HeartlandIt was Johnny D. Boggs’s turn to select the film for this Western Night session and he brought HEARTLAND (1979) based on LETTERS OF A WOMAN HOMESTEADER, a memoir by Elinor Pruitt Stewart about her experiences in the unforgiving wilds of Wyoming.

Set in 1910, Elinor (Conchata Ferrell), a widow with a young daughter, comes to Wyoming to work as housekeeper for cattle rancher Clyde Stewart (Rip Torn) a hardscrabble Scotsman who, Elinor is told early on, may take her a year to get used to.

Written by Beth Ferris and William Kittredge, the film moves somewhat slowly, yet nearly every scene has a rigorous vigor to it. Director Richard Pearce (LEAP OF FAITH) brings a documentary immediacy to the picture, and every character shows mettle, and then some. Amidst the harsh, desolate ranching life, like a pig slaughtered and a cow skinned, there are astonishing moments of joy, such as Elinor, realizing after taking her wedding vows, she’d neglected to remove her apron and work boots.

Winter scenes feel as cold as they look. (The movie was filmed in Montana.) And there are few niceties to be found in the ranch house. Only the essentials. Perhaps most surprising of all, there is no villain here, only the dogged determination to live.

The supporting cast includes Lilia Skala (the mother superior in LILIES OF THE FIELD) as Grandma Landauer, whose kind gestures and words offer Elinor solace as well as warnings, and Barry Primus playing a ranch hand who knows when it’s time to move on, as well as to come back.

With a running time of 96 minutes, HEARTLAND is available on DVD, youtube.com and several streaming services such as tubi and freevee.

Along with Johnny, record nine-time Spur Award-winning author and Owen Wister Award winner (take a look at his latest LONGHORNS EAST), our group includes Kirk Ellis, Emmy-winning screenwriter and producer of HBO’s JOHN ADAMS and TNT’s INTO THE WEST, Kirk’s wife, Sheila, David Morrell, award-winning author and New York Times best-selling author of FIRST BLOOD, the novel that introduced the character Rambo, and Robert Nott, award-winning journalist and author of several books on Western films, including THE FILMS OF BUDD BOETTICHER.

Watch “Heartland” and leave a comment with your thoughts about the movie.

Thomas Clagett Post Image - Western BG

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