A Movie A Day: Quint on THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB (1970) I'm not opening any letter from a lawyer on an empty stomach.
Published at: July 31, 2008, 7:17 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we follow both Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart over from yesterday’s FIRECREEK over to the other feature on the same disc, THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB.
Let me get this out of the way up front… I was ready to cut this movie off… I’ve had a very long and busy day out here in LA, topped off with a great cherry-popper of a screening at the New Beverly (the wonderful INGLORIOUS BASTARDS). I didn’t know if I was even going to get to the movie tonight as tired as I am, but goddamnit… I’ve made it almost 2 months and I wasn’t going to at least give the movie a go before retiring.
So it’s a testament to the flick that I watched it all. It’s a fucked up movie. A very fucked up movie. You’ll see why in a second…
Jimmy Stewart is playing Jimmy Stewart… older, greyer, but same ol’ nice guy. He runs cattle in the Old West and gets a letter (some 2 years after it was originally sent) telling him that his scoundrel brother was shot and has left him his establishment in Cheyenne.
Stewart gets there and finds his brother was beloved by the townsfolk. Keep in mind this guy has never been special in his life and suddenly he has a thousand dollars in his pocket, the finest cigars shoved into his mouth and free drinks from the best saloon in town.
Of course he finds that the Cheyenne Social Club, which he now owns, is a whorehouse.
Seriously, the movie is about a nice guy who turns into a vengeance-seeking pimp… as played by Jimmy Stewart!
Now, he doesn’t go full pimp, but the movie seems to tell you that it’s bad to try to close the cathouse… the town will turn on you, the girls will feel betrayed and get sick and abused… in short, your life will turn into a sort of walking hell.
But when one of your broads is battered by the town asshole, you strap on a gunbelt and deal out some pimp justice… suddenly the girls are happy, the town is happy, you’re liked and respected…
Henry Fonda plays another cowhand, a chatty-cathy type that follows Stewart around. They are perfect companions. Stewart doesn’t say much and Fonda says more than enough for the both of ‘em, telling stories over and over again, but with the same enthusiasm as if it was his first time.
Fonda’s also a coward, running at the first sign of trouble… He’s a lot wrapped into one character. There’s a little Jiminy Cricket to him, a little Cowardly Lion and little horny toad. He fucks all the women at the brothel by the time the third act starts.
Speaking of the women, every single one of the girls at the Old West Bunny Ranch are hot, especially 1970 Shirley Jones as the Mama Bear named Jenny. Perfect age. Mature, but still youthful and beautiful.
Gene Kelly (yeah, that Gene Kelly) produced and directed the picture and made it a lot more filmic than yesterday’s Stewart/Fonda picture. I also get a feeling that Kelly’s sense of humor was a lot more randy than his image suggests. There’s a lot of innuendo here and it’s done in such a lighthearted way that I believe betrays an off-color streak in Mr. Kelly.
Final Thoughts: I know this is a short one, but I’m really damn tired… The movie isn’t perfect, it doesn’t really tell a story that demands to be seen, but just on the bizarre factor alone it’s worth catching. Stewart and Fonda are both great, the technical side of the filmmaking is leaps and bounds better than FIRECREEK and the girls are gorgeous. It’s a very light, fluffy movie that could very well be a favorite of Hugh Hefner’s. If he doesn’t see a little of himself in Stewart’s character I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Also look out for Old Man Gogan from PETE'S DRAGON as a baddie, one of the Johnsons from BLAZING SADDLES as a bank man and a great conversation on politics between Stewart and Fonda.