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

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Based on these new interviews and additional research, it was clear that the proposed documentary needed more coverage on the relationship between Pare Lorentz and Joris Ivens. Lorentz’s impact was obvious. He had hired Ivens and he had prepared a script outline based on a “dawn to dust” concept. Lorentz, who had been born in West Virginia, had even suggested that Ivens check out the rugged countryside around St. Clairsville as a possible shooting location. While Lorentz’s approach was always to hire the best possibly filmmaker and not to interfere in the day-to-day filmmaking, he nevertheless continued to influence the direction of the film. When the initial rushes shot by Arthur Ornitz appeared to be unsatisfactory and deviated from the script outline, Lorentz sent Floyd Crosby, an Oscar-winning photographer, to finish the job and to make sure that the shooting followed the script. Even Ivens noticed the improvement in the rushes once Crosby arrived.

This information led Smith to try to uncover more information about Ornitz and Floyd Crosby. Smith was able to contact Dr. Hilda Wane Ornitz, who had married Arthur in 1948. In an essay prepared for this web site, Dr. Ornitz indicates that Arthur has first studied cinematography as a teenager and was only 22 years old when Ivens asked him to work on Power and the Land. This was the start for Ornitz of a long and impressive career in Hollywood and abroad. Her husband, Dr. Ornitz has written, “ was fearless and did not suffer fools gladly” and the “stories about how demanding he could be are still repeated by those who knew him.” “He was,” Dr. Ornitz concluded, “very independent and one of a kind.” Although Ivens (at Lorentz’s intervention) had brought in Floyd Crosby to take over the camerawork, Ornitz and Ivens, as is indicated in Dr. Orntiz’s essay, “had a great deal of warmth and admiration for each other.”

But there was still another problem – the different approaches of Ivens, the director, and Lorentz, the producer. To be sure, Lorentz and Ivens shared an appreciation for the power of film as a communicator. They also respected each other’s talents, although Lorentz, was a bit suspect of Ivens’ leftist leanings. The real problem was that they had different goals in the making of Power and the Land. To Lorentz it was all very simple. They were making a film for the REA – a film that had to follow the script he had written. Because of a limited budget and because Lorentz wanted a relatively short film that could be widely shown in theaters, the film was supposed to be a two-reeler. After all, as he informed Ivens in a letter now in the archives of the European Foundation Joris Ivens, he has completed his film (The Plow That Broke the Plains) in two reels! Ivens, on the other hand, had always believed that documentary films could be as good as feature films. He envisioned a much longer film. Influenced also by his communist leanings (he had been a member of the Community Party), Ivens wanted the film to emphasize the conflict between private power and the co-ops. And to show the cooperative spirit of rural America, he had shot extensive footage of a farmers working together to put out a barn fire. Ivens thus was working on a five-reeler! Indeed, as Lora Hays has recalled, Ivens and his crew had shot over 80,000 feet of film!

In the end, Lorentz prevailed. Only 3,000 feet were used in the final two-reel version of Power and the Land. Ivens was not able to include a lengthy segment where Bip rides into town with the milk truck. On the way, the milk truck stops at a modern dairy and Bip gets to observe milking machines operated by electricity. Bip and the driver (Frank) go on to Wheeling where Bip tours the modern milk processing plant, powered also by electricity of course. If Ivens had to drop this segment from the final film, he also had to forego another piece on the barn fire. Here, Bip and the driver, returning to the Parkinson farm from their visit to the creamery, see smoke on the horizon. They and other farmers rush to the barn fire. According to the script, Bip was to play an important role in putting out the fire.


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