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The Cheyenne Social Club / Firecreek
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Cheyenne Social Club,The/Fire Creek (DVD) (DBFE) (Multi-Title)
They can be tough as leather. Or as down-home as any pair of good ol' boys. Either way, there's a sense of warm respect between the two stars. The off-camera friendship of James Stewart and Henry Fonda goes back to their days as struggling actors and roommates. The Cheyenne Social Club [Side A] casts them as saddle-weary Texans who, surprised to find they've inherited a Wyoming bawdy house, feel honor-bound to defend it against a gun-wielding gang. Gene Kelly produces and directs this mix of fun and Western action. Next comes a firestorm of character-driven excitement in Firecreek [Side B]. Fonda plays an outlaw preying on small towns, and Stewart is the jittery, $2-a-month part-time lawman who must find the courage to stop him. This will be some showdown!]]>
The teaming of James Stewart and Henry Fonda was a natural: not only were the two men veteran stars of their generation, but they'd actually been friends and even roommates since early in their careers. These two Westerns offer the stars in their relaxed end-of-career mode, with Stewart in the hero roles and Fonda as either villain or burr-under-the-saddle sidekick.
Firecreek is a grim 1968 Western that carries a strong residual aroma of High Noon. Stewart plays a farmer who happens to be the nominal (but rarely needed) sheriff of Firecreek, which means he must go into service when Fonda and his scurvy bunch of desperados (among them Gary Lockwood and Jack Elam) come to town looking for trouble. This slow, stripped-down picture has a philosophical undertone, with Fonda's weary, wounded outlaw trading bitter wisdom with local girl Inger Stevens. It goes on too long and Stewart is in the phase of coasting on his familiar persona, but overall it's a decent little Western fable.
The Cheyenne Social Club, from 1970, gets off to a marvelous start, with a sequence of saddle tramps Stewart and Fonda riding across half the West as Fonda maintains a fractured monologue throughout. Screenwriter James Lee Barrett was a veteran who worked frequently with Stewart (Shenandoah) and John Wayne, and some of the Western flavor is fine, but... things turn crass as soon as the pals realize Stewart has inherited a bordello in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Everybody except Fonda overacts mercilessly, and director Gene Kelly--yes, that Gene Kelly--indulges a leering style that undercuts some of the authentic laughs. Shirley Jones is around to provide comfort at the club; some predictable gunplay is mixed in with the jokes. However middling these two films might be in the filmographies of their formidable stars, it must be said that the widescreen transfer of both films to DVD is very good. --Robert Horton
- Vintage "The Cheyenne Social Club" Featurette
- Theatrical Trailers
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Top Customer Reviews
Real-life friends Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda play a pair of grizzled old cowpokes earning a meager living herding cattle. John O'Hanlan and incessant jabber-monkey Harley Sullivan, good buddies who are about to have their lives upended and altered with the delivery of a letter.
John has learned that his brother, whom he hasn't seen or heard from since they were young men, has passed away. Over those many years D.J. O'Hanlan amassed quite a fortune. And with his passing, Ol' John has inherited his entire estate; wealth in the form of a town's social club - the building, its contents and furnishings are all his - including a fat bank account. John has just retired. All he has to do is go and collect it.
Back in the day before cars, roads and rails - the horse was the primary means of transport. So a trip that would take five or six hours today would be a two or three month journey over rough untamed wilderness. And his ever-chattering, walnut-cracking buddy Harley figures: Well shoot, why not take the trip too? Much to the chagrin of John, who is indeed his friend, but hilariously one who wishes his friend would shut the hell up once in while. Months of constant yakkity-yak is enough to drive even the most temperate of people to violence.
As the pair enter Cheyenne, it's made clear that John O'Hanlan is a person of polarizing interest. From the cheeriest warm welcomes to the frostiest of dismissals. Since he's never been to the town or met any of these people, neither cowboy can explain why.
When he takes possession of the "social club" - suddenly, it's all too clear why anyone with the last name of O'Hanlan elicits such strong reactions from the townfolk.
Conflict soon erupts as everyone suddenly realizes John isn't his free-spirited brother. Surprisingly prudish, a moralizing aspect of his personality comes out. Much to the chagrin of the women who call the club their home and the guests, some of whom endure traveling hundreds of miles to enjoy the company of Shirley Jones and friends. Even his old friend Harley is quite put off by his buddy's position that the "social" aspect has to stop.
Exceedingly enjoyable comedy with both movie veterans showcasing the casual ease garnered over a lifetime in the craft.
- Common knowledge now with the internet, but back in the day and for many years, I was the only cinephile that knew this is the only film in which Jimmy Stewart has a theatrical scene with a nude female. Quite a looker too, as Elaine Devry was really something during her prime. Won a decent stack of cash over the years on bets via this bit of movie trivia, prefaced with "Actually, yes he did." <g>
- Have had a long-standing thing for Shirley Jones. And that was years before I saw 'Elmer Gantry'. Yahoo! In this film, I have to admit, I take indecent pleasure in picturing her as 'available'.
Fonda's character, Harley Sullivan, may be the number 2 fella in this movie, but in my mind, he steals the show. The opening monologues that he has still crack me up, and I've seen the movie dozens of times already.
The surprise to this set is the flip side. Firecreek is ALL drama and little comedy. Fonda's character in this one is baaaaaad. I'm not sure I've ever seen him portrayed as an evil man. His character wrestles with these demons of his personality. He recognizes what and who he is. It seems there's good in him, but his life has always been a brutal one up to that point and he can't decide how to let go of it. Jimmy Stewart's character is a bit staid, but is the good guy you want to cheer for. I found myself rather upset throughout the movie at various points, but, like a car accident, I couldn't stop watching. In the end, I was most satisfied at the outcome, and will watch Firecreek again and again.
Full recommendations for this pair of classic movies from 1970. I hope, if you like westerns, you'll take the time to watch these. It's time well spent...