After the Burden’s move into town to have an easier life and to provide Jimmy with a better education, Otto leaves and moves on to work the mines in the west. After one brief letter, their beloved friend is never heard from again.Jimmy heads to college and becomes a lawyer. He marries Lena, who has followed him back East. He and Antonia remain friends, but have drifted apart. Jimmy returns to Nebraska years later and finds her happily married with several children.
Orphaned after his parents die in a smallpox epidemic in Virginia, teenage Jimmy Burden moves to the farm where his grandparents, Josia and Emmaline Burden, live outside of Black Hawk, Nebraska. Their neighbors are new immigrants from Bohemia, the Shimerda family. Jimmy instantly becomes friends with the family's 15-year-old daughter, Antonia. Her father wants him to teach her English, but his grandfather is not pleased with their friendship or her distracting him from his studies. In spite of his grandfather's disapproval, Jimmy finds many opportunities to spend time with her, even though he is also attracted to the beautiful Lena, a Swedish girl about his age.Antonia's father is found dead shortly after he visits the Burden's at Christmas time. The Shimerda family was ill prepared for the harsh Nebraska winters, and his depression was evident as he realized he was unable to keep his family warm or well fed. Antonia was the hardest working and strongest in the family, and was able to hold them together in spite of the hardships they faced. She seemed to thrive on working the land to help provide for her family instead of attending school with Jimmy.
My apologies for murky screencaps. Many of the scenes were poorly lit on purpose to give the realistic impression of sod homes and candlelit rooms.
Otto befriends Jimmy after he picks him up from the train station. He helps him with his new horse and advises him when he has questions.
Jimmy soon moves to town with his aging grandparents, who had talked about wanting an easier life than they had on the farm. They also want to nurture his potential for becoming a university student. Antonia comes to work in town, thanks to the help of Jimmy's grandmother, but it's made clear to her that she is not to distract Jimmy from his studies. Although Jimmy does go off to the state university in Lincoln and eventually Harvard Law School, he and Antonia continue to have a deep friendship and understanding when they are reunited even though they have been apart for many years.
Jimmy’s new home in Nebraska.
Jimmy’s grandparents, the Burden’s, as played by Jason Robards and Eva Marie Saint.
Otto is driving the family over to see their new neighbors, the Shimerda’s, immigrants from Bohemia. This is when Jimmy meets Antonia.
Jimmy is completely captivated by Antonia and spends as much time as he can with her, under his Grandfather’s disapproving eye. It isn’t long before the beautiful Lena comes along and flirts with Jimmy, driving a wedge between them.
Otto is a true and dependable hand around the farm -- steady and always there.
It’s a hard winter and Otto reports that the Shimeda’s are not doing well -- they are ill prepared for the harsh Nebraska winter in their sod home, with very little food or heat.
Mr. Shimeda pays the Burden’s a visit, and the next day is found dead by his own hand, despondent over the fact that his family is cold and hungry.
About Norbert’s Character -- OttoNorbert Weisser's character, Otto, wasn't very well developed in this movie adaptation even though he had a fairly prominent role. However, he is always there, steady as a rock and well integrated with the family,butnotmuchissaidabout his life.The book has quite a bit more of his story to tell. Otto was considered a master craftsman and woodworker from Austria. Since arriving in America when he was quite a bit younger, he had worked at many professions across the West -- cowboy, prospector and most recently hired hand for the Burden's. His character is described as looking like something that stepped out of the times of Jesse James, with a scar across his face. He was also missing part of an ear from frostbite during the time he was driving a stage coach in Wyoming and got caught in a fierce blizzard.Otto was a dependable and steady worker, and took a liking to young Jimmy, showing him the ways of farm life in rural Nebraska. To the delight of Jimmy, Otto was always able to pull an unexpected surprise or two out of his cowboy trunk, including several beautiful hand-crafted Christmas figurines that he hadcarriedallthewayfromAustria.When the family moved to town, Otto left to go prospecting again. He was in touch with the family briefly, but then nothing more was ever heard from him, and his fate is unclear. Jimmy looked upon Otto as an older brother and someone to look up to, and missedhisfriendandcompanionverymuch.Norbert's portrayal of Otto is quite wonderful, and this character is most certainly among my top ten of all time favorites.
About Willa Cather and her Homestead in Red Cloud, NebraskaWilla Cather was born on December 7, 1873, in Black Creek Valley, Virginia. When she was ten she moved with her family to Red Cloud, Nebraska. Her descriptions of prairielifeandthevastlandscapestobefoundtherearerichandheartfelt.Cather was a writer celebrated for her novels of the immigrant experience on the American frontier, including O Pioneers! in 1913, and My Ántonia five years later. She later moved to New York, where she edited McClure's Magazine from 1906 to 1912, and also wrote short stories. Her experiences in Nebraska were the foundation of much of her work. During her long career she was a prolific and well-regarded writer, known for strongfemalecharactersandacuteobservationsoflife.She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for her novel One of Ours, and received several honorary degrees and awards duringherlife.WillaCatherdiedonApril24,1947ofacerebralhemorrhage.Additional reading on Willa Cather, rural Nebraska and other links of interest can be found here:Willa Cather websiteWilla Cather onWikipedia
This part of the Nebraska prairie is part of the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie, and is where Willa Cather lived.
The Pavelka farmstead in Nebraska provided the setting for the movie. This is the actual Annie Pavelka home.
My Antonia is a 1995 made for TV movie that was directed by Joseph Sargent, who also directed the wonderful movie The Incident. This is the first film adaptation of this Willa Cather classic American novel. It is a coming-of-age story of set in 1880's rural Nebraska. The character of Antonia is based on real-life Bohemian immigrant, Annie Pavelka. Norbert has the role of Otto. Neil Patrick Harris plays Jimmy.