BluRay/DVD Reviews

CHEYENNE

By • May 21st, 2013 •

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Whatever you do, do not read the back-jacket synopsis. It gives too much away.

I was really taken with the film. It has been said that it was withdrawn from release due to Warner TV’s 1955 series ‘Cheyenne’ with Clint Walker. I don’t know if I buy that, but this is a true buried treasure, and although Raoul Walsh fails to even mention it in his autobiography, it’s nonetheless one of his more successful efforts. It’s no ROARING TWENTIES or WHITE HEAT, it’s not in that league, but it’s fresh and fun and quite collectible.

Check out the lines from 9:50 on. You’ll have to see the previous scene to make sense of it, but when you do, it’s some of the raciest dialogue since the pre-code days, and it is actually more clever than most of the pre-code banter. The screenplay was by Alan LeMay, who wrote THE SEARCHERS and REAP THE WILD WIND. It’s a fine piece of work that almost always side-steps the clichés of the Western genre.

There’s a flaccid ‘Duke’ Wayne lurking somewhere inside of Dennis Morgan’s face. His character, appropriately, takes life easy, and his manner and appearance belie his deadly skills. Jane Wyman, who won an Academy Award the following year for JOHNNY BELINDA, is really beautifully modulated here, trading barbs with Morgan like a cold-hearted pro. It’s an excellent female role in a time not overflowing with such parts.

Janis Paige is cute and frisky. Alan Hale undertakes an unusual part for him, and has a lot of fun with it. Arthur Kennedy is layered as The Sundance Kid. Frankly they’re all very nuanced performances, which is part of the film’s excitement and charm, and has to be due to Le May and Walsh.

B&W Cinematography by Sid Hickox (who’d shot several films for Walsh) is crisp and rich, pumping up the story. Christian (THE THING) Nyby’s editing keeps the film moving at a rollicking pace. The art direction by Ted Smith (who’d also worked with Walsh numerous times before), set design by Jack McConaghy (ditto), and Costume design by Milo Anderson (you guessed it) are all noticeably creative. It’s rare that all the departments of a film jell like they do on this one. Makes it definitely worth watching more than once.

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