When Hollywood Came to Hamilton in the 80s
Almost all the film activity in the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula, Montana, is centered around the TV series "Yellowstone." The film crews have taken over Chief Joseph Ranch south of Darby, and have filmed at various locations including Ruby's Cafe in Missoula, a house on the west side of Hamilton, the corner of 2nd and Main in downtown Hamilton, and the Ravalli County Airport east of town. And they'll be back this year.
The major release feature-length film from the 1980s
But Hamilton has seen this before. We even had a World Premiere. In 1988, Touchstone Pictures finalized plans to film a movie called "Waiting for Salazar" in Hamilton and Missoula. The project included a handful of well-known actors, including Lou Diamond Phillips, Fred Gwynne (Herman in the TV series "The Munsters,") Corbin Bernsen from TV series "L.A. Law," and singer-actor Hoyt Axton, among others including Ed O'Neil, Daniel Roebuck, William Russ and Ruben Blades.
The action-comedy dealt with a gang gathered by Bernsen's character, Frank Salazar. They are supposed to rob a Hamilton bank, but Salazar is arrested before the gang arrives in town and they wait for their leader. Salazar escapes the cops and is chased by two inept New Jersey detectives. But, he doesn't meet up with the gang. So, the gang decides to rob the bank without Salazar, and things don't go exactly as planned.
The filming took over Hamilton in the summer of 1988, with filming at the U.S. Post Office, a deserted downtown office, a farmhouse near Darby, the Ravalli County courthouse (Hoyt was the sheriff), and the Coffee Cup Cafe.
During the filming, writer-director Jim Kouf, producer Lynn Bigelow and Touchstone Pictures changed the film's name and released it as "Disorganized Crime." But they weren't done with Hamilton. A year after filming, in 1989, they held the World Premiere of "Disorganized Crime" at Hamilton's Roxy Theater (which is no longer a movie theater). The town turned out and got autographs and Mayor Jim Whitlock gave the producers a key to the city at an after-screening party.
The film was not received well, unfortunately. For instance, Siskel and Ebert were not amused. The film was later released on DVD. If you ever find a copy, you'll see quite a lot of Hamilton as it was in the 1980s.