Editor’s Note: As the Vinton 15oth celebration approaches, we will be sharing some of the unique events of local history that have taken place since 1869. Today’s story is from the field of entertainment.
If every town gets 15 minutes of fame, then Vinton has 14 minutes and 59 seconds left coming to it sometime in the future.
In April of 1996, Vinton residents paused to watch movie crews filming a scene outside of the Benton County courthouse. One of the most popular movies of that year, “Michael”, would include Vinton.
The movie stars John Travolta as an angel, Michael, whom a woman from Iowa reports living in her home. Tabloid reporters arrive to investigate and write about the story, and a comic journey begins.
About half-way through the movie, after Michael charms a female judge to avoid prison for him and the reporters, their car is seen leaving the courthouse. That one-second scene shows the Benton County courthouse, as well as the car disappearing south on Vinton’s 2nd Avenue. Vinton is not mentioned in the film.
None of the actors or major producers were in Vinton; the filming lasted just a few hours on a Friday that April. Local media reported then that the original plan was to film much of the movie in Iowa, including possibly at Youngville Cafe south of Vinton, but that Travolta’s schedule required filming during winter months, so the movie was filmed in Texas instead.
Michael was released on Christmas Day in 1996. Area residents who looked for the Vinton scene might have missed it if they had blinked at the theater.
Local reader Stacey Youngblut pointed out to us that Prairie Creek Christian Church northeast of Vinton was featured in the opening scene, when that same blue station wagon that appeared in front of the courthouse was shown cruising along a variety of rural highways.
Other area residents have reported seeing familiar local roadways in that opening sequence.