Monday, August 4, 2008

Favourite movies: Support Your Local Sheriff (1969)

The comedy-western is a subgenre with a rich and varied history. The cliches of even the best westerns lend themselves to kidding, and fans are always up for a laugh. Two of the finest proponents of the comedy-western were writer/director Burt Kennedy and writer William Bowers. The thing that sets their comedy-westerns ahead of the pack is that they have their fair share of dramatic pictures under their belts.

Burt Kennedy wrote such classics as Seven Men from Now (1956), The Tall T (1947) and The War Wagon (1967). The Rounders (1965) and The Train Robbers (1973) also highlight his lighter side. William Bowers wrote the classic The Gunfighter (1950) starring Gregory Peck, and his first western-comedy was The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap (1947). He teamed with director George Marshall and star Glenn Ford for The Sheepman (1958) and Advance to the Rear (1964).

Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) pokes knowing fun at everything near and dear to my heart, My Darling Clementine (1946), Rio Bravo (1959), High Noon (1952), Red River (1948) and Winchester '73 (1950). The cast is filled out by character faces familiar to westerns fans - character actors who really know their stuff.

A stranger rides into a lawless town. A town caught up in the thrall of gold fever and under the ruthless sway of the Danby family. The stranger is played by James Garner, whose great ease and charm on the screen have convinced generations that he is only playing himself. The stranger's pockets are empty and the lure of gold in the vicinity, plus a town council eager to please convince him to take on the job of sheriff. The town council is played by film favourites Harry Morgan, Henry Jones, Willis Bouchey and Walter Burke. Mayor Ollie Perkins explains the almost state-of-the-art office: "Our last sheriff was a good organizer. Yellow clear through, but a good organizer."

In short order, our stranger takes on a reluctant deputy played by the marvelous Jack Elam and runs up against the Danby's by arresting not-too-bright son, Joe, played by Bruce Dern in a very funny performance. Three-time Oscar winner Walter Brennan (Come and Get It (1936), Kentucky (1938) and The Westerner (1940)) spoofs his villainous Old Man Clanton from My Darling Clementine (1946) as Pa Danby, beset by idiot sons, Dern, Gene Evans and Dick Peabody, and a sheriff who doesn't act like any sheriff he's ever known.

Our stranger also finds romance in the form of Prudy Perkins played by the brilliant actress Joan Hackett (Will Penny (1968), The Last of Sheila (1973)). Prudy is smitten with the new sheriff, but she's going through an awkward stage. How else does she end up on fire, and stuck in a tree in her undergarments? Her father, the mayor, explains: "She's had some terrible shocks this year. She got wealthy almost overnight - I think maybe it unhinged her a bit. Then she was always kind of big for her age and "pooberty hit her hard. That'll do it you know."

This trailer gives you a sample of the kind of good-natured humor you'll find in this laugh-out-loud feature:

What's not to love?


  1. A bit of Rockfish in a cowboy hat sure is a nice way to start the day. Thanks, CW!

  2. James Garner is great...I really need to check out this movie sometime.

  3. guesswho, sometime may be sooner than you think.

    This coming Friday (Aug 8) is Garner day on TCM's Summer Under the Stars and the 8:00 pm movie is...ta da!

  4. Ooh, thanks for the heads-up, Caftan!

  5. -Sigh- Caftan, I recorded the wrong one. I missed 'Sheriff,' but got 'Gunfighter.' I still intend to watch it when time permits.


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