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Film: Support Your Local Sheriff

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 a con-artist who slips off a train in a jerkwater town 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, 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 provide examples of:

  • Affectionate Parody: The Western in general. Brennen spoofs his own character from 1946's My Darling Clementine.
  • 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.
  • Clueless Deputy
  • 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: Garner has one in the second film he's desperate to get rid of.
  • Facial Dialogue: One of Jack Elam's specialties. It's one of the reasons he was such a successful comedic character actor.
  • Fastest Gun in the West: Garner 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.
  • Go Look at the Distraction: How Mayor Perkin clears out the unimportant hangers-on for the Sheriff's job-interview.
  • Humiliation Conga: Prudence suffers through one in SYLS.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Subverted, inverted, lampshaded and played straight. All in the same 30-second scene.
  • In the Back
  • 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.
  • Missing Mom: The heroine in both films lacks a mother.
  • Near Misses
  • Pocket Protector: Subverted and played straight
    Jason McCullough: [fingering dented badge] That must have saved the life of whoever was wearin' it.
    Mayor Olly Perkins: Well, it sure would have, if it hadn't been for all them other bullets flyin' in from everywhere.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Averted.
  • 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!
  • Self Restraint
  • The Sheriff: Garner, 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?"
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Tsundere: Both female leads have at least one foot in this territory.
  • Undying Loyalty: Elam's character in SYLG, after Garner's gives him some money so he can buy food.
  • Un Paused: Garner 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 (both in SYLS) in order to get to his allies and co-ordinate strategy.
  • Walking the Earth: Garner's character has been "going to Australia" ...for at least 4 years. And he never gets there.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Parodied in the first film, 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.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Elam's character gives one directly to the audience in both films.

SunsetIndex of Film WesternsˇThree Amigos!
The SidehackersFilms of the 1960sSweet Charity
Steamboat Bill, Jr.Creator/United ArtistsSweet Smell of Success

alternative title(s): Support Your Local Sheriff
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