Support Your Local Sheriff

This post first appeared in October of 2003.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Support Your Local Sheriff, a western spoof starring James Garner, Bruce Dern, Harry Morgan, Walter Brennan, and a whole host of other faces you’d recognize immediately. We got the DVD some while back, and every so often when I’m tired and I just want to sit down and veg I’ll pull it out and be happy for an hour or so.

Garner drifts into a small Western town where there’s recently been a goldstrike. The town has grown enormously in just a short time, and law is in short supply. The chief bad guys are a family of ranchers from out of town; their spread just happens to sit across the route to the railroad station. So not only do the townsmen have to put up the rancher’s bad behavior, they have to pay them a tariff to get their gold out of town.

What with the gold-induced inflation, Garner can’t afford to stay in town for more than about two hours; on the other hand, he really needs a stake to get him to Australia. That’s the frontier, you know (“I thought we lived on the frontier,” says one of the mine owners). As a result, he takes the job of town sheriff. Will he survive longer than the last three? Will he clean up the town? Will he wed the mayor’s pretty if accident prone daughter?

What do you think?

This movie is a gem, and I think it’s for the same reason that Singing in the Rain is also a gem (though, admittedly, a larger one)–a group of talented people got together and had one heck of a good time doing something they loved.

I bring it up now for two reasons. First, because Garner’s side kick is played by Jack Elam, who passed away at 84 just a few days ago. He appears here in his first comic role–a marvelous, glorious instance of casting against type, for he usually played the really, really bad guys.

And second, before I could manage to write something up about him, Terry Teachout beat me to it (link is dead—Ed.)—and pointed to Support Your Local Sheriff as his best role.

First Looney Tunes, now Support Your Local Sheriff. I’ve got to hand it to Mr. Teachout: he might be the arts critic for the Wall Street Journal, but he’s no snob.

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