MISSOULA – It takes an epic movie to tell the epic story of a community that comes together to lift an iconic plane back into the Montana skies. And this weekend you have the opportunity to see the premiere of the documentary “Miss Montana” in Missoula.
“Return to the Big Skies: Miss Montana to Normandy” is not just the story of the resurrection of the airplane, but a window into the groundbreaking world of Bob Johnson and Montana’s mountain flying.
“We were very happy to find photos from local collectors that help us tell this story,” explains filmmaker Eric Ristau. “The government photo archives and the things we got on that plane are pretty remarkable. People will be interested to see things that go back many, many decades.”
“We’re making the film very high quality these days and it was a little difficult to make up for, but a lot of the old photos were incredibly high quality.”
The film hits all the historical highs, from the tragedy at Mann Gulch to the fatal crash that nearly destroyed the plane and years of neglect.
Volunteers share what the plane has done over the years outside of Montana.
“They flew chicks from the south to British Columbia,” says local historian Stan Cohn in the film.
“Chickens and auto parts and in and out of Mexico and who knows what else we don’t know were flown on that plane,” added volunteer Perry Francis in one of the film’s many interviews.
Ristau says under the footage there was an important news clip from the KPAX archives.
“KPAX is in this film because Ian Marquand planned to fly back to Montana 20 years ago next October to bring Miss Montana back.”
“On Monday, the Arkansas Missoula Museum of Mountain Flying in West Memphis took possession of the most famous C47 plane to ever fly over the Montana skies,” said Marquand.
“It was amazing, and I was super impressed with how many people they interviewed,” says Bryan Douglass of Miss Montana to Normandy and Beyond. “Volunteers and everyone you can think of who has anything to do with this plane. You would be surprised how many people show up on this plane.”
And trying to find parts, make plans and bring in the “Rosies”, the many women and girls who helped.
“From things like scraping that mess out of your stomach with spatulas to people who were licensed aircraft and engine mechanics who could actually work on this aircraft under FAA rules. Working on engines. Working on the control, ”Ristau remembers.
And the last-minute sprint to take off.
“It was down to the wire and you could see the pressure building up. You could see the clock running, but at the same time everyone still had a smile on their face, everyone was continuing to work hard.”
During the first take-off that Sunday afternoon in May I was one of three cameras on the runway and I asked Ristau if he was as nervous as I was about “taking the picture”.
“It was a little tense thinking, you know, we have a chance to film this and really put it in for history. So a bit of stress as long as it’s in focus, I think you know that was our goal. Just to make sure we film it. “
Douglass says it’s a movie that isn’t just about an airplane, it’s about people.
“The story of this plane is about the volunteers and supporters who made it happen, and he wants to tell you this is what this movie is about, too. And that’s it. But he’s also one of our volunteers. And here he is we have another local talent, a world class filmmaker in Missoula who is putting this movie together on his own, time and money. And it’s not just a movie, it tells the story. It’s a great movie and everyone who worked on it this line deserves recognition and has to see this film. ” – Bryan Douglass of Miss Montana to Normandy and beyond
“When you watch this movie, it makes you proud to be Missoulian and proud to be a Montanan, and it’s amazing. The collective effort that he represents and the story of the airplane that he tells is simply masterfully done. “
The Missoula premiere of the movie “Miss Montana” will take place this Saturday, September 18th at Big Sky Brewing in Missoula. All proceeds will help continue the aircraft’s ongoing mission of history, education, and honor. And the group hopes to be able to arrange for future screenings across the state.
Further information and tickets that are still available can be found on the Miss Montana Movie website.