Girl  Evangelists

Hollywood and Pentecostalism had more in common than one might have guessed, since neither seemed quite happy with the other. Both were born in California in the early part of the 1900s, about eight miles apart. Both used the stage. Both entertained—though in quite different ways. And both used child stars—young actors for Hollywood but for Pentecostalism, young preachers, though actors in some way, nonetheless.

Between Hollywood and the nearby Pentecostal Azusa Street Mission, the line between Hollywood and Pentecostalism became somewhat blurred when Canadian woman evangelist, Aimee Semple McPherson, arrived in Los Angeles in 1918, replanting the Pentecostal flag, and by 1923 opening the grand 5300-seat Angelus Temple on the way between Hollywood and Azusa. Church services were conducted throughout the day, seven days a week, and McPherson staged productions on her huge church stage that competed with what Hollywood was doing, sometimes using the same workers. One reporter wrote that Aimee had the best show in town—and it was free.

Hollywood actors regularly attended McPherson’s service, many out of curiosity but some committed to Aimee’s message. But Aimee’s crowd didn’t return the favour. Pentecostals generally shunned the theater, and frequently Pentecostal girl evangelists would criticize the “moving pictures.”


A card showing Angelus Temple, with an insert of Aimee Semple McPherson.