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THE MAKING OF POWER FOR THE PARKINSONS
by Dr. Ephraim K. Smith

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Ivens was not able to keep this story line in the final film that premiered in 1940. But after Pare Lorentz resigned as head of the US Film Service, the Rural Electrification Administration, for reasons that have not yet been documented, asked for two additional short films using the outtakes. Lora Hays edited these two films with supervision by Joris Ivens, then in California for at least part of that period.

There are some differences between the final version of these short films and how they had originally been envisioned in the original script outline for Power and the Land. Now stand-alone films, both required an introduction and conclusion. And although Bip is the star in Bip Goes to Town, one can only catch a brief glimpse of him in Worst of Farm Disasters. Rather than playing an active role, he is seen standing by the burning barn as the adults set up a bucket brigade. Captured on screen only briefly, Bip looks like he wants to help but is not sure what to do. Both films are a delight to watch – and a piece of seemingly lost film history. In the best tradition of Joris Ivens (and Pare Lorentz), they are well integrated with a narration and a score by Douglas Moore. The scenes of farmers scrambling on to the back of a truck rushing to the fire and forming a bucket brigade are fast paced and absorbing. According to Lora Hays, these films were shown at the Rialto Theater in New York, which pleased her bosses at the Department of Agriculture. Her superiors did not apparently realize, as she notes in an interview on this web site, that this theater was also known as the locale for the showing of pornographic films. (For more information, see the interviewed conducted by William J. Sloan on April 7, 2005, included on this web site.)

The longer of the two films, Bip Goes to Town, runs nine-and-a-half minutes. Bip, after washing up and receiving a grocery list from Hazel, rides into town with the milk truck. Neither Frank (the driver) or Bip speak directly on camera. (The credits do not identify who did the voiceovers.) Frank and Bip stop at a modern dairy, powered by electricity. Later in town, Bip tours the creamery, also powered by electricity. “Will electricity cool milk on our farm, too?” Bip asks. ”Yes, Bip,” Frank replies, “cool milk and pump and wash and iron and a hundred other things, and electricity won’t get tired.. After a brief stop at the store, Bip and the driver head back to the Parkinson farm. As was the case with Power and the Land, the narration obscures the fact that the Parkinsons already had electricity. “Are we going to get REA electricity,” Bip asks. “Yes, Bip,” Frank replies, “REA stands for Rural Electrification Administration.” “Seven hundred thousand farms like yours,” Frank adds, “have had electricity because of the REA since 1935.” When Bip then notes out loud that the overhead lines will “go past our farm,” Frank assures him that “they’ll be out there by fall, Bip.” “Lights in the house,” Frank adds later in a final pitch for the REA, “means a radio for Bip and better light for studying. But electricity won’t do it all, Bip. We need small boys too -- small boys who will grow up into men and put electricity to work and work on the farm or in rural factories -- small boys -- our stake in the future.”


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