7 January 2009 | bkoganbing
The Rhyming Bandit
Dennis Morgan stars as Jim Wylie, gentleman gambler and fast gun in Cheyenne which by the look of it was a project originally intended by Warner Brothers for Errol Flynn. It has a lot more plot than most westerns of the day did. With Raoul Walsh directing and a score by Max Steiner it bares no small resemblance to the classic Flynn movie San Antonio which these gentlemen worked on as well.
Morgan got himself into a bit of a shooting scrape in Carson City and the law wants him there. But Wells Fargo detective Barton MacLane offers him a proposition, if he'll go undercover and smoke out a bandit known as 'the poet'. They'll square things with the law for Morgan if he helps out. Since that's the best offer he's had all day, he takes it.
His detective work takes him to Cheyenne where the poet is not only robbing Wells Fargo, but he's also taking trade away from other honest robbers like Arthur Kennedy as The Sundance Kid and his gang. Making the journey with him to Cheyenne are a pair of women who will figure prominently in Morgan's life for a period, Jane Wyman and Janis Paige.
Our poet is so named because he leaves a bit of verse at the scene of each robbery. Giving Wells Fargo the finger so to speak in rhyme.
Although the poet's identity is actually revealed early on, the film takes on a Columbo like twist as Morgan and the poet try to outsmart each other. That's the real heart of Cheyenne and why it's as good a film as it is.
Alan Hale, also a regular in Flynn films, is on hand as an oafish deputy sheriff, more the kind of part Andy Devine used to play. Hale does well in it though and his presence in the film convinces me even more that the film was originally intended for Errol Flynn.
Cheyenne is a well plotted adult type western, still with enough action for the Saturday afternoon matinée trade. It holds up very well after 62 years. Even if Errol Flynn didn't get to star in it.