PARE LORENTZ: FDR’S MOVIEMAKER
By Dr. Robert J. Snyder, Associate Professor
Department of Communication Technologies
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Pare Lorentz never set out to make movies. But he wound
up producing one of the greatest documentaries ever, “The
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.
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.
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.
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.