Film / Support Your Local Sheriff

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Support Your Local Sheriff is a 1969 western spoof from United Artists, directed by Burt Kennedy, and starring James Garner, in which the calm hyper-competent Jason McCullough (Garner) becomes the sheriff of a rowdy western boomtown, mostly because he needs the money. With the questionable help of his scruffy deputy Jake (Jack Elam), he defeats the local robber baron (Walter Brennan), cleans up the town and gets the girl (Joan Hackett), casually subverting most standard western tropes in the process.

Three years later, more or less the same production crew and cast made Support Your Local Gunfighter, which despite the carry-over and the name is not a sequel. This time around, Garner is con-artist Latigo Smith who slips off a train in the jerkwater town of Purgatory and finds himself embroiled in the no-holds-barred race between two mining concerns to claim the local motherlode of gold. Again with the "help" of Elam's character Jug May, he finds the gold and gets the second girl (Suzanne Pleshette.)

The films may or may not be classics, with the editing and continuity being particularly sloppy, but if you're any sort of fan of westerns, you really won't mind too much.


The two films provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: In SYLG, Latigo slips off the train in the first place to escape "Goldie" the rich and powerful woman who wants to marry him. She's not physically unattractive, it's more the principle of the thing.
  • Affectionate Parody: The Western in general. Brennen spoofs his own character from 1946's My Darling Clementine.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: Subverted. They sing "Rock of Ages" instead.
  • Artistic License Economics: Sometimes inflation catches you right between mouthfuls.
  • A-Team Firing: The gunfight at the end of SYLS. (To a degree; people do actually get shot.)
    • The sheriff criticizes his love interest for actually shooting to kill. Also, despite the deaths the number of enemies is the same after the fight as before it, and the bodies disappear from where they fell.
  • Batman Gambit: how McCullough gets Joe to stay in a jail with no bars.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: twice in the first film, by McCullough.
  • Boom Town: In the first film, caused by a gold rush.
  • Brick Joke: The Millard Frymore Memorial Mining Company.
  • Cardboard Prison: The new jail has absolutely everything you might need, except bars.
  • Clean Up the Town: Explicitly made a subject of a joke in the first film:
    Jake: Ever been the sheriff of a town that needed cleanin' up before?
    Sheriff: Nope.
    Jake: Ever been the sheriff of any kind of town before?
    Sheriff: Nope. But the mayor seemed to think my qualifications suited the job exactly.
    Jake: He'd have thought that if'n you were blind in both eyes and crippled in both legs.
    Sheriff: I think you got the situation pretty well pegged, Jake.
  • Clueless Deputy: Jake, though it's more a case of being unenthusiastic and uneducated than suffering an outright lack of intelligence.
  • Combat Pragmatist: McCullough. He fully understands that gunfights are a good way to get yourself killed so where possible, he uses other methods including tripping horses with a rope, bluffing the Danbys into surrendering by tying Joe to a cannon, and throwing rocks at a would be gunslinger trying to earn a reputation.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Prudence; along with stuff mentioned elsewhere on this page, at one point she manages to set her dress on fire while trying to make dinner.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone takes turns with this in the first film, with the Sheriff taking first prize with this line:
    Mayor: The only thing the jail hasn't got is iron bars for the cells.
    Sheriff: [beat] You're kidding.
  • Double Entendre: Subverted; when the Sheriff is trying to compliment Ms. Prudy, she thinks every word coming out of his mouth is a double entendre. Of course, the whore walking out of the whore house after it got blown to hell in the end plays it straight.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: Latigo has one he is desperate to get rid of.
  • Exact Words: McCullough has Jake carry all the supplies while they're out prospecting. Noticing that Jake is having a tough time of it, he offers to "redistribute the weight" for him. He proceeds to rearrange Jake's pack a bit, leaving him just as heavily loaded as before.
  • Facial Dialogue: One of Jack Elam's specialties. It's one of the reasons he was such a successful comedic character actor.
  • Failed a Spot Check: It might explain why their shooting was so bad that the entire group of bad guys at the final gunfight completely miss the Sheriff and Jake hauling Joe out and restraining him to the local cannon at the end of the street when almost all of them are shooting that way.
  • Fastest Gun in the West: McCullough in the first film. In the second, it's an infamous gunfighter named "Swifty" Morgan (an uncredited Chuck Connors.)
  • Finger in a Barrel: When Old Man Danby comes to get his son out of jail, he walks into the sheriff's office and points a gun in his face. The sheriff just looks up at him and casually sticks his finger in the gun.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": The first film opens with a funeral that is permanently disrupted when one of the mourners notices gold in the grave.
  • The Gambling Addict: Latigo can't stop betting on roulette spins.
  • Genre Savvy: McCullough pretty much knows that tropes related to Westerns are just ways to get a man killed.
  • Go Look at the Distraction: How Mayor Perkin clears out the unimportant hangers-on for the Sheriff's job-interview.
  • Guile Hero: Jason.
  • Head Desk:
    • In SYLS, Prudence does a version of this against a tree-branch she is occupying at the time; see below under Slapstick.
    • In SYLG, Latigo very deliberately and ceremoniously thumps his head on a wall beam after once again succumbing to his roulette compulsion.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Prudence denounces the town council for throwing an "unarmed girl" (ie, herself) out of a public meeting.. after she showed up at said meeting brandishing a shotgun, which was wrestled away from her.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Subverted, inverted, lampshaded and played straight. All in the same 30-second scene.
  • In the Back: After Jake helps McCullough during the confrontation with Joe in the saloon.
    Jake: Well.. I.. couldn't let 'im shoot you in the back..
    Sheriff: Oh, you could have.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: Subverted, the gun actually had bullets, the Sheriff was just a real good bluffer. And the prisoner was just that much of an idiot.
    "And he lies to me about whether or not my gun is loaded."
  • Just Leave Town: Lampshaded & zig-zagged. Everyone thinks the sheriff leaving, instead of fighting a final battle, is a good idea. But then there wouldn't be a climax.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: "..if someone's cra- willing to take the job.."
  • Legendary Impostor: Latigo and Jug attempt this in SYLG, leading to the real thing being summoned to the town.
  • No Name Given: The town in SYLS; it's evidently "Calendar", but it's only mentioned once, briefly.
  • Missing Mom: The heroine in both films lacks a mother.
    Mayor Perkins: I wanted you to meet my daughter, Sheriff. She's a good cook, a mighty fine looking girl. Takes after her dear, departed mother.
    Jason McCullough: Mother died, huh?
    Mayor Perkins: Nope, she just departed.
  • Pocket Protector: Subverted and played straight.
    Jason McCullough: [fingering dented badge] That must have saved the life of whoever was wearin' it.
    Mayor Perkins: Well, it sure would have, if it hadn't been for all them other bullets flyin' in from everywhere!
  • Posthumous Character: Millard Frymore in SYLS; the film starts with his funeral.
  • Quick Draw: McCullough gives Jake some lessons in this.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Averted.
  • Running Gag: Pa Danby's sons throwing his own quotes back in his face. Also the pack of dogs roaming the streets of the town; by the end of the film, they're the only thing that hasn't changed.
  • Sarcasm Mode:
    Joe Danby: But you always said there was never a jail built that could hold a Danby!
    Pa Danby: Well now they built one!
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: "What that fella said just now ain't exactly true. Only two of our sheriffs got killed. The third quit kinda sudden-like. Don't think he had quite the right temperament for the job." McCullough also considers leaving town before the big gunfight, but Prudence accidentally convinces him to stay.
  • Self-Restraint: By the end of the first film, Joe pretty much. He even helps install the bars when they finally arrive for his cell, and expresses pride at how good a job he did.
  • The Sheriff: McCullough of course; plus three others before the movie starts.
  • Showdown at High Noon: Methodically subverted in both movies.
    "Why do these jaspers always hit town at mealtime?"
  • Slapstick: Prudence suffers through a session of this, ending with her in a tree, in her long underwear, with dripping-wet hair, while one of her neighbors regales the hunky new sheriff with an account of the time at the town picnic when she got said hair caught in an ice-cream maker.
  • Smarter Than You Look: The town votes in favor of "...keeping the hell off the streets and out of the way until the shooting is over."
  • Spiritual Successor: Support Your Local Gunfighter
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: In SYLG, a very rare example of an older would-be couple finding themselves on opposite sides of the local dispute. They get together in the end.
  • Strolling Through the Chaos: McCullough during the fight in the restaurant.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Played-with. The characters tend to be more self-aware than average.
  • Take That!: The town brothel in SYLS is named after a Warner Bros. executive with whom Garner had recently clashed.
    • It coincidentally happens to be a Punny Name as well ("Madame Orr's House" [Whorehouse] )
      I was a whore-holder at Madame Horse's - ah, a horse-holder at Madame Orr's House.note 
  • Tsundere: Both female leads have at least one foot in this territory.
  • Undying Loyalty: Jug in SYLG, after Latigo gives him some money so he can buy food.
  • Un-Paused: McCullough escapes a brawl at a restaurant by yelling "Hold it!" and quietly stepping to one side, taking his food with him. Once he's out of harm's way, he says "Okay, go ahead on!" and the brawl resumes exactly where it stopped.
    • He does the same trick in the middle of the final gunfight in order to get to his allies and co-ordinate strategy.
  • Walking the Earth: McCullough has been "going to Australia" ...for at least 4 years. And he never gets there.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Parodied when McCullough announces he is considering just skipping town instead of facing a massive gunfight, and Prudence replies, in total sincerity, that she thinks that's an excellent and highly mature idea.
    • Later, Old Man Danby gives this to Jason when the Sheriff accidentally blows up Madame Orr's House with the cannon.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Elam's character gives one directly to the audience at the end of both films, including for himself.


Alternative Title(s): Support Your Local Gunfighter

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/SupportYourLocalSheriff