CHEYENNE is an entertaining Raoul Walsh Western starring Dennis Morgan and Jane Wyman.
Dennis Morgan plays Jim Wylie, a gambler forced by a sheriff to go undercover in order to discover the identity of "The Poet," an outlaw who's been robbing stagecoaches. Wylie soon meets the Poet's wife, Ann Kincaid (Jane Wyman), who may or may not want to turn in her husband to the law. Things get more complicated when Jim is forced to pose as Ann's husband in order to avoid being killed by another outlaw (Arthur Kennedy).
Dennis Morgan is an actor I've come to appreciate very much over the past year. Morgan could do it all -- drama, comedy, and musicals -- and deserves to receive more recognition. (He also has one of the most dazzling smiles ever seen in the movies.) I've watched him in several movies in the last few months and particularly enjoyed him in THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1944), THREE CHEERS FOR THE IRISH (1940), and THE HARD WAY (1943). Morgan is a charmer as the canny gambler in CHEYENNE, and very believable as a Western hero.
Jane Wyman is at her very prettiest in CHEYENNE, and she displays a nice sense of humor. She and Morgan, who acted together in other films including FLIGHT ANGELS (1940) and BAD MEN OF MISSOURI (1941), are an appealing pair. CHEYENNE was sandwiched in between Wyman's Oscar-nominated role in THE YEARLING (1946) and her Oscar win in JOHNNY BELINDA (1948).
The excellent supporting cast includes Janis Paige -- later the star of Broadway's PAJAMA GAME -- as a saloon girl also mixed up with the lead characters; she sings a couple of numbers. (One of her outfits has to be seen to be believed.) Bruce Bennett, John Ridgely, Alan Hale, Barton MacLane, Bob Steele, and Monte Blue round out the cast.
A couple of the movie rating books I enjoy checking out referred to the movie as a "routine" and "standard" Western and gave it a two-star rating, but we found the movie quite entertaining. If I were rating it I'd place it at three stars. I wonder if either reviewer would change their rating if they watched the movie again? What might have been taken for granted and seemed "routine" in the '70s or '80s is sometimes discovered to be much more of a treasure when viewed from the perspective of the 2000s.
I liked a post at IMDb, which was headlined "Underrated and surprisingly adult Western from a master" and said "Critics...have tended to dismiss CHEYENNE as the least of Walsh's Westerns. My own viewing suggests a reassessment is in order."
The movie has a little bit of everything: romance, comedy, drama, songs, a good Max Steiner score, and plenty of horse chases and gunplay. An exciting gun battle midway through the movie is perhaps the best sequence in the film.
CHEYENNE runs 99 minutes and was shot in black and white. CHEYENNE has also been shown under the title THE WYOMING KID, I assume to prevent confusion with the '50s TV series CHEYENNE.
Much of the movie was shot on the Warner Bros. Western street; there's a classic stock shot of the street in this film which I remember seeing in countless episodes of the TV series MAVERICK. The movie also features location shooting; I had guessed it was done at California's Red Rock Canyon, but it turns out it was shot in Sedona, Arizona. Much of the location work was second-unit photography, but it appears some of the principal actors also went on location.
CHEYENNE can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which will show the movie next Wednesday, January 7th, 2009.
Vote at the TCM website here to indicate interest in a DVD release.
The trailer can be seen here.
March 2013 Update: CHEYENNE is now available on a remastered DVD-R from the Warner Archive.