The Cheyenne Social Club (1970)

James Stewart as John O'Hanlan in The Cheyenne Social Club

Cheyenne's Very Social Club

"The Cheyenne Social Club" is a movie all about James Stewart and Henry Fonda, their differences and friendship so whilst we may have a storyline about John O'Hanlan inheriting a whore house it plays second fiddle to their amusing chalk and cheese friendship. And whilst I would never turn down a chance of watching either James Stewart or Henry Fonda in a movie it is hard to ignore the fact that what is on offer in "The Cheyenne Social Club" feels tired and manufactured. It never really sparks into life and so whilst watching Stewart and Fonda play 2 unlikely friends often serves up some amusement there are definitely better movies which works the unlikely buddy story.

Whilst working as a ranch hand in Texas John O'Hanlan (James Stewart - The Rare Breed) receives a letter telling him he has inherited some property in Cheyenne following his brother's death. Along with his long time riding budding Harley Sullivan (Henry Fonda - Firecreek), they head to Cheyenne to discover what sort of property it is John now owns. And what a shock John gets when he discovers that the Cheyenne Social Club which he owns is in fact a whore house. As a man of standards John decides to close it down but soon discovers that his decision is not only unpopular with the locals but also ends up getting him into a barrel load of trouble with an angry local and his family.

Henry Fonda as Harley Sullivan in The Cheyenne Social Club

Technically "The Cheyenne Social Club" is all about John O'Hanlan inheriting a whore house and ending up being unpopular when he closes it down. But the sad thing is that none of this is that interesting and is ultimately quite weak. And so is the humour which flows through it such as O'Hanlan being unable to get a word in edge ways with the various women who work and live in the house, especially as the bell keeps ringing for them. Oh there are some funny moments but they are few and far between as most of the comedy seems lack lustre and lacking that real spark of hilarity.

But then in a way "The Cheyenne Social Club" isn't so much about the issues with the whore house but the unlikely friendship of Stewart's John O'Hanlan and Fonda's Harley Sullivan. It almost feels like a movie written with Stewart and Fonda in mind as they almost play to type and as such we get James Stewart giving us a blend of his congenial average Joe set in the western world and one with relatively high moral standards. Yet on the other hand you have Henry Fonda who is much more easy going, laid back and can see that O'Hanlan's high morals can only mean trouble, whilst enjoying the attention of the various women. Yes it works mainly thanks to Stewart and Fonda but it all seems so tired, so manufactured and that naturalness when it comes to the writing seems to be lacking. I know Fonda's character is supposed to be laid back but it almost feels at one point that Fonda gave up on trying to make the weak writing work and was just going through the motions.

And to be honest that is about it as whilst you have the comedy from the various women who work in the social club such as Jenny who seems to be in charge, a less than subtle romantic under tone and being a western a couple of moments of action there really isn't anything else to the movie. It almost feels like it was half an idea for a movie, pushed out before the writing was finalised because someone wanted James Stewart and Henry Fonda to appear together again before one of them decided to retire. And whilst Stewart and Fonda end up being the best thing about the movie with their bickering it also feels a shame that these two great actors ended up in such a lightweight movie.

What this all boils down to is that yes "The Cheyenne Social Club" is fun but it is also only average. It is fun because of James Stewart and Henry Fonda and watching them bicker their way through a movie is entertaining. But even Stewart and Fonda can't make up for the weakness of the storyline and writing which when not focusing on their characters ends up almost drifting aimlessly.