Waxing Nostalgic Over Classic TV

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Marjoe Gortner: Miracle Boy Preacher

(Videos from the film Marjoe)

Marjoe Gortner burst onto the national scene in 1948 when he was only 4, as the world's youngest preacher. His natural talent for memorization and acting served him well, and his parents took full advantage of it by promoting him as the "miracle child." They even arranged for him to perform a wedding ceremony, an act that garnered a ton of publicity for the boy wonder.

They took the act on the road and cleaned up, generating millions of dollars. But when his father absconded with the family's money when Marjoe was a teenager, he left the ministry for the hippie life in San Francisco. A number of years later, in need of cash, he once again took up preaching, and became very successful.

But it was all an act. In a remarkable 1972 documentary called Marjoe, he mixed footage of his preaching and faith healing with backstage interviews in which he revealed the slick secrets of his profession. He explained that he looked at what he did as entertainment, and it was his job to deliver his best performance. The film won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Marjoe would later go into acting, and do rather well in both TV and film. His last appearance was in the 1995 film Wild Bill, where he played, naturally, a preacher.

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