Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)

“When you set out to clean up a mess, you don’t just sit around and wait for that mess to get bigger and bigger!”

Synopsis:
The fast-shooting new sheriff (James Garner) of a booming western town faces the wrath of local patriarch Pa Danby (Walter Brennan) when he jails one of Danby’s errant sons (Bruce Dern).

Genres:

Review:
This light-hearted western spoof received less-than-stellar reviews upon its release, but remains an innocuous favorite of many, thanks in large part to James Garner’s winning performance in the title role. As a humble marksman — likely the fastest gun in the west — who is perpetually “on his way to Australia” (which he considers to be the “real frontier”), Garner is coolly unfazed by the chaos and violence surrounding him, including the town’s infamous baddy, Joe Danby (nicely played by the reliably psychotic Dern). In one of the film’s most humorous subplots, Garner manages not only to keep Danby in an unfinished prison by using simple psychological intimidation, but to get him to install the bars himself! Some aspects of William Bowers’ screenplay are less successful than others: I’m unimpressed, for instance, by Joan Hackett’s character — the hot-headed daughter of Mayor Olly Perkins (Harry Morgan) — and her ongoing would-be romantic encounters with Garner; she comes across as needlessly shrill. Yet there are enough genuinely corny laughs and fine performances to carry Support Your Local Sheriff through till its inevitable final shoot-out, and to recommend it for at least one-time viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • James Garner as Sheriff McCullough
    Support Sheriff Garner
  • Jack Elam as McCullough’s deputy
  • Bruce Dern as Joe Danby
  • William Bowers’ often humorous screenplay

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

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One Response to “Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)”

  1. Not must-see – though it’s not a bad film.

    Until now, I hadn’t seen this since its initial release. Teenagers can be more easily pleased – and I think I *was*… and I know I thought James Garner was cute (and I still think so). I even liked Joan Hackett (and didn’t see her as “shrill” but more like a frustrated tomboy). In fact, I thought the whole film was charming.

    I still think it’s charming. It’s a mild diversion – not hilariously funny; it seems content to just be pleasant. As a result, it runs the risk of being a little forgettable.

    It was nice seeing Brennan as a force to be dealt with – as opposed to (yet again) another somewhat-feeble-minded guy with a high-pitched voice – as I just saw him in ‘The Far Country’… which also features this film’s Morgan as a toughie again in an Anthony Mann film… and this film’s Kathleen Freeman (she’s here in a cameo).

    [Of course, I’d just seen Gene Evans – one of Brennan’s sons – in ‘The Giant Behemoth’ last night. I guess good actors just work all the time. 😉 ]

    In this period, comedy westerns weren’t exactly in large supply… westerns being traditionally serious in nature and rarely spoofed. ‘Support…’ seems to follow in the footsteps of 1965’s ‘Cat Ballou’, which has a similar tone in some ways but has its focus on outlaws. It seems likely that Mel Brooks saw ‘Support…’ when it came out… and pondered its focus on a whole new town that needs a new sheriff… and, five years later, served up the much-more-irreverent and even controversial ‘Blazing Saddles’.

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