Support Your Local Sheriff

Official movie trailer below post

Our Western Night group met last night. Also in attendance were Johnny D. Boggs, David Morrell and Kirk Ellis. (Robert Nott was detained at his newspaper job on late-breaking stories coming in.) It was Kirk’s choice and we watched the James Garner comedy Western, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! Released in 1969, this film joined a short list of remarkable Westerns that also came out that same year, arguably one of the best single years for Westerns. Those other Westerns were THE WILD BUNCH, TRUE GRIT, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID.

Directed with a sure and light hand by Burt Kennedy from a screenplay by William Bowers who understood the clichés of the Western and knew how to turn them into something fresh, the story follows Garner as a drifter on his way to Australia who stops in a rowdy gold boomtown to try to make some money before moving on. With escalating prices, like meals jumping from $3 to $8, (“Inflation,” the man sitting next to Garner in the restaurant says to him as they witness the change in price posting, “it catches you between mouthfuls”), Garner needs a job as he expects to be broke about 2:30 that afternoon. The town has no sheriff so he takes the job.

The first man he arrests is Joe Danby for murder. Danby, played by Bruce Dern in a terrific comedic role as a not-so-bright tough guy, sits in the new jail, though it has no bars on the doors or windows. Garner’s quick thinking always outwits Danby. As Joe’s pa, Walter Brennan parodies his earlier role as Old Man Clanton in John Ford’s MY DARLING CLEMENTINE. In Pa Danby’s first encounter with Garner, he pulls his six-shooter on him. Garner sticks his finger in the end of Danby’s gun and their standoff is as unexpected as it is droll.

Other supporting players include Jack Elam as Garner’s reluctant deputy, Harry Morgan as the town mayor who’s daughter Prudy, played by Joan Hackett, takes a fancy to Garner. She’s part Calamity Jane and part accident prone, like setting her bustle on fire while cooking dinner. Morgan tries to explain Prudy’s actions saying, “Puberty hit her hard.” He also tells Garner, “She’s a rich little gal in her own name. Sole owner of the Millard Frymore Memorial Mining Company.” Garner says, “You meanin’ whoever marries her gets the mine.” Morgan responds, “Shaft and all.”

The director, Burt Kennedy, knew how to make Westerns, having written several stark, tight screenplays for Budd Boetticher (RIDE LONESOME, SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, THE TALL T, among others), as well as directing the unrelenting WELCOME TO HARD TIMES and the John Wayne-Kirk Douglas starrer THE WAR WAGON. Screenwriter William Bowers had received an Academy Award nomination for his superb work on THE GUNFIGHTER, as well as writing THE SHEEPMAN and THE LAW AND JAKE WADE.

Garner, who had become a star playing Bret Maverick on the TV series MAVERICK and had made the grueling DUEL AND DIABLO and HOUR OF THE GUN, announced that he was tired of Westerns and decided to make this one as a comic spoof through his Cherokee Productions Company. It paid off well, for him and for audiences. Made on a $750,000 budget, it grossed over $5 million.
If you like Westerns and want a laugh, this one won’t disappoint.

Thomas Clagett Post Image - Western BG

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