Collection Summary

The John Beyer Iowa Documentaries Collection is comprised of 22 documentaries that writer-producer-director John H. Beyer III (1939 – 2002) made with the Iowa Educational Broadcasting Network (IEBN) and its successor, the Iowa Public Broadcasting Network (IPBN) between 1969 and 1978. After studying communications at Syracuse University and gaining documentary filmmaking experience at Milwaukee and Cleveland television stations, Beyer, a Des Moines native, returned home in 1969 to join KDIN-TV, a precursor to IEBN. Over the next decade, Beyer created award-winning documentaries in the form of “film essays” that gave voice both to everyday Iowans and societal outsiders. Most of Beyer’s documentaries, focusing on local institutions and issues, were shot on film with small crews (including, in most cases, cinematographer-editor Ron Burnell) in order to better immerse the viewer in the often intimate worlds he recorded. Documentaries in the collection are representative of Beyer’s work, and include Beyer’s first documentary, “Promise City,” about a small Iowa farming community in decline; “Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry,” winner of the 1971 Ohio State Film Festival Award, about young women in a home for unwed mothers; “Cheryl,” about Cheryl Browne, the first African-American Miss America contestant; and “Take Des Moines – Please,” the Emmy-award-winning tongue-in-cheek exposé of the state capital’s transportation crisis that gave Beyer national recognition. Subjects in the collection include local issues in Iowa, disability, race, music, aging, treatment of animals, education, and agriculture.

Collection Background

Items in the John Beyer Iowa Documentaries Collection were produced by the Iowa Educational Broadcasting Network and the Iowa Public Broadcasting Network, now known as Iowa Public Television (IPTV). The materials were contributed to the AAPB by IPTV during the first major AAPB digitization project funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2012.

Special thanks to John Beyer IV for providing photos and additional information, as well as to Nancy Heather Brown, retired IPTV Producer and American Archive Content Inventory Project Specialist at IPTV, for her contributions to the cataloging of items in this collection.