Heartland (1981)

PG | 95 mins | Western, Drama | 23 August 1981

Director:

Richard Pearce

Cinematographer:

Fred Murphy

Editor:

Bill Yahraus

Production Designer:

Patrizia Von Brandenstein

Production Companies:

Wilderness Women, Filmhaus
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HISTORY

       The 22 Nov 1981 NYT reported that an early working title of the film was Burntfork.
       As tracked in articles in the 3 Oct 1979 LAT and the 22 Nov 1981 NYT, writer Beth Ferris and executive producer Annick Smith formed Wilderness Women Productions, Inc., in Missoula, MT, in 1976 with the aim of developing projects centered on “how women coped with the wilderness.” They received an $82,500 research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the University of Montana’s Wilderness Institute. While researching archival data of women’s lives in the early West, the women altered their plans to make a documentary and chose to develop a screenplay based on Elinore Randall Stewart’s letters about her life in WY. The women also interviewed Elinore’s children, Jerrine Wire, Robert Stewart, and Clyde Stewart Jr., consulted historians T. A. Larsen and K. Ross Toole, and were aided by writer Bill Kittredge and script consultant Elizabeth Clark.
       In 1977, Ferris and Smith’s project caught the attention of Richard Pearce, a noted cinematographer and television movie director. As director, Pearce recruited producer Michael Hausman. In the fall of 1978, Ferris’ written treatment of Burntfork and the “production package” of Pearce and Hausman were submitted to the NEH, who agreed to fund the $600,000 film. The movie marked the feature film debut of both director Pearce and writer Ferris.
       The title was changed to Heartland during pre-production, in early 1979. The movie is set in WY, but the filmmakers chose to shoot at a remote hilltop location in ... More Less

       The 22 Nov 1981 NYT reported that an early working title of the film was Burntfork.
       As tracked in articles in the 3 Oct 1979 LAT and the 22 Nov 1981 NYT, writer Beth Ferris and executive producer Annick Smith formed Wilderness Women Productions, Inc., in Missoula, MT, in 1976 with the aim of developing projects centered on “how women coped with the wilderness.” They received an $82,500 research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the University of Montana’s Wilderness Institute. While researching archival data of women’s lives in the early West, the women altered their plans to make a documentary and chose to develop a screenplay based on Elinore Randall Stewart’s letters about her life in WY. The women also interviewed Elinore’s children, Jerrine Wire, Robert Stewart, and Clyde Stewart Jr., consulted historians T. A. Larsen and K. Ross Toole, and were aided by writer Bill Kittredge and script consultant Elizabeth Clark.
       In 1977, Ferris and Smith’s project caught the attention of Richard Pearce, a noted cinematographer and television movie director. As director, Pearce recruited producer Michael Hausman. In the fall of 1978, Ferris’ written treatment of Burntfork and the “production package” of Pearce and Hausman were submitted to the NEH, who agreed to fund the $600,000 film. The movie marked the feature film debut of both director Pearce and writer Ferris.
       The title was changed to Heartland during pre-production, in early 1979. The movie is set in WY, but the filmmakers chose to shoot at a remote hilltop location in the Snowy Mountains of MT, approximately ninety miles west of Billings, and situated fifty miles from each of the “three tiny towns” of Harlotown, Judith Gap and Two Dot. Several scenes in the film were set during a brutal winter, and the MT location was chosen for the possibility of a spring snowfall. Principal photography began Apr 1979, and the filmmakers were able to simulate three seasons during the thirty-seven day shoot, with a spring blizzard providing the necessary winter weather. Principal photography was completed in May 1979.
       Heartland was edited in Venice, CA, during the summer of 1979, and premiered at the American Independent Film Festival in Sep 1979. The 12 Mar 1980 Var reviewed the film at the Berlin Festival, where Heartland was a co-winner of the Golden Bear, the festival’s top prize. The 13 Mar 1981 DV reported that the National Cowboy Hall of Fame would present its Western Heritage Award to Heartland on 25 Apr 1981.
       The 22 Nov 1981 NYT reported Smith’s contention that it was a long process to find distribution, noting that several large film companies felt the movie’s commercial possibilities were limited. The 17 Jul 1981 DV announced that Levitt-Pickman Film Corp. secured a domestic distribution deal, and would launch Heartland from the festival and semi-theatrical circuit into mainstream release, with plans for extensive distribution in the U.S. and Canada in fall 1981. The 12 Aug 1981 Var reported the film would premiere in New York City on 23 Aug 1981. An article in the 3 Feb 1982 Var noted the film was doing “sturdy” box-office business in mid-America, with audiences steadily building due to critical acclaim and positive word of mouth.

      End credits include the following statements: “Special thanks to: Phoebe Gibson, Dick DiBona/General Camera, Marvin Berg Family, Bob Lee Family, Ray Luther Family, Chuck Volf Family, Mr. & Mrs. Roland Wright, Mr. & Mrs. Pete White, Mr. & Mrs. Don Swanz, Marc & Mabel Haynes, Mr. & Mrs. Joe Sedgewick, Jewel Harper, Dean Holmes, Shirley Iegar, Bob Williams, Bill Wilkerson, Janet Zelg, Gary Wunderwald/Montana Film Commission, King Wilson/Montana Central Railroad, Harlowton Times Clarion, Lynzee Klingman, John Klein, Jim Caron & Maeda Kaplan/Missoula Children’s Theatre, Jerrine Rupert Wire, Robert & Ann Stewart, Clyde & Jeannette Stewart, David Grapes/Billings Studio Theatre, Robert R. Ream, K. Ross Toole, T. A. Larson, Dee & Herbert Winokur, Wilderness Institute/School of Forestry/University of Montana, and the citizens of Wheatland, Fergus, and Meagher Counties, Montana”; “This film was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities”; and, “In Loving Memory of Elinore and Clyde Stewart.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
13 Mar 1981.
---
Daily Variety
17 Jul 1981.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Oct 1979
p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
3 Oct 1979
Section IV, pp. 14-15.
Los Angeles Times
2 Nov 1981
p. 4.
New York Times
23 Aug 1981
p. 65.
New York Times
22 Nov 1981
p. 17, 30.
Variety
12 Mar 1980
p. 23.
Variety
12 Aug 1981.
---
Variety
3 Feb 1982
p. 33.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Levitt-Pickman Film Corporation Release
A National Endowment for the Humanities Presentation
Wilderness Women and Filmhaus Present
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
Prod mgr
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Scr consultant
Addl scenes and dial by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
Gaffer
Best boy
2d grip
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst to the art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Carpenter
Carpenter
COSTUMES
Ward supv
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Hair and makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting dir
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Prod secy
Scr supv
Animal handler
Animal handler
Casting assoc
Catering
Catering
Post prod supv
Post prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Film courier
Film courier
COLOR PERSONNEL
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Burntfork
Release Date:
23 August 1981
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 August 1981
Los Angeles opening: 30 October 1981
Production Date:
April -- May 1979
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Cameras by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
95
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1910, widow Elinor Randall places an advertisement to become a housekeeper and travels by train to Wyoming with her seven-year-old daughter, Jerrine, to work on a ranch. Her new boss, Clyde Stewart, meets their train in Green River Junction, and they purchase supplies before traveling to his remote ranch in Burnt Forks, Wyoming. There, they meet his ranch hand, Jack, and Elinor learns she will receive $7.00 per week. However, she negotiates for time off on Sundays after breakfast. Elinor takes over the housekeeping and gardening, and teaches Jerrine how to milk a cow. Later, while Clyde is away, a neighboring rancher, Mrs. Landauer, visits and says she is known as “Grandma Landauer” because she is the local midwife. When Clyde returns, he agrees to Grandma’s request to borrow Jack’s labor for a few days. Later, on the day of cattle branding, Elinor and Grandma Landauer work together to provide lunch for the crew. Although Clyde compliments Elinor on her cooking, she later admits to Grandma that she does not know how to talk to her employer. Grandma suggests that she learn to communicate with Clyde before winter. Elinor reveals that she has worked on farms, but has never done ranching. She wonders why there are not more homesteaders in the area, and shares her dream of owning land. Grandma informs Elinor that the homestead bordering Clyde’s land is open, but he has reached the limit of the territory he is allowed to own. Grandma warns Elinor that life in the region is difficult, particularly during the harsh winters, and admits her husband froze to ... +


In 1910, widow Elinor Randall places an advertisement to become a housekeeper and travels by train to Wyoming with her seven-year-old daughter, Jerrine, to work on a ranch. Her new boss, Clyde Stewart, meets their train in Green River Junction, and they purchase supplies before traveling to his remote ranch in Burnt Forks, Wyoming. There, they meet his ranch hand, Jack, and Elinor learns she will receive $7.00 per week. However, she negotiates for time off on Sundays after breakfast. Elinor takes over the housekeeping and gardening, and teaches Jerrine how to milk a cow. Later, while Clyde is away, a neighboring rancher, Mrs. Landauer, visits and says she is known as “Grandma Landauer” because she is the local midwife. When Clyde returns, he agrees to Grandma’s request to borrow Jack’s labor for a few days. Later, on the day of cattle branding, Elinor and Grandma Landauer work together to provide lunch for the crew. Although Clyde compliments Elinor on her cooking, she later admits to Grandma that she does not know how to talk to her employer. Grandma suggests that she learn to communicate with Clyde before winter. Elinor reveals that she has worked on farms, but has never done ranching. She wonders why there are not more homesteaders in the area, and shares her dream of owning land. Grandma informs Elinor that the homestead bordering Clyde’s land is open, but he has reached the limit of the territory he is allowed to own. Grandma warns Elinor that life in the region is difficult, particularly during the harsh winters, and admits her husband froze to death one winter. On a Sunday ride with Jerrine, Elinor comes across an abandoned home, and as they continue on, she finds the campsite of a covered wagon. Inside, a young pregnant woman, Clara Jane, huddles next to her dead husband, and Elinor helps bury the body. When Elinor and Jerrine do not return home, Clyde searches for them and learns that Elinor asked a nearby rancher about available homesteads. Clyde finds them at Clara Jane’s camp, and, as they return home, Elinor and Clyde argue about her search for land. Since he paid Elinor’s travel expenses to Wyoming, he expects her to work for a year, and she agrees. Later, Elinor and Jerrine visit the Homestead Office in town, where Elinor pays $12.00 to file a claim for Birch Creek, the property adjacent to Clyde’s ranch. At home, she reveals her purchase and attempts to negotiate an advance on her salary, but Clyde explains the harsh realities of ranching. He has a home, wood, water, and livestock, and only makes a small living. She has none of those practical assets and cannot afford to start a ranch on her salary. Clyde suggests they marry and unite the properties, and Elinor agrees. Everyone from the area brings food and flowers to the wedding picnic. Later, when the cattlebuyer arrives at the ranch, Clyde insists he will not sell his cows for such a low figure. The cattlebuyer cannot offer more, so Clyde sells only part of his livestock, even though he may not have enough feed for the extra animals during the winter. Jack understands there is also no money to pay a ranch hand, and leaves to look for work in Mexico during the winter. Elinor becomes pregnant, but continues to work hard as winter arrives. Over the months, the snow becomes deep and the creek freezes over. One day, when Jerrine cannot reach the chickens, Clyde insists she shovel a path. As Elinor goes outside, Clyde stops her, insisting she is too pregnant and Jerrine must take over her duties. That night, Elinor is furious that Jerrine got frostbite, but he insists that everyone must be expected to help. She claims Clyde is taking out his anger on them, argues that they need Jack’s assistance, and worries that the hay is running out. Clyde insists it would not be any different if Jack were present. When Elinor goes into labor that night, Clyde is unable to find Grandma Landauer at her ranch, and returns alone. Elinor gives birth to a son, and they are happy for a short time, but the baby becomes ill and dies. As the spring thaw arrives, Grandma returns to console the grief-stricken Elinor. Later, Elinor visits Clara Jane’s camp and learns that she gave birth to a daughter, who survived the winter. Jack returns and offers to work with Clyde in exchange for a colt, until Clyde can afford wages. Clyde and Jack struggle to learn how many of their animals survived the winter. At dinner, Elinor is disturbed by the cries of hungry animals outside, and Clyde leaves the table. Jack reveals that half of the animals are gone and guesses that Clyde blames himself. Elinor joins her husband outside and tells him that it is not his fault. She suggests they borrow money, but he claims they have lost too much. She offers to sell her land to Grandma Landauer, but Clyde counters that Elinor does not own the homestead yet, and Grandma could not afford it anyway. Elinor insists that she will stand by her husband and she is not leaving the land where her child is buried. Clyde is sad that after ten years of building his ranch, it is gone. She counters that at least they have chickens. That night, Clyde awakens Elinor to help him in the barn with a pregnant heifer. After the cow’s difficult labor, the couple save the calf and share a smile. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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