By Crystal Lorimor
In the summer and early fall of 1939, Bill and Hazel Parkinson of Warnock, Ohio -- just a few miles from Ohio University-Eastern -- allowed the United States Film Service and the Rural Electrification Administration to film their daily existence, showing how rural farm families' lives could be affected by electrification. The resulting documentary, "Power and the Land," premiered on Aug. 31, 1940, in downtown St. Clairsville.
Independent film producer Ephraim Smith believes the film, which was subsequently shown to millions of American farmers, "helped electrify the American farm." And at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in the Eastern campus theater, he will preview his new documentary, "The Parkinsons," featuring the history of Parkinson descendants.
"I think that now I appreciate the original documentary so much more," said John W. Parkinson, a grandson of the original film's subjects. "Dr. Smith has shown me things that I never knew or heard about (my family)."
The film is the second Smith has made about the Parkinsons. The first was an hour-long program, "Power for the Parkinsons," narrated by Walter Cronkite. That program, which documents how the 1940 film was created, premiered in April on Detroit Public Television. The film recently aired on Ohio University's WOUB-TV and is scheduled for broadcast by others later this year, including West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
Smith, a history professor at California State University, Fresno, teaches courses on the production of historical documentaries and the history of nonfiction film. He has a particular interest in the films produced by the U.S. government during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
Smith's curiosity about what became of the Parkinson family was piqued by questions his students asked after viewing the 1940 film. The original film was directed by Joris Ivens and produced by Pare Lorentz, both internationally recognized for their work on documentary films.
In 2000, Smith visited the Warnock area and met with John W. Parkinson and one of the couple's nephews, John W. Parkinson III. The film premiering this month, a result of those interviews, looks at the wartime contributions of the Parkinson children and the family history up to the present. It also is narrated by Cronkite.
Smith also will share excerpts of "Power for the Parkinsons," and members of the Parkinson family will be on hand to answer questions from the audience.
More information and brief previews of both films by Smith can be found at www.powerforparkinsons.com.
To speak with a media representative about this story, contact Crystal Lorimor, director of marketing and public relations for Ohio University-Eastern, at 740-699-2356 or Lorimor@ohio.edu.