Prequel ‘1944’ to Feature ‘Yellowstone’s Iconic Ranch

Last month, Yellowstone producers unveiled their newest project, 1944, during an event celebrating the Montana tourism boom which the Dutton family cinematic universe beget.

According to Tom Prince, executive vice president of production at 101 Studios, the project is a follow-up to 1923, which recently aired its Season 1 finale.

“Of course, we’ve got 1923, we’ve got the sequel, we’re not letting the cat out of the bag, it’s going to be called ‘1944,’” Prince said. “My guess is that it’ll be shooting largely in the Bitterroot Valley because it has to take place at what is Chief Joseph Ranch.”

For the uninitiated, the Chief Joseph Ranch in Darby serves as the multi-generational heartbeat of both 1923 and the original Yellowstone; no doubt the Dutton family will face a new set of trials and tribulations on their front doorstep when WWII touches the world.

Similar to how 1923 uses historical details of the day to drive story (like the affects of Prohibition and the Great Depression), surely 1944 will use modern America’s most formative decade to its fictional advantage. Will one of the Duttons enlist for war? How will the family ranch handle the rapid modernization that occurred directly on the heels of WWII?

True to form, producers have announced nothing about the show besides a name and an era. Sources close to production hint that Paramount will want a box office-quality actor like Harrison Ford to play a central character. But if we’ve learned anything from 1923, the Dutton legacy spans many relatives and many storylines; so expect a strong ensemble cast to help drive the historical fiction.

1944 executive Tom Prince estimate the shows contribute about $75 million annually to Montana tourism revenue

Some of the 1923 characters that could certainly make an appearance in 1944 include Jack Dutton (Darren Mann), Elizabeth Strafford Dutton (Michelle Randolph), Jack’s fiancée, and John Dutton II, who is John Dutton III’s (Kevin Costner) father.

Another driving force behind the decision to tell a WWII story could be Yellowstone’s already-cemented international appeal.

“[Yellowstone’s] an enormous hit, not just in the United States.” Prince said. “I was just in Europe two weeks ago.

They talked about it in London, I’m like ‘how the hell do you know about Yellowstone in London?’ It’s a big, big show. And we’re making the highest quality of television right now.”

Prince credits some of the international appeal to the geography of Montana, which invokes a deep sense of romance and mystery through a cinematic lens.

“So this is our third year coming up to Montana,” Prince said. “We came out two years ago when we moved out of Utah. We used to shoot at 75-80% in Utah for the first three seasons, and we’d come up to Montana to shoot the Chief Joseph Ranch. When COVID hit, Utah pulled their rebates and Taylor Sheridan said, let’s move the whole thing up to Montana. And I don’t think it’s a surprise the viewership has spiked.”

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