Ronald Reagan Appears as Cowpoke in "Tennessee's Partner"
A tough, womanizing high-stakes gambler known only as Tennessee has an uneasy relationship with Duchess, madam of a thinly-disguised bordello, and no other friends at all.
But he's saved from murder by a lonesome cowpoke ('My friends call me Cowpoke'), in town to meet his fiancée Goldie on the steamboat. When she arrives, there's a mysterious undercurrent between Goldie and Tennessee, whose newfound friendship with Cowpoke is destined to be severely tried...
Tennessee's Partner is a 1955 Western film starring Ronald Reagan in what Peter Bogdanovich calls his "most likeable performance." It co-starred John Payne as Tennessee.
It was directed by Allan Dwan, who lived to be 96 and had a 52-year directorial career.
Tennessee's Partner is also one of the greatest short stories of Bret Harte's fiction career. The story is significantly different from the movie which came out many years later. Harte lived from the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, and this film is based upon his work. It was released by RKO, which was then owned by industrialist Howard Hughes, who was known for his support of political conservatives.
This film inspired one of the greatest hits of the Four Seasons. As the character based on Bob Gaudio explains in the musical Jersey Boys, "I'm watching the million dollar movie. Some cheesy John Payne western. He hauls off and smacks Rhonda Fleming across the mouth and says, 'What do you think of that?' She looks up at him defiant, proud, eyes glistening - and she says, 'Big girls don't cry.'"