Pioneer Woman (TV Movie 1973) Poster

(1973 TV Movie)

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8/10
a good insight into the tough life of how the west was won
spj-418 March 2008
I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would.

It presents well the vulnerability of the individual in settling the pioneering lands of vastness. Especially for a woman who has children to care for where survival is rough & tough & against the odds! I thought these insights were effectively described in the diaries of the woman attempting to farm the harsh lands amidst con-men, the well-meaning and hillsides of buffalo. But every time, it's a case of a struggle to make more steps forward, against the obstacles forcing the determined back, through natural and man-made catastrophes.

Along the way, the vastness of the raw scenery is impressive in creating a sense of the difficulties of this "pioneer woman" and those around her. Well worth a look!
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6/10
Salvaging the dream
bkoganbing22 September 2015
I've always thought of Joanna Pettet as one of the most beautiful and glamorous women of the big screen and small in the latter half of the last century. So it's a pleasant surprise that in Pioneer Woman Pettet ditches the glamor and becomes a hard working Pioneer Woman who salvages her husband's dream of going west.

She faces some real problems as she and husband William Shatner sell all they have in Indiana move west on land Shatner bought from the railroad. Shatner does this unilaterally without consulting Pettet, in those days that is how it was done.

First Shatner gets uprooted from his land by some brothers who've been working it for seven years now. Then he's killed homesteading new land in Wyoming territory.

Pettet makes some critical choices for herself and kids Helen Hunt and Russell Baer. Hard work, a little luck and an understanding an hunky neighbor in rancher David Janssen make her believe that staying might be the best idea.

Pioneer Woman is a sober assessment of what pioneer life was like on the American frontier. Even without Indian wars it was still a rugged existence especially for a woman.

Pettet shows she has the right stuff. In fact this G rated film is actually quite the feminist manifesto.

A great film for family and feminist audiences if you can believe that.
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6/10
Fresh and Genuine
Uriah438 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This film was much better than I originally expected. Set in the post-Civil War era, it depicts the plight of a small family in Indiana setting out west to start a farm. "John Sergeant" (played by William Shatner) gambles everything on some land in Nebraska in the hope for a brand new life. His wife, "Maggie Sergeant" (Joanna Pettet) is reluctant to leave but does the best she can to support her husband. Along the way out west, they encounter hardship and disappointment which this film displays in a very realistic manner. And while William Shatner gives a decent performance, it is Joanna Pettet who is the real star of this picture as her acting was first-rate. David Janssen (as "Robert Douglas") is also quite good playing the part of a free-range cowboy in a supporting role. The weaknesses in this movie are few, but if I had to list one it would probably be that the ending could have been drawn out a bit more. All things considered though, there are plenty of westerns which have a great deal more violence and action than this particular film. But if you're looking for a movie that is fresh and genuine then this is a fine candidate, especially for family viewing.
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10/10
Pioneer Woman
paulbehrer221735 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film on Encore Westerns at 7:10 a.m. yesterday morning, and its plot was: Maggie Sergeant (Joanna Pettet) is chronicling in her diary the hardships that she, her husband John (William Shatner) and their 2 children (Helen Hunt and Russell Baer) faced, starting with their move to Nebraska in March of 1867 (March 10, in fact) to settle on land that John had bought there, only to find on arriving there in late April that the area had been settled 7 years ago. In the argument between John and the people already settled there, Maggie suffers a miscarriage, which forces John to relinquish the property rights and ask Maggie if she wants to go to Wyoming and settle there instead. They arrive at a parcel of land next to a ranch owned by Robert Douglas (David Janssen), just outside the town of Big Pines, and settle there, planting wheat and vegetables. One day, John is returned to Maggie and the children by Mr. Douglas, who found him dead after he drowned in a flash flood while returning home from filing their settlement claim. Maggie takes on caring for her family, even banding together with her neighbors to save all that everyone owned from a prairie fire. While in town the following day, Maggie runs into Mr. Douglas, who asks her if she's heading back east with her kids. She says no, that that they're staying, and the story ends with her August 21, 1867 diary entry in which she says that she's sending for a teacher to establish a school for the children of the Pines Ridge community, and a minister to attend to the religious needs of all the families there, adding that she doesn't feel like an outsider anymore. I found this to be one of Ms. Pettet's best roles in her acting career since she was portraying a character determined to overcome the challenges presented to her. I even wept several times over the film's course. I'd really like to find this film on DVD, so I can view it again and again. Spoiler Alert: This wasn't Ms. Pettet's only appearance alongside David Janssen. She appeared in an episode of The Fugitive 7 years prior to this film, and in 3 episodes of Harry-O after this film aired on CBS.
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A series pilot in disguise
Wizard-823 October 2003
It's pretty clear that "Pioneer Woman" was actually a pilot for a proposed series. Probably it was for the best it wasn't picked up, because there aren't any signs that this would have been especially engaging or surprising. It does get some historical details more exact than a lot of other westerns - for example, it's correct in showing that covered wagons used oxen for the most part and not horses, and that settlers often built houses with sod instead of logs. As well, the first half of the movie gives plenty of entertainment thanks to William Shatner, because he gives one of his hammier performances.
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7/10
One of the more memorable of the ABC TV movies of the 70s
calvinnme18 January 2017
A woman is forced to leave her comfy Indiana city to go to Nebraska with her family because her husband wants to farm. She faces finding out they were scammed and there is no land, a miscarriage, widowhood after they finally find a place to settle, and holding on to the place with her children. The one false note is her playing hard-to-get with an obviously smitten neighbor who is ringing her chimes as well.

Joanna Pettet is the woman, William Shatner her husband and David Janssen the man who wants to be. If you can believe this bit of casting, Lance LeGault is a friendly neighbor and totally good guy. Helen Hunt makes her acting debut as the woman's daughter. Yes it's a feminist piece since a "pioneer feminist" is who the story revolves around, but it's not preachy and is well done.
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4/10
A TV film with unrealized potential
thedreamer623 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It does appear as though this movie was made as a pilot for a possible TV series, and in some ways it's too bad it didn't get a chance. The premise was good, and the potential for good future stories was laid out well --- including the discovery little Helen Hunt made of those strange rocks in the water bed. The basic story presents an element of realism that was missing in many of the western television shows from those days, and the idea that a woman with two children could successfully run a farm by herself was a subject unheard of. Perhaps William Shatner's brief appearance was meant only as way to get people to watch... as for me, I enjoyed seeing him looking young again and in a roll other than James T. Kirk. Maybe someday another producer will consider doing an updated version of this story, and that would be a plus.
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Seventies made for T.V. hokeum.
Joseph P. Ulibas4 March 2004
Pioneer Woman (1973) was one of those movies that endlessly played on cable and late night T.V. during the mid to late 80's (god I miss those days). It was real cheesy and extremely hokey ( I like 'em like that) and it showcases the talents of one of my favorite cheese actors William Shatner (he sure made a lot of these movies). His mugging and posturing in front of the camera has to be seen to be believed. A brief synopsis, a family of homesteaders move out into the wild. wild, west and encounter more than they bargain for.

Harmless fun for all ages. If it ever comes on the idiot box watch it but I wouldn't go out of my way to get a copy.

C+
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7/10
A very unusual yet better than expected made for TV film
MartinHafer23 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is not normally the sort of film I would want to see--after all, the subject matter isn't the most exciting I've ever seen. The film is a lot like "Little House on the Prairie" but without all the schmaltz. However, in recent months I have taken great delight in watching the films of William Shatner--which range from decent (such as INCUBUS) to the amazingly bad (IMPULSE)--so bad that they really should be seen as cult classics for bad film addicts like myself. Here, though, there are two major problems. First, Shatner is pretty good in the film and seldom over-acts. Second, as the film is about the pioneer WOMEN, you know that sooner or later Shatner had to start "pushin' up the daisies" (a nice Old West euphemism)--plus the plot summary on IMDb says this, so there isn't a lot of suspense in this regard.

The film plays like a pioneer woman's diary that is being dramatized. You hear the long-suffering wife narrate at times and her life is recreated in little vignettes. Most of this might seem a bit dull, but it's also a good history lesson--something most people take for granted. If you can get your kids to actually sit still during the film, they might learn a lot about just how hard it was for homesteaders in the 19th century. They might appreciate what they have just a bit more.

As far as the quality of the production goes, it's pretty good and obvious that the folks who made this really cared. I was also impressed that Joanna Pettet was willing to play a less than glamorous role as the mother and the film stands up pretty well 36 years later.

By the way, the young daughter is a very young Helen Hunt and it's sure hard to recognize that it's her.
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8/10
This and " Young Pioneers" sample the risks of homesteading
weezeralfalfa4 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The film begins with the Sergeant family in an Indiana town. They are: papa John, mama Maggie, and half grown children Sarah and Jeremy. John, who spent his youth on a farm, is itching to change his life from a drug store clerk living in a rented house, to a farmer, who owns his own land, and builds his own house. But, he figures Indiana land will always be too expensive for him. Thus, he has decided to fulfill his dream of heading west where land was cheap or free. He took the liberty of buying some railroad land in Nebraska, without consulting his wife or children, who weren't enthusiastic about such a move. They sold everything they could, to buy supplies for their trip and train tickets for Lincoln, NE. From Lincoln, they traveled by prairie schooner, pulled by 2 oxen, with a milk cow in the rear.

When they arrived at their land, they discovered they are regarded as claim jumpers by a group of men and women, who claim they have worked the land for 7 years, thus qualify for a claim to the land. A fight erupts, and John nearly drowns, before giving up. Instead of returning to Indiana, they agree to head west for Wyoming. They stop by a small crossroads , and the proprietor of a store welcomes them to settle on a peace of land next to his wheat farm. John miraculously breaks the sod for a large wheat field, builds a sod house, using the sod he plowed up, and plants his field in wheat, all within a few weeks, this being spring. They are lucky there are a few small trees around to provide roof support.

The first rain storm is welcomed, but reveals a major leak or two in the roof. A much more serious consequence is the death of John, who drowned in a flash flood. Now, Maggie is in a quandary what to do: head back home, look for a job elsewhere, or find a new husband. Neighbor Douglas keeps hinting that he would be agreeable to a marriage. They decide to stay until the wheat is harvested to hopefully obtain enough money for a trip back to Indiana. They almost lose all their wheat, as well as their house, when a large prairie fire nearly engulfs these. They only lost a small percentage of their wheat in making a firebreak... I will stop my summary here.

I'm impressed that oxen, rather than the more commonly portrayed horses, pulled their prairie schooner. Oxen were cheaper to buy, could pull more weight, and could better live off the prairie grasses. Thus, most pioneers used oxen, or mules, rather than horses to pull their wagon.

Several criticisms: That was an awfully big wheat field for John to plant, using primitive seeding methods. Also, how were they going to market their wheat, being far from any population center or railroad. Also, they arrived in very early spring, when there might still be snow on the prairie and they should be wearing cold weather clothes.

As others have mentioned, this film appears to have been regarded as a pilot for a TV series, hence the rather unsatisfying ending. A few years later, another film on the same subject: "Young Pioneers" was released, being 25 min. longer than the present 70 min. film. It too was a pilot for a TV series, which fizzled after 3 episodes: perhaps an indication of what would have happened if the present film had been followed by additional episodes. I would choose this later film over the present one, partly because it's long enough to dramatize more challenges. However, the stories are sufficiently different that, if you like this sort of subject, I would recommend seeing both. Both are presently available on You Tube, or DVDs.
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3/10
Check out "Heartland" much better
IcySpoon26 January 2014
This was an entertaining made for TV movie-something to catch in the middle of the night when insomnia hits. I won't provide a synopsis as there are several written but I would like to suggest that anyone with an interest in movies about Pioneer Women seek out "Heartland" with Rip Torn and Conchata Farrell. Ms Farrell's portrays a widowed mother in 1910 who sets across the country in answer to an Ad to become a housekeeper with the eventual dream of owning her own homestead. The movie is much more realistic than "Pioneer Woman" and is based on the letters of Elinore Pruitt Stewart collected in Letters of a Woman Homesteader. The movie truly shows the harsh reality these women faced and Ms. Farrell, with her larger stature is better suited to this role than the delicate, pretty Ms Pettet.
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1/10
Best Acting Shatner Ever Did !
rfmfix28 May 2009
I just watched this movie on Starz and was riveted when I saw Shatner in it. His best scene came when David Janssen brought him back on horseback "dead" after a rain storm / landslide or something killed him. Did you see how still he lay on that horseback?

Not a whimper or a word out of 'im. God, he plays a dead man so well ! This movie was a complete waste of film. They should have just burned it in the brush fire toward the end of the movie. Horrible !

Acting sucked all around. Only the beautiful eyes of Joanna Pettet kept me watching. Beam me out of here ! The Western movie will never be the same.
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