N.p. N.p. 1937-1986. An extensive archive of autograph and typed letters signed, photographs, and telegrams, over 60 pieces in all, providing a great deal of detail regarding two major projects pursued by documentary filmmaker Pare Lorentz and his producer-advisor-film editor Lloyd Nosler, a major portion of which was in collaboration with author John Steinbeck.
The first project, and the one most profoundly represented here, is a planned film version of Steinbeck's story, "The Flight," whose development was interrupted by World War II. The second is a correspondence between Lorentz and Nosler regarding the preservation of a partially filmed project from 1938-1939 titled "Ecce Homo" (also referred to as "Name, Age, and Occupation"), based on Lorentz's 1935 radio play. Lastly, the archive also includes a stunning vintage photograph of Lorentz taken by his WPA compatriot Dorothea Lange, inscribed by Lorentz to Nosler. To our knowledge none of this correspondence is documented in either of the two books published about Lorentz's work, nor elsewhere.
Two other major topics covered in the archive, both after Lorentz stopped making films, have to do with (a) a piece Lorentz wrote titled "Battle Cry for Peace" for which the author was seeking advice from Steinbeck, and (b) a lengthy correspondence with "Writer's Digest" editor-contributor Robert Young regarding a piece Young wished to write on Lorentz's work with Steinbeck in the 1940s. Also included are a number of letters relating to the 200-300 short films made by Lorentz for the US government during the war.
The path of provenance on this archive is that the letters and photographs originally belonged to Nosler, who then gave it to Robert Young. Young's piece was never written, as he was never able to gain permission to do so by Lorentz, who states in one of his final letters to Young that he intended to publish a biography.
Archive includes 3 photographs (one signed by Lorentz), 15 letters (some ALS, some TLS) from Lorentz to Nosler, 7 telegrams from Lorentz to Nosler, 14 carbon copies of letters from Nosler to Lorentz, 4 Xerox copies of letters from John Steinbeck to Nosler regarding "The Fight," 18 letters from Robert Young to Nosler, and many other additional pieces of ephemera, including Lorentz's application and resume, written in order to join the military as a film director. Also included are two major books on Lorentz: "Pare Lorentz and the Documentary Film" by Robert Snyder (University of Oklahoma Press, 1968) and "Pare Lorentz: FDR's Moviemaker: Memoirs and Scripts" by Pare Lorentz (University of Nevada Press, 1992).
In 1936, after working as a critic in Hollywood, Lorentz was asked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make a film about the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. While in Hollywood, Lorentz had written several articles on censorship and a work on the first year of Roosevelt's presidency ("The Roosevelt Year: 1933"), both of which had impressed Roosevelt. Despite not having any film credits, Lorentz was appointed to the Resettlement Administration as a film consultant. He was given $6,000 to make a film, which became "The Plow That Broke the Plains," that showed the natural and man-made devastation caused by the Dust Bowl. Though the tight budget and his inexperience occasionally showed through in the film, Lorentz's script, combined with Thomas Chalmers's narration and Virgil Thomson's score, made the 30-minute movie powerful and moving.
Roosevelt was again impressed and, after his re-election in 1936, gave Lorentz the opportunity to make a film about one of the President's favorite subjects--conservation. Lorentz made "The River," a film celebrating the success of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA mitigated flooding but, more importantly to Lorentz and to Roosevelt, it put a stop to the prodigious pillaging of the forests by providing cheap, readily-available hydro-electric power to a wide area. This film won the Best Documentary category at the Venice International Film Festival and, somewhat incongruously, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry the same year. It is generally considered his most masterful work.
When Republicans gained seats in Congress in 1938, and the Congressional balance of power shifted in a more conservative direction, the pipeline of Federal commissions for projects like Lorentz's was abruptly halted. He made one more movie before the US involvement in World War II, "The Fight for Life" (1940), a semi-documentary on the struggle to provide adequate natal care at the Chicago Maternity Center, based on a book by Paul de Kruif. Though not credited, John Steinbeck worked on this project with Lorentz, which led to the planning for "The Flight" that is covered in this archive.
Lorentz went on to serve in the US Army Air Corps during World War II, eventually being promoted to the rank of colonel. While serving, he made 275 navigational films and minor documentaries for the Office of War Information and the US Information Agency. In 1946, Lorentz made "Nuremberg," a film about the Nuremberg Trials, with Federal money, however, despite the prosperity of the post-War period, there was no revival of partnerships with the Federal government. He had ambitious plans to make documentaries about the New Deal and the United Nations, but funding was not forthcoming from government or private sources. His final film was "Rural Co-op," which he wrote and directed in 1947. [Book #122110]