This short Depression-era documentary describes the importance of the Mississippi River to the United States. It laments the environmental destruction committed in the name of progress, ... See full summary »





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Complete credited cast:
Thomas Chalmers ...
Narrator (voice)


This short Depression-era documentary describes the importance of the Mississippi River to the United States. It laments the environmental destruction committed in the name of progress, particularly farming and timber practices which cause massive erosion and result in vast amounts of top soil being washed down the river into the Gulf of Mexico. The film focuses especially on the impact this has had on impoverished farmers. It ends on a very upbeat note, however, with a celebration of the TVA, "modern" farming technology, and the use of dams to control the river and prevent flooding. Written by George Schneiderman

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Release Date:

4 February 1938 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Libary of Congress, in 1990. See more »


Referenced in The River (1951) See more »


A Hot Time in the Old Town
Music by Theo. A. Metz
Played as part of the score during the lumber and cotton scenes
See more »

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User Reviews

Extraordinary documentary which seemingly does not age
16 May 2003 | by (New Hampshire) – See all my reviews

I first saw THE RIVER in the 1950's in school, in the days when watching a movie in class didn't mean turning on the TV and popping in a VHS tape, it meant rolling in the old Bell and Howell Filmosound, putting up the screen, and watching a real 16mm projected MOVIE. I saw it two more times during my school career because it had so much to say at different levels about different things. It is the story of the Mississippi River, what it means to the land, and what we have done to it. It is, let's admit, a New Deal tract, an ecology drama, and moderately political. It is an unabashed apology for the entire Tennessee Valley Authority construction project. But that out of the way, it is a poetic and almost hypnotic (due to repetitive images)narrative, well-written and dramatically read. And it doesn't hurt that the musical score, by Virgil Thompson, is arguably the greatest musical score written for any movie (it is in its orchestral suite format a concert standard and has had many recordings, and is also available as the complete score on at least one recording). You can rent this disk from Netflix and it is worth it just for The River. I also watched its predecessor, THE PLOW THAT BROKE THE PLAINS, which I didn't like as much. I passed on the other offerings. But just for THE RIVER it is worth it. My only argument with it is that the ending loses the hypnotic poetry and simply sums up the rest of the story. That aside, it is as great a documentary as has been made.

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