Written by: Roy Huggins
Starring: Clint Walker
- The Lonely Gunfighter: The Legacy of Cheyenne – Interview with series star Clint Walker
Released by: Warner Home Video
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 aspect
My Advice: Rent It If You Like Westerns
He drifts through the Wild West, going from town to town not looking for trouble, but trouble seems to find him. His name is Cheyenne Bodie (Walker) and he is a straight shooter, either with his bullets or his beliefs. Whether he’s dealing with rampaging Indians, violent desperadoes, or crooked officials, he fights for what’s right.
[ad#longpost]We are familiar with Hollywood running an idea or concept into the ground. Currently we are seeing the 3-D craze souring due to being misapplied to unsuitable movies and the extra cost for glasses not going over well with recession-minded audiences. Another prime example is the Western on TV during the 50s. During the 1959 season, there were twenty-six Western series on television. This too faded due to rising production costs and people getting burned out on the genre. When you look at these booms and busts, you find that the first examples are usually the best. In 3D’s case, Coraline and Up are fine examples of using the technology with the story instead of another special effect to cover a weak film. So now we will look at the first television Western, Cheyenne
The formula is easily recognizable and deceptively simple: lone gunman rides into a bad situation and through some fist fights and lots of gunfire, wins the day. The details are what add to the bare bones of the premise. To be sure, many of the Western cliches are present: you got your bank robberies, cattle rustlers, and Indians on the warpath. But there were elements that made the show a bit more complex. For instance, the local sheriff desires a female transplanted from New Orleans. She’s more interested in what’s in a man’s wallet than what’s in his heart. When the sheriff retrieves the loot from a bank robbery, he decides to keep it to get the girl. Even when he hears how the townsfolk are in real trouble if the money isn’t returned, he still wants a new life with the gold digger. Not exactly Saturday morning fare for the kiddies. Another episode had a white daughter of a rancher wanting to marry a Mexican farmhand in a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Again, not something typical on 1950s television.
What really sells the show is Clint Walker. Cheyenne is the archetype for the incorruptible laconic drifter. You sense in his portrayal that there is more going on under the surface. Cheyenne is a good man, but he’s not above doing bad things to makes things right. This could be where the Italians got their first inspiration for the Spaghetti Westerns. Walker’s physical presence is also an asset. When you saw Cheyenne throw a punch, you truly believed that someone was going down and staying down.
The only feature on this box set is an interview with the star. His story is interesting because he wasn’t a professional actor, he was a security guard. He comes across like his character, proud of his work, but soft spoken about it. If you like Westerns, Cheyenne is definitely worth a rental.