Tuesday, August 18, 2015

'Rancho Deluxe' recalled: 40 year anniversary arrives for Livingston western

A "Rancho Deluxe" party poster hangs by the registration desk at the Murray
Hotel. At left is actor Sam Waterston, at right Jeff Bridges.



LONG AGO, when I was a young reporter, a movie parody of a western made a name for itself.
Although "Rancho Deluxe" was not greeted by critics as a great film, its made-in-Montana stamp, Jimmy Buffet score, engaging story and talented cast created a lasting appeal. Today, "Rancho Deluxe" is beloved by many.
A roster of Montana-loving folks created the 1975 film:
Thomas McGuane crafted the screenplay.  The gifted novelist and short-story writer lives on a ranch near McLeod and writes for The New Yorker.  His evocative characters and landscapes are drawn from the Montana he has known for decades.
ACTOR JEFF BRIDGES, who lives a good portion of the year on his Paradise Valley place, donates time and money to worthy Montana causes, including a fight against child hunger.
Jeff Bridges skips around with kids, whose health and well being he champions
when he is in Montana, enjoying his home in Paradise Valley.
Bridges and Sam Waterston portray the two drifters who rustle cattle and try to outrun the law in then contemporary Montana. Both of these versatile actors have gone on to success and accolades.   Bridges, known as both a devoted family man and talented actor, had been nominated for a best-supporting Oscar in 1972 for "The Last Picture Show."  Five years ago, he won the coveted best actor trophy for "Crazy Heart."
WATERSTON HAS enjoyed success in film, TV and on Broadway, winning a Tony for "Abe Lincoln in Illinois." His career includes a lauded Lincoln mini-series, Golden Globe nominations and fame for his "Law and Order" role.
The Murray Hotel will be full of movie lovers later this week,
when an outdoor screening is held across the street for "Rancho Deluxe." 
LEGENDARY singer-composer Jimmy Buffett has maintained long ties to Montana, dating back to the 1970s when he wrote the music for "Rancho Deluxe."  He performed "Livingston Saturday Night" with alternate lyrics within the film in a scene set at a country/western bar reminiscent of those in downtown Livingston.
Local Livingston residents remember the movie premier and the filming, which took place largely in Montana, supplying me with some of my first "star" interviews as a young reporter.

 Elizabeth Ashley has appeared on
Broadway and is known for her
portrayal of sultry Tennessee
Williams women.
AN ELDERLY MAID at the Murray Hotel a couple days ago recalled cast and crew staying at the Murray, partying in the fourth-floor outdoor jacuzzi (long since gone) and drinking and trading movie stories while soaking.
Elizabeth Ashley, known for her moving interpretations of Tennessee Williams' southern belles, played the part of Cora Brown, married to a wealthy ranch owner. Actor Clifton James, who played the wealthy rancher married to Ashley, is still alive at 94 and living in Spokane.
Here is Elizabeth Ashley during the
filming of  "Rancho Deluxe" in 1975.
 The late Slim Pickens, who also loved Montana, had a featured part in "Rancho Deluxe." Pickens, known for his famous "riding the bomb" scene in "Doctor Strangelove," played the aging detective Harry Beige hired to find the rustlers. Pickens garnered the best reviews of anyone in the film.
The film's director Frank Perry, who died 20 years ago, was also known for "Mommie Dearest," "Diary of a Mad Housewife" and "David and Lisa." When he found he was dying of prostate cancer, he filmed his own story,  which was an international success. He, too, loved Montana and returned to vacation several times.

UP NEXT: We revisit "Rancho Deluxe" and watch the movie again -- after decades -- and tell why it holds up as an enjoyable parody of western life and mores. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com


  1. This is too much fun. Just bought tickets and will drive up Thursday from Big Timber. Yahoo! I was an extra in the movie and can't wait to relive those thrilling days of (semi-drunken) yesteryear.

  2. Happened across this fun story which brought back memories of the filming. I, too, was and extra and still get small royalty checks.

  3. Briefly met Jimmy at the Two Bit Saloon in Gardiner when he sat in with the Taylor Bros. Band in the mid 70’s. Great band!