Pare Lorentz was an American original. His documentary films The Plow That Broke The Plains (1936), The River (1938) and The Fight for Life (1941) were among the first to demonstrate that films can educate and rally a nation around its history, its greatness, and its problems.
THE PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS (1936)
With The Plow That Broke the Plains, his first film and the first US Government-sponsored documentary, Pare Lorentz won praise and wide recognition for using sensitive photography, dramatic editing and a beautiful score by composer Virgil Thomson to illuminate a local problem of national importance - the challenges faced by wheat farmers and cattle ranchers in the Great Plains. As the film climaxes in a vivid portrait of the record drought that produced the dust bowl and the plight of the "blown out, baked and broke" people who felt its impact, it becomes clear that a new master of the documentary form has found his voice.
THE RIVER (1938)
In The River, Pare Lorentz deploys powerful images, a poetic Pulitzer Prize-nominated script and another score by Virgil Thomson to illustrate the problems of flood control on the Mississippi River and the efforts to correct it. While arguing that the building of dams would put an end to the destruction of crops and property brought about by the havoc of annual floods, Lorentz reveals the ways the river has been misused, and presents a stirring paen to America's natural landscape, and the proud history with which it is imbued.
THE FIGHT FOR LIFE (1941)
In this short feature, based on a book by Paul De Kruit, Lorentz presents a staged re-enactment of an emergency childbirth in an urban hospital. As the story of the mother's difficult delivery and death in spite of valiant efforts by the doctors to save her unfolds, The Fight For Life reveals the crisis of health and pre-natal care among the urban poor of the period, and explores the impoverished lives of the working people of the cities, who live in slums and tenements where they are forced to suffer from the disabling diseases endemic in such environments.