The River (1938 film)

The River is a 1938 short documentary film which shows the importance of the Mississippi River to the United States, and how farming and timber practices had caused topsoil to be swept down the river and into the Gulf of Mexico, leading to catastrophic floods and impoverishing farmers. It ends by briefly describing how the Tennessee Valley Authority project was beginning to reverse these problems.

The River
Film Poster for "The River" - NARA - 95115895.jpg
Directed byPare Lorentz
Written byPare Lorentz
CinematographyFloyd Crosby
Willard Van Dyke
Stacy Woodard
Distributed byFarm Security Administration
Release date
  • February 4, 1938 (1938-02-04)
Running time
31 minutes
CountryUnited States

It was written and directed by Pare Lorentz and, like Lorentz's earlier 1936 documentary The Plow That Broke the Plains, was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", going into the registry in 1990. [1] [2] The film won the "best documentary" category at the 1938 Venice International Film Festival.

Both films have notable scores by Virgil Thomson that are still heard as concert suites, featuring an adaptation of the hymn "How Firm a Foundation". The film was narrated by the American baritone Thomas Hardie Chalmers. Thomson's score was heavily adapted from his own concert work Symphony on a Hymn Tune.[3] The River later served as the score for the 1983 TV movie The Day After.[4]

The two films were sponsored by the U.S. government and specifically the Resettlement Administration (RA) to raise awareness about the New Deal. The RA was folded into the Farm Security Administration in 1937, so The River was officially an FSA production.

There is also a companion book, The River.[5] The text was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in that year.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved 2020-05-08.
  2. ^ Gamarekian, Barbara; Times, Special To the New York (1990-10-19). "Library of Congress Adds 25 Titles to National Film Registry". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  3. ^ Ledin, Marina; Ledin, Victor (2000). THOMSON, V.: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3 / Symphony on a Hymn Tune (CD liner note) (Media notes). Naxos Records.
  4. ^ Stuever, Hank (May 11, 2016). "'Convincing catastrophe': What The Post's TV critic wrote about 'The Day After' in 1983". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  5. ^ Lorentz, Pare (1938). The River. New York: Stackpole Sons. no page numbers, text and photo stills, mostly from the film

External linksEdit