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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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Lorentz was presented with an award at a reception held in the John Adams Room, U. S. State Department as part of the Centennial celebration for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. Secretary Orville Freeman made the presentation. This was in recognition of his first two films, THE PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS and THE RIVER.

He was invited by the University Film Producers Association to give the Kenneth Edwards Memorial Address. The convention at which the address was presented was held at Glacier National Park in August 1962.

In May, 1966, Lorentz was invited to the Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh as part of their first Panorama of the Arts. Specifically, he was a guest artist of the Department of Speech, Dr. Joseph B. Laine, Chairman. Dr. Robert L. Snyder of the department was coordinator of the event, scheduling Lorentz ' s appearances in classes to give lectures, present his films and answer the questions of the students. Because of his hearing problem, a procedure was developed between Snyder and Lorentz to facilitate Lorentz's responses to questions from the audience. Snyder stood at Lorentz's right and relayed the questions to him. This worked so well that Lorentz continued to use it in the many public appearances which followed. The highlight of the guest artist appearance was a public screening of The River and a speech and question-answer with Lorentz. Over 150 students, staff and members of the general public attended.

Lorentz, who had been reticent in the past to make such appearances, now began an active schedule of appearances in connection with his filmmaking. These included: The Pare Lorentz Film Festival at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., 1970; a program. honoring composer Virgil Thomson at New York University, 1971; a series of presentations and lectures at the Pacific Film Archive, 1972; presentations and lectures at the Ontario Educational Communications Authority, 1977; and lectures and presentations at the Universities of Stanford, West Florida, Georgia, Memphis State, Harvard, Texas-Austin, and Washington.

As part of its centennial celebration in 1971, the Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh conferred upon Pare Lorentz the status of Honorary Professor of Speech . This, in turn, led to a decision by Lorentz to give the university material from his personal files, including books on the subjects of the film, historical annals of World Wav II, books on motion picture history and criticism, especially in the field of documentary, equipment to project the films and play the audio tapes. Lorentz sent new copies of his first three films and two of the Air Corps Briefing Films, and Nuremberg. The university, in turn, created The Pare Lorentz Room to house those gifts.

Two more honorary degrees followed from universities in his home state. In 1972 West Virginia Wesleyan College, in his hometown of Buckhannon, conferred upon him the honorary degree Doctor of Letters. West Virginia University conferred upon him the honorary degree Doctor of Humanities in 1978.

Three more honors should be mentioned. When the National Audiovisual Center of the National Archives issued a new catalog, Documentary Classics Produced by the U. S. Government, it publicized the release with a dinner honoring Frank Capra and Pare Lorentz. One of Capra’s “Why We Fight” and Lorentz’s “The River” were screened at this event, with each man introducing his own work. John Houseman served as toastmaster .

In 1980, The Birmingham International Film Festival awarded Lorentz the "Sadie" Award for "outstanding contributions to the field of education." He was unable to attend the event because of illness and delegated Dr. Robert L. Snyder to accept the award and to make a speech in response to the award.

The motion picture industry recognized his contributions to art of the motion picture in October, 1981 when the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences held a special salute to Lorentz and his work with a screening of THE PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS and THE RIVER at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills. In 1985, Lorentz received the first/award for Career Achievement from the International Documentary Association in Los Angeles.

Since leaving government service he has written two books: Lorentz on Film: 1932 to 1941, a collection/of critiques of films which he wrote during that period; and Pare Lorentz. FDR’s Moviemaker: Memoirs and Scripts. The first title was published by Hopkinson and Blake in 1975 and the second by the University of Nevada Press in 1992.

The last work noted was begun when he formed Pare Lorentz and Associates in 1947, under the working title The Days of Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Chronicle. In addition to a day-by-day account of events during the Roosevelt presidency, Lorentz assembled over 5,000 black-and-white still photographs relating to the text. The chronicle was in six volumes. A resolution approving a birthday celebration and the purchase of the chronicle was approved by Congress but funds were never authorized.

And that is an account of what Pare Lorentz did after he left government service upon completion of THE FIGHT FOR LIFE.

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