The Gun and the Pulpit (April 3, 1974)
Released on April 3, 1974: A gunfighter on the run from a posse pretends to be a preacher to get away, and helps a town rid itself of a lawless local outlaw who runs a town full of cowards.
Produced by John McCormick
Directed by Daniel Petrie
Written by Jack Ehrlich and William Bowers
The Actors: Marjoe Gortner (Ernie Parsons), Slim Pickens (Billy One-Eye), David Huddleston (Mr. Ross), Geoffrey Lewis (Jake McCoy), Estelle Parsons (Sadie Underwood), Pamela Sue Martin (Sally Underwood), Jeff Corey (head of the hanging posse), Karl Swenson (Adams), John Lormer (Luther), Robert Phillips (Tom Underwood), Larry Ward (Max), Joan Goodfellow (Dixie), Walter Barnes (Oaf), Jason Clark (Luke), Melanie Fullerton (Emma Underwood), Roy Gunsberg (old man Ross hand), Ron Nix (second outlaw), Kimo Owens (Max), Steven Tackett (Tom Underwood Jr.), Charles Young (Percy, first outlaw)
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We're All Sinners . . . Or About to Be!
My papa was a Holy-Roller Pentecostal Preacher who, along with his young wife was totally immersed in a lifelong passion to live and share the spiritual realities that he felt in his soul back in the 1920's, after encountering some folk who were at the Azusa Street, Los Angeles revival meetings that lasted from 1906-1915. He died relatively poor, but rich with the faith and beliefs that he preached about and lived every day.
Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner, the gun-slinging hero of this cowboy western adventure is 71 years old as I write this. At the age of 4, in 1948, he became the youngest ordained preacher ever known, then or now, preaching the Pentecostal message around the country in wild and expressive revival meetings. The name Marjoe is the result of combining the names Mary and Joseph - the earthly parents of Jesus. His preacher father forced him to become a preacher and taught him how to 'perform' at the pulpit much as an actor would perform on stage. While Marjoe was a young teen his father ran away with a large amount of money from their revival services and Marjoe stepped back and probably realized that his preaching career was more stage dramatics than spiritual passion, and I don't think that Marjoe ever preached again.
After watching this cowboy adventure and looking at the man, maybe I'm crazy . . . Okay, it's a given that I'm not all that 'normal' . . . but I think I can see and feel the spirit of a good man when I watch Marjoe Gortner in this story. . . . Not a medicine man style con-artist as many think he was. My dad never forced me or tried to lead me to become a preacher like he was . . . Dad always taught me to monitor my own spirit and judge things for myself and not take the word of anyone else as 'Gospel' . . . a trait that has gotten me into as much trouble as it has saved me from . . . like, is going to a movie theater a sin? . . . Will drinking a glass of wine with my pasta send me to Hell? . . . My papa taught me to decide in my own soul what is right and wrong and I walked away from many of the lifestyle beliefs that he had, but I still have the heart and soul that reaches toward the Divine, and I can often recognize that same spirit in others, and I see it in Marjoe. I imagine that when Marjoe walked away from his Pentecostal roots that although he walked a very different path his heart and soul retained the best of what he learned from his early life.
In this story Marjoe is Ernie Parsons, one of the fastest guns in the West, who is being chased by a hanging posse and to get away pretends to be a country preacher. He winds up in a small town that is being persecuted by an outlaw rancher, and none of the good town folk will stand up to him. Along comes Marjoe, who mixes religion with his gun and single handedly faces the bad guy and his henchmen and helps the town rid itself of the murdering outlaw. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.
Charles Young and Marjoe Gortner
Estelle Parsons, Pamela Sue Martin and Marjoe Gortner
Estelle Parsons meets Marjoe Gortner
Marjoe Gortner kisses Pamela Sue Martin
Pamela Sue Martin and Estelle Parsons
Pamela Sue Martin lays out a picnic lunch
Pamela Sue Martin woos Marjoe Gortner
Pamela Sue Martin
Slim Pickens and David Huddleston
Slim Pickens as Billy One-Eye