Power for the Parkinsons

Episode 1 of 1

Power for the Parkinsons, narrated by broadcast icon Walter Cronkite, tells the compelling story of the making of the classic New Deal documentary film Power and the Land. In 1939, 75 % of American farms were without electricity. While American towns and cities were bright with light, farm families were reading and working by the light of kerosene lanterns. Farm women on wash day pumped water by hand, heated it over a coal stove, then pounded their clothes on a scrub board and hung them out to dry. Without indoor plumbing and bathrooms, family members faced the long walk out back to the "privy." In 1939, FDR's Rural Electrification Administration asked noted filmmaker Pare Lorentz to make a film that would show the advantages of bringing electricity to the farm. After writing a rough script, Lorentz hired Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens who then brought together an "all star" team featuring Arthur Ornitz and Floyd Crosby as cinematographers, Stephen Vincent Benet as the author of the narration, and Douglas Moore as the composer. Ivens and Helen van Dongen supervised the final editing. Power and the Land, which premiered in St. Clairsville, Ohio on August 31, 1940, was subsequently shown to millions of American farmers. Now some eight decades later, Power for the Parkinsons, first broadcast by Detroit Public Television in 2008, argues that this was the film and family that helped electrify the American heartland. This fifty-seven minute documentary, with a compelling portrayal of the Parkinsons and insightful commentary by family members and film scholars, received three Emmy® nominations in the 31st Annual Michigan Emmy Awards for Documentary-Historical, Editor-Program (Non News), and Writer-Program (© NATAS/ATAS 2009).

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