Film: 5159

Places + Locations | 1930 | Sound | B/W


The story of the Mississippi River (in the USA), focusing on trade and development along the river and the costs (such as floods) wrought by deforestation along its valleys. 1930's

Efforts are now made to address these problems and to tackle farmers' poverty: A good example of social engineering.

Titles, credits, titles about the Mississippi. Montage of clouds from Idaho to Pennsylvania. Montage of running water- water dripping in a forest, stream water running over leaves, water falling, splashes- all very pretty. Leaves in a stream. A brook, water flowing over stones. A small river (the Miss.?) in a forest valley. Similar. Rapids. A high waterfall. White water. The river now wider, but still shallow. A beautiful waterfall, trees on the bank. (Commentary all the time lists rivers similar to Indian tribe names it sounds poetic) Broad river or lake seen from a boat. Further along. A bend in the river. A forested bank of the Missouri river. The trees. Similar tree-lined bank. Again. Reeds. Very wide river, the banks almost invisible, huge cumulus cotton wool clouds. Again. Water stretching to the horizon. Horse or mule teams haul sail, silhouetted against the sky. One team approaches us in mud. The teams work their way up a dike. Soil is tipped from the box or tray pulled by the mules- all part of building dykes against the Mississippi. The teams mount the crest. On top of the dike. Others mounting the crest, commentary discussing the mud delta formed by the Mississippi. Soil being deposited. A plough driving through the soil. A field of cotton flowers. Plough again. Black men and women picking cotton. Funnels and whistle- all smoking- of a paddle steamer. The steamer looking grand on the river, blowing its horn. Black cotton pickers. Closer. The steamer again. A steamer at a quay, its name 'Assini Boine' on the side. Stevedores or dockers loading and unloading at the dock. A ship's bell is rung. Loading and unloading again, commentary discussing the movement of goods such as whisky and tobacco. Turning paddles. Steamer passengers watch the boat being loaded. Turning machinery and paddles. A man at the quay watches the steamer sail away, black men roll cotton bales onto another steamer, the 'Tennessee Belle'.

Closer, the workers and bales on the gangplank. Closer still, all very good images. Ground view of rolling cotton. A steamer crowded with passengers sails out, the passengers waving. Smoke billowing from the funnel. Three steamers, the huge paddle wheels of two of them, smoke and funnels. Churning water. Headlines from 1865 about the army of Northern Virginia and General Lee's surrender (concerns the American Civil War). Burning wood. The ruins of a house, only brick foundations and chimneys remaining. The empty shell of a once splendid mansion. Another. Similar, but a house on stilts to provide verandahs. Arid barren land that has been over cultivated. Horse pulling a cart of a farming family moving west, black servants (?) following behind. The broad, almost limitless Miss.. Black spruce and Norway pine- forest and sky. More distant view. Tall pines. An axe chops into the bark of a tree. A huge pine falls. A trunk is chopped by two axes. Another tree falls in the forest. A two-men saw fells another tree. It topples. Montage of several stems with a drum roll(?), one crashing into the river. Lumber splashes down a log chute. Further along. Closer. And splashes into the river. Loads of logs floating past us. And crashing into the river. More follow. More come towards us. And enter the river. Lumber floating in the river and piled on the bank- masses of it. An explosion in the river, probably to release logs. A pile of logs rolls down the bank. Floating logs. A sea of logs- great image. A log being sawn by a saw wheel. Opposite angle. Another. Steam or smoke. Mechanical claws, as of a crane. These collect coal from a barge. And deposit it in an onshore container. More coal is grabbed. An ironworks- factory buildings and smoking chimneys. More smoking chimneys. Wider shot. Molten metal splashes into a wagon. Pouring flaming metal. Smoke and sparks inside a steel or iron works. Molten metal being poured. Splashing metal. Flaming metal. Montage of pouring molten metal. Sparks. Flames and smoke again, great images, accompanied by blurring(?) smoke. Spuming smoke. Montage of cotton bales on a conveyer belt. Wider shot, to show workers, the Mississippi river in background, a town or city beyond. Montage of bales on the belts, loads of bales waiting to be shipped. Spinning cotton spools (the cotton intended for France and England). Black workers hauling cotton bales. A loom. The bales and workers again. Bales lowered into a ship's hold. A merchant ship sails out. Another ship sails. And another. Views of modern towns, bridges over the Miss.: St Paul in Minneapolis. Davenport or Keokuk. Moline or Quincy. Cincinnati or St Louis. Omaha or Kansas City. Montage of bridge, city views. A merchant vessel, probably in the Gulf of Mexico. Further away. Montage of forests silhouetted against cloudy skies, misty forests, felled trees. Misty landscape of a felled forest. Chopped and burned hillside. Another tree, roots exposed- all this shows the cost of building 'a hundred cities and a thousand towns'. Charred stumps. Closer, icicles hanging from one. A crumbling bank or hillside. Closer. Similar- rain washing the soil away. Again. Once more. Sliding mud. More rivulets. Faster. Faster still. Streams forming. Again. A small waterfall. Gushing water. Torrent. Closer. A muddy river in a forest. Again. The river wider. Montage of churning rivers, turbulent waves, trees being swept away. The river sweeping past or round a wooden house- flooding. Churning water. The river sweeping over a road. Montage of violently rushing water. Water sweeping round buildings. Turbulent water near a bridge or weir. Another montage of violent water. A tree bending in a storm. A man wearing a sou'wester and carrying a lamp walks at dusk. The storm tree again. The man , further away- he is part of the 'levy'. Lightning flashes. A levy man with lit lamp at night. Men in a boat at night inspect the rising water level. Closer. Lightning. Montage of changing river level notice and flashes of lightning. Levy men climb into a small boat moored at a wooden jetty. They sail out. The motor is started. The same or another boat heads out - part of a coastguard patrol.

Montage of patrol boats setting off in the night. A levy patrol shift mud and sandbags to strengthen anti-flooding defences. Similar. Rushing water. Two men haul a sandbag. Others do the same. A steam train pulls up where men are working. They are part of the 100,000 men who shove(?) up the riverside with wood and earth. And sandbags. The sweeping river. Uniformed helpers (army, navy, marine or coastguard). They build up a dyke with sacks of earth. Closer. Swirling water. A patrol boat visits a flooded farm. We sail past another. The boat, with rescued people on board. On a hill, people have sheltered above the waterline. Three boats bound together, rescued people on board. Rescued people are helped off a boat. Similar. An old woman is given assistance. People and cars in snow. An old man is stretchered. Evacuated families with their belongings. Supplies next to train wagons. Montage of cars pulling carts laden with possessions. A pair of horses pulling a family on their cart, past tents. Tent community of those made homeless by the floods. Soup kitchen dispense food. (750,000 were made homeless.) Children's faces, looking forlorn. A mother feeding her baby using a milk bottle. A home half- submerged by flood water. A dog scampers about on the roof of a flooded home. Several homes beneath water. Farms flooded. Aerial view of a flooded town as narrator lists the floods that have occurred regularly since the turn of the century, including 1937. Closer. Similar, and out over the river. More scenes from the 1937 floods: broken railway line and an overturned house. A post- flood factory, mud everywhere. Mopping up in a town street after the flood. An upside down house, literally on its roof. An overturned car. Ravaged buildings. Gulls. Gullies left by flood water. Similar. Closer, to show the topsoil washed away by water coming down the valleys. More dry earth. Deep water channels now dry. One near a farm. The remains of a barbed wire fence. Gully and farm. A run-down farm house roof. A run- down farm. Rows of cotton picked by Chinese trailing long bags behind them in which to put the cotton- fantastic image. Another angle, commentator talking about farmers' poverty. A Caucasian woman picking cotton. Similar. The group seen before collecting cotton. A worker tips cotton on to a barn floor. The group cotton picking again. A young boy plays with tin cans. Meat is out. Vegetables are boiled. Mother, holding her baby, puts a lid on the saucepan. Mother cooks while the eldest daughter assists, younger children playing. The ragged- clothed children eat their dinner. One of the children. Mother nurses her baby on the end of a bed. One of the boys mops his plate. Closer. Children sleep and wash all in the same room. The baby is put to bed. Trees and sky. The Mississippi, tree-lined banks and sky. The broad river. Where river and sea meet. A plan of the Mississippi river showing its tributaries, deforestation widespread in its valleys, commentary informing us that 25% of surrounding topsoil has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico, that squalor for tenant farmers and share- croppers is rampant, that attempts to control flooding have begun with the 1933 creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (that valley has the most rainfall in the US). Stone is mined at a quarry- a rock wall rumbles after an explosion. A digger scoops rock. A workman drills a rock. An obscure shot of construction work at a dam. Workers on a concrete and steel structure. The dam, a huge construction site. A crane lowers earth. The dam releases water, at low water, for navigation(?) purposes. A quarry explosion. Workman with road drill again. Another rock explosion. Another workman and drill.

Dam under construction. The completed dam- an impressive sight- a vehicle driving across it. Dam reservoir. Again. Another. Workmen's walking feet. Their faces. A line of men pick at soil. One of them plants a sapling- part of a reforestation plan. Workers digging in a dry gully. One swinging a pick. Men plant plants in the bottom of a gully- the roots are intended to hold water in the earth. Young woods. Soil- conservation men on a caterpillar trucked vehicle. Dry topsoil. Crop-planted fields. Grazing cows. The wooded Tennessee valley. A farm built on the wooded slope of a hill. A 'model' agricultural community built in the lee of a mountain. Men constructing a path near one of the homes, each built by the farmers themselves. A house under construction. Children playing in a sandpit outside a finished house. Farmer and horses gathering a crop. Reverse angle. Labourers gather wheat or hay into ricks. The slope of a dam wall. Electricity generator next to it. Closer, a signal indicator dial. A hand turns a dial to 'slow'. Switches are pulled. Dial turned to 'fast', then to 'OK'. A controller operates levers. Closer. Flowing water. Dam seen from reservoir side, electric cables going to a power plant. (Quite a view joins here interfere with images of pylons and steel structures)- a montage of pylons. A montage of dams and water flowing through dams. Credits.

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