9 user 1 critic

The River (1938)

This documentary short film looks at the devastating and costly problems, including seasonal flooding and erosion of precious topsoil, associated with the Mississippi River system and promotes more Federal projects to remedy the situation.


Pare Lorentz


Pare Lorentz
2 wins. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Thomas Chalmers 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


Beautiful! Stirring! Dramatic!



Did You Know?


This film was selected into the National Film Registry in 1990 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" See more »


Features Come and Get It (1936) See more »


She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain When She Comes
Played as part of the score during the lumber scenes
See more »

User Reviews

Beautifully filmed, wonderfully persuasive
27 October 1998 | by debbie-26See all my reviews

I first saw this film 20 years ago in forestry school. This film vividly shows the effect of poor agricultural practices and poor timber harvesting in the water cycle. It has footage of the devastating flood on 1927 along the Mississippi River. I learned that the film had been used for years by foresters from the Yazoo-Little Tallahatchie Flood Prevention Project and other U.S. Forest Service foresters to educate the public on the value of planting trees to prevent soil erosion and help heal the land from years of crop production on marginal lands. I think every student of environmental history and management should view this film at some time in their career. It is available from a couple of places, but I found a video from Kino which has not only The River, but the companion piece, The Plow that broke the plains, and two other short documentaries. The River and The Plow that broke the plains were part of FDR's New Deal propaganda (in a positive sense) which promoted conservation using outstanding photography, outstanding scripts, and emotionally compelling scoring.

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Release Date:

4 February 1938 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The River See more »


Box Office


$50,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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