Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Meredith Baxter: No Argument Playing Pioneer Heroine, She Worked Hard at Being Subservient

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Meredith Baxter: No Argument Playing Pioneer Heroine, She Worked Hard at Being Subservient

Article excerpt

DRAGGED WEST against her will, pioneer Margaret Reed saved her four children from a terrible winter stranded in the mountains and never questioned her husband's authority.

Acting subservient was the major stretch in playing the role, says Meredith Baxter, who plays the heroine of the ABC movie "One More Mountain" (8 p.m. Sunday on Channel 2).

The film, a Disney Theater presentation, is based on research into the ill-fated Donner Party's crossing of the Sierra Nevada in the winter of 1846-47.

Left alone, Margaret not only saves her four children, she does so without resorting to cannibalism. Of the 82 members of the Donner Party, only 47 survived, and most ate human flesh.

"I did have a hard time with the demeanor," Baxter said. "I read diaries, letters back and forth of women of the period, trying to get an idea of what their lives were like, what their relationships with their families were like. I found women who did not want to go, but they had no voice."

She had particular difficulty with a scene in which James Reed tells his wife they must leave their home in Illinois to seek a better life in California.

"My tone would become argumentative," she said. "I resented so that she had no part in it. But I had to get off that horse."

The Reeds join the Donner Party, which takes an untested short cut through the mountains - and is trapped by a series of heavy blizzards.

James Reed, accused of murder and banished from the group, goes ahead to seek help.

Baxter considered herself an unlikely choice to play a pioneer woman.

"I think I'm too modern-looking in my face and features," explained the actress, who played a very modern mom on the long-running NBC series "Family Ties." "I think I looked better after they dirtied me up."

She has played a killer in the movie "A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story," a lesbian in the Schoolbreak Special "Other Mothers," and a mentally - ill woman in the movie "For the Love of Aaron," all for CBS.

But the scope and subject matter of "One More Mountain" were new to her. …

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