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The Making of Power and the Land (1940)
Essay by Dr. Robert J. Snyder: Pare Lorentz (1940-1992)
Video Commentary on the Life of Pare Lorentz

By Dr. Robert J. Snyder, Associate Professor of Broadcasting
Department of Communication Technologies
University of Wisconsin-Platteville

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Pare Lorentz never set out to make movies. But he wound up producing one of the greatest documentaries ever, “The River.”

Lorentz had a humble beginning, being born on December 11, 1905, in a one-room apartment in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Lorentz can trace his family’s ancestors to colonial America. His father was an accomplished printer and his mother a musician. Lorentz’s family would move to Buckhannon, West Virginia, where he would graduate high school in 1922 and start his college studies at West Virginia Wesleyan College. (http://www.ci.buckhannon.wv.us/) After a year he transferred to West Virginia University at Morgantown, where it was assumed he would study law. While at WVU, he edited the university’s humor magazine and was a member of an honorary journalism fraternity. He also played violin and was a member of a jazz combo. (http://www.wvu.edu/) Upon his graduation in 1925, Lorentz said his qualifications for employment were that he knew a little bit about music, knew his way around a printing office and was familiar with life in the mountains, lumber camps and coal towns.

Lorentz moved to New York City where he had a series of writing jobs, including The New Yorker and Judge magazines. While at Judge, he was named staff critic, making him, at the time, one of the youngest American columnists with a by-line. He was neither a movie buff or movie fan but began writing film reviews. He would later be a film critic for the New York Evening Journal, Vanity Fair (http://www.vanityfair.com/) and the Hearst King Features Syndicate. In 1930, along with publishing industry attorney Morris Ernst, Lorentz published the book Censored: The Private Life of the Movies. This was an attack on Will Hays and the National Board of Review and also included a plea for more realism on the movie screen. (http://members.aol.com/reedyb/oscar/awards/board.htm)
In 1934, Lorentz compiled The Roosevelt Year, a picture book in the form of a newsreel.

Before the book’s publication, Lorentz relocated to Washington, D.C. He was hired to write a rival column to the Hearst organization’s “The Washington Merry-Go-Round,” called “The Washington Side Show” for Universal Services. Lorentz’s work and Washington connections, eventually led to a meeting with Henry Wallace, Secretary of the Agriculture Department. Lorentz was interested in photographing the changes taking place in America through The New Deal. Wallace, in turn, suggested that Lorentz meet with Dr. Rexford Guy Tugwell, the administrator for the new Resettlement Administration.

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