The Cheyenne Social Club; and, Firecreek

Cheyenne Social Club

Harley Sullivan: What kind of business you figure your brother left you?
John O'Hanlan: Well, the letter don't say - but that's just like a lawyer. They don't tell you no more than it takes to confuse you. But it's a... something called the Cheyenne Social Club.

 

After receiving a letter informing him of the death of his brother John O’Hanlan (James Stewart) leaves his position as a hired hand on a cattle drive to take over the Cheyenne Social Club the business his brother left him in his will.  It might seem obvious to us by the name of the business and the movie just exactly what the nature of the business is, but this is a story about a more innocent time and John O’Hanlan is a more innocent man.  He is joined on his trek across the country and into Cheyenne by his good friend Harley (Henry Fonda).  The film which was directed by Gene Kelly moves fluidly through the story from one situation to another.  Low Key” may be the best way to describe this film about a man of high morals, and a kind heart who suddenly finds himself the owner of the most famous brothel in Wyoming. 

The comedy is more situational rather than jokes or slapstick, I will add that not every situation is meant to be funny. There will be some who will object to the glorification of the “world’s oldest profession” in the film.  This was something that was not uncommon in westerns where the loose woman with the heart of gold has often been a reoccurring theme.  If it were not for this aspect of the subject matter and the occasional extremely translucent nightgown I would almost recommend this as a family film.  

 One of my favorite parts in this film is Harley’s long monolog as the two travel to Cheyenne while the opening credits roll.  Originally this was not in the script.  Henry Fonda wondered if he could have a couple of lines to say during this part of the film and the writers ran with it. This monolog was the result.  It sets up Harley’s personality better than any other aspect of the film.  James Stewart plays O’Hanlan as a sort of bemused man, totally baffled about how to deal with his sudden ownership of this business and his responsibility regarding the girls involved.  If you don’t require your westerns to be only about gunfighters and cattle rustlers you are likely to enjoy this movie.