Saturday, November 08, 2008


I fell asleep last night with the TV on, and I woke up to The Cheyenne Social Club, a smutty, unfunny, visually drab Western comedy from 1970. It's utterly indefensible, like those comedy relief episodes of Bonanza, only set in a whorehouse and with Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda playing their overly familiar stock characterizations and...It's a bad movie, is what I'm saying, and the worst kind of bad movie, one wholly without interest.

And it wouldn't be worth mentioning at all, except this dull non-entity was the final directing credit for Gene Kelly. Yes, the creator of Singin' In The Rain, pretty much the greatest movie ever made, wound up his career doing this. As an actor, greater indignities would await him--he still had Viva Knievel and Xanadu ahead of him--but it's even more sad to watch Kelly's filmmaking instincts fail him. True, most (okay, all) of his non-musical work as a director is pretty dire, but it all at least contained some kind of visual snap. Kelly was a choreographer, after all--you'd think Cheyenne Social Club would at least have some sense of movement, if nothing else. But it mostly consists of characters standing around talking, with the camera practically nailed to the floor.

I'm aware, of course, that Kelly's greatest works as a director--On The Town and It's Always Fair Weather in addition to Rain--were in fact co-directed by Stanley Donen, whose subsequent career proved much more interesting than Kelly's. But again, his filmography winds up being pretty depressing: The director of Funny Face, Charade, Bedazzled and Two For The Road finished his career with Saturn 3 and Blame It On Rio.

If you've ever managed to sit though all of Saturn 3, congratulations, because you're possibly the only person to do so. For everyone else, the combination of Kirk Douglas naked, Farrah Fawcett's pathetic attempts at emoting and Harvey Keitel's weirdly-dubbed voice is enough to drive them away (or put them to sleep) by the halfway point. Still, at least it's better than Blame It On Rio, like The Cheyenne Social Club a lethargic would-be sex farce, a kind of illustrated Playboy Party Joke, that just goes on and on without producing a single moment's worth of entertainment.

Wow. That kind of got depressing. Let's not dwell on such unpleasantness. Instead, we'll celebrate Kelly and Donen at the start of their brilliant careers--here's the Day In New York ballet from On The Town, the first movie they directed. When they were good, they were the best.