oscars.org.


'Earthquake' cast

[1] Besides Marjoe Gortner, Earthquake features the following:

Charlton Heston. Ava Gardner. Geneviève Bujold. George Kennedy. Richard Roundtree. Lorne Greene. Victoria Principal. Barry Sullivan. Lloyd Nolan.

Monica Lewis. Gabriel Dell. Lloyd Gough. John Randolph. Pedro Armendáriz Jr. Scott Hylands. Donald Moffat. Walter Matthau (cameo, billed as Walter Matuschanskayasky).


Marjoe poster: Cinema 5 Distributing.

Marjoe: Evangelical Christian Scammers Exposed in Academy Award-Winning Documentary” last updated in March 2018.

'Marjoe': Evangelical Christian Scammers Exposed in Academy Award-Winning Documentary © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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