Friday, August 2, 2013

Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura DVD - TOS Review

Dean Butler with Legacy Documentaries 

Dean Butler, producer of Legacy Documentaries, starred as Almanzo Wilder in the made for television series of Little House on the Prairie. He shares that having played the role of Almanzo Wilder has been a source of "pleasure and pride" to him long after the role ended.  The pleasure and pride of which Dean speaks is well evidenced  in this informative and well crafted film: 

We are quintessential all things Laura fans. It was the first book series we read in it's entirety 23 years ago during our first year of homeschooling, we own several books about the Ingalls/Wilder families that go beyond the Little House series, have gone to re-enactments and our older daughters have gone to several of Laura's places of residences. In addition, the Ingalls homestead in DeSmet was one of the most memorable homeschooling field trips we've taken. Living and reclaiming a homestead in the Territories just a stones throw from where Laura and Almanzo began their courtship makes the joys and struggles of the Ingalls' and Wilder's very real to us.And did I mention we've read the series out-loud more than once? We've routed out the moves and the miles; Laura and Almanzo passed just 30 miles from our home on their way to Missouri!
This documentary, however, is really about Almanzo's life and home before coming to the Territories, and about growing up in upstate New York. The Wilder homestead has been lovingly restored by the community where Almanzo's family resided before their own move west and there are plenty of shots in this 53 minute documentary to really make the books come alive. I was especially interested in how the barns were situated and was not disappointed to see lots of good angle shots and explanations of  how they were used. In addition, there are some re-enactments, along with descriptions of how the homestead is used today. 
We all sat down to watch this together, including Dr. Dh, who is just as big a history buff as the rest of us. We found this documentary well done, with clean, crisp photography, a gentle, well moving narrative, and lots of excerpts from the book, Farmer Boy. While it did not present an earth shattering new view of Almanzo, (but who would expect that of someone who is depicted as Mr. Sure and Steady?), it was a good visual and overview of Almanzo Wilder's childhood, and thus, American boyhood on the farm in the 19th century. We did learn some surprising facts about Almanzo's family, but you'll have to buy the DVD and learn about it for yourself!
Pa's Fiddle (DVD): The Music of America (Homage to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Father) Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura
This DVD, and in fact the entire series, including Pa's Fiddle and the Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder, would be a great addition to any history or geography study, a unit on Western expansion, or simply in addition to reading the Little House Books.
To view the the trailers for each of the DVD's, go to Laura's Little House Legacy. The Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura DVD is available for $21.95

Content -excellent
Presentation -excellent
Organization -excellent

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