December 11, 1905: Filmmaker Pare Lorentz Born

Dec 11, 2018

The Plow That Broke the Fields was a pioneering film that helped change how documentaries were made. In 1937, he made another film for the administration. The River showed in emotional terms how the New Deal was addressing environmental problems.
Credit e-wv, The West Virginia Encyclopedia online. / e-WV

Filmmaker “Pare” Lorentz was born in Clarksburg on December 11, 1905. After attending West Virginia Wesleyan College for a year, he transferred to West Virginia University, where he wrote stories for West Virginia Moonshine magazine. At the age of 20, he moved to New York City and began writing for some of the nation’s most popular magazines.

In 1933, Lorentz conceived, edited, and published a pictorial review of Franklin Roosevelt’s first year as president. Two years later, the government contracted with Lorentz to make a film about FDR’s New Deal. The Plow That Broke the Fields was a pioneering film that helped change how documentaries were made. In 1937, he made another film for the administration. The River showed in emotional terms how the New Deal was addressing environmental problems.

During World War II, Lorentz made hundreds of training films for pilots who were flying previously uncharted routes around the world. Pare Lorentz, who is remembered as “FDR’s filmmaker,” died in 1992 at the age of 86. Five years later, the International Documentary Association created the Pare Lorentz Award to honor the best documentary film of the year.