The Cheyenne Social Club

The Cheyenne Social Club is a 1970 American western comedy film written by James Lee Barrett, directed and produced by Gene Kelly, and starring James Stewart, Henry Fonda and Shirley Jones. The film is about an aging cowboy who inherits a brothel and decides to turn it into a respectable boarding house, against the wishes of both the townspeople and the ladies working there.

The Cheyenne Social Club
Original cinema poster
Directed byGene Kelly
Produced byJames Lee Barrett
Gene Kelly
Written byJames Lee Barrett
StarringJames Stewart
Henry Fonda
Shirley Jones
Sue Ane Langdon
Music byWalter Scharf
CinematographyWilliam H. Clothier
Edited byAdrienne Fazan
Distributed byNational General Pictures (US)
Cinerama Releasing (UK)
Release date
  • June 12, 1970 (1970-06-12) (US)
Running time
103 minutes
Box office$5,250,000 (US/Canada) (rentals)[1]


In 1867, John O'Hanlan and Harley Sullivan are aging cowboys working on open cattle ranges in Texas. John gets a letter from an attorney in Cheyenne, Wyoming that his brother, D.J., left him The Cheyenne Social Club in his will. After making the trek to Cheyenne, John and Harley learn The Cheyenne Social Club is a high-class brothel next to the railroad. John falls into disfavor with both the Club's ladies and the men in Cheyenne when he decides to close the Club. John learns his brother's will had a provision the property would revert to the railroad if the ladies moved. Jenny, the Club's madam, is assaulted by a man named Bannister. John kills Bannister and regains popularity. Bannister's relatives come to Cheyenne for revenge, but John, Harley and Jenny successfully fight them off. When advised that even more of the Bannisters' relatives will soon come to town, John transfers ownership of the property to Jenny and he and Harley return to Texas.



Set in a brothel with suggestive dialogue, this was one of the few off-color films that James Stewart did. He also specifically asked that his friend Fonda be cast; they had most recently worked together two years previously in Firecreek. Stewart and Fonda's first film together had been the musical comedy On Our Merry Way (1948), and they had also both appeared in How the West Was Won (1962) but had no scenes together despite playing best friends.

The exteriors were shot at two Western film lots near Santa Fe, New Mexico: the Eaves Movie Ranch, which was built for the film[2], and Bonanza Creek Ranch. The interiors were shot at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood.

A novelisation of the screenplay was written by Phillip Rock.


The Cheyenne Social Club turned a small profit, and was poorly received by critics. It didn't receive any notoriety until decades later with numerous cable television broadcasts. Barrett's script earned a 1970 Writers Guild of America nomination for "Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen", but lost to Neil Simon for The Out-of-Towners.

See also


  1. "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976 p 46
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