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The Making of Power and the Land (1940)
Essay by Dr. Robert J. Snyder: Pare Lorentz (1905-1940)
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

© 2005 Robert J. Snyder. Prepared for Heritage Productions for use
on this web site and reprinted here with permission.

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When friends and colleagues learned that I was conducting research on the documentary director-producer-writer Pare Lorentz, I could count on some response. Usually, it was some variation on, "Oh! What's he doing now?" This was back in the 1960s and continued up to his death in 1992. When he died, the passing was duly noted in the press. What he did during and after World War II until his death did not receive much coverage and, to the best of my knowledge has not been researched.

The U. S. Film Service wrapped up its activities in 1940, after Congress refused to continue an appropriation for the agency. Lorentz left the government shortly afterwards and appeared to have attempted to continue the production of ECCE HOMO at a Hollywood studio. Lorentz once said that Robert Ryan was hired to play the role of #7790, the protagonist. ECCE HOMO was never finished. Pare Lorentz was fired. He sued the studio, with the assistance of the Directors Guild of America. He won the case and is reported to have received a sizable settlement. No formal research has been done on these events. Lorentz reported that Orson Welles was suing a studio at the same time for violation of the DGA's contract. At this point, Lorentz returned to writing for magazines. He was hired by McCall's to write a series of articles on America's preparedness for the war. He was able to use a lot of the research his staff had compiled for ECCE HOMO. He was appointed National Defense Editor by the magazine.Among the writers who prepared articles for the series were Jonathan Daniels, Erskine Caldwell, Roark Bradford, Dr. Winslow, Dean of Yale Medical Schools, and the painter John C Curry. Photographs taken by the Farm Security Administration corps of photographers illustrated the series. The Japanese attacked P Pearl Harbor shortly the series ended.

Lorentz and Word War II
Pare Lorentz drew upon his experience in documentary film-making to serve his country during World War II. He had conversations with Army Air Corps Generals Harold L. George and C. M. Smith at which it was proposed that Lorentz enter service and produce a series of films tracing the major flyways of the world. Many of these routes had no maps, or, at best, maps that contained outdated or scanty information.

The war was taking place overseas, not here where the planes were made. The planes were being flown from the United States to the fronts. Pilots of the Air Transport Command were being briefed on these routes. The process was taking three weeks and, as noted, the information was not always accurate.

Lorentz enlisted, bringing with him Floyd Crosby as cinematographer, Lloyd Nosier as editor, and Russell Lee, from the FSA photographic unit, as still photographer. (Because of his age, Floyd Crosby would not have been drafted.) The group became known as the Overseas Technical Unit. They attended Officers Training School and Lorentz was eventually promoted to Lt. Colonel. The unit was assigned a B-24 Liberator Bomber as a flying camera stand and transport. To fly the plane, the Air Corps assigned Colonel Hiram Broyles, a very distinguished pilot with experience of flying overseas. The nose of the plane was fitted with a special flat, plexiglass plate so that Crosby could shoot three cameras through the nose without distortion. This would give the pilot the opportunity to see the route straight ahead and from the left and right sides of the cockpit. Still pictures were taken through the gunner's port and midships.

A portion of the unit remained in Hollywood to write the script and edit the shots together. The still photographs received captions to reinforce points made in the narration. The animated maps used in the films to show the routes were also prepared and shot in Hollywood.

The results of the efforts of the Overseas Technical Unit were 225 briefing films and over 350,000 photographs. The films reduced the time required for briefing down to from three weeks to one week. Lorentz logged 2,750 hours of flight time with 300 hours in combat areas. He did not make all the flights. In later years, Lorentz suffered from a hearing loss in his right ear. This may have been caused in part by all the hours in the air. He was awarded the Air Medal and the Legion of Merit.

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