[Editor’s Note: This essay resides within Anderson Blanton’s “The Materiality of Prayer,” a portal into Reverberations’ unfolding compendium of resources related to the study of prayer.]
Underneath the massive cloth architecture of Oral Roberts’ canvas cathedral, the “world’s first healing film” was screened for a crusade audience of over 10,000 on September 29th, 1952. Venture Into Faith is a compilation of actual archival footage shot earlier that year during a healing crusade in Birmingham, Alabama, woven seamlessly into highly produced scenes recorded in a Hollywood studio. The climax of the film, for example, features the miraculous cure of a tubercular boy named David through a performance of prayer. Although the actual performance of this healing prayer was performed by Oral Roberts and a group of professional actors, the final edited version of this spectacle of divine communication oscillates between “live” archival footage shot during a healing campaign and rehearsed “acting” recorded under the careful orchestration of a Hollywood director (1:23:39 in film).