Classic Cinema: Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) – By Jason S. Lockard

My name is Jason Lockard and as an independent filmmaker I love classic TV and Movies and like most I remember seeing James Garner in Maverick and The Rockford Files, but James Garner was a movie star and this month we are going to take a look back at a hilarious western entitled Support your local sheriff!

Born James Scott Bumgarner in Norman, Oklahoma, the son of Mildred and Weldon Warren Bumgarner, a carpet layer. His mother, who was half Cherokee, died when he was five years old. After the death of his mother Garner and his brothers were sent to live with relatives. Garner was reunited with his family in 1934, when Weldon remarried. Garner attended Norman High School where he competed in track and golf as well as played football and basketball! After graduation he joined the National Guard serving seven months in the United States then was sent out to Korea for 14 months, serving in the 24th Infantry Division in the Korean War. He was wounded twice, first in the face and hand from shrapnel fire, and second in the buttocks from friendly fire from U.S. fighter jets as he dove headfirst into a foxhole on April 23, 1951. Garner was awarded the two Purple Hearts for his injuries in Korea for the first injury.

After his tour in Korea, Paul Gregory a high school friend of Garner suggested him to take a non-speaking role in the Broadway production of The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, where he was able to study actor Henry Fonda night after night. Garner subsequently moved to television commercials and eventually to television roles. He would move on to do movies the first being 1956’s The Girl He Left Behind. James Bumgarner became James Garner when the studio had credited him as "James Garner" without permission. He then legally changed it when his first child was born, as he decided she had too many names. Garner would do well over 50 feature films but it would be television where most would remember him for his unforgettable characters in his series Maverick and Rockford Files!

In 1969 James Garner put on his cowboy boots but this time not as Bret Maverick this time as Jason McCullough a man armed with a wry sense of humor and a straight-shooting sidearm is on his way to Australia to settle down in the hilarious Western comedy Support your local Sheriff! Jason strolls into town looking to earn some money for his trip and comes upon an ad that the town needs a new sheriff he tells the town council that he might be willing to take the job if the money is right to which they exclaim “Well, it’s not just you taking the job how do we know your qualified.” McCullough responds “Don’t worry if I take the job you won’t be disappointed!” At this point you know your not in for a regular old western!

Jason McCullough soon finds out he has much more than he bargained for in this small town with the klutzy and hotheaded Purdy Perkins (Joan Hackett) making eyes at him, A War with The Danby’s (a family of rancher bandits) on the horizon, The town derelict (Jack Elam) as a deputy, Jason may never clean up the town!

The war with the Danby’s ensues when Joe Danby (Bruce Dern) the youngest of the clan guns a man down and Jason and his deputy put him in a jail cell with no bars! How’s he keep him from leaving?! Jason put some red pain on the floor earlier and when Joe says “You expect me to say here?!” he than sees the red paint on the floor and says, “What‘s that?!” to which Jason replies, “Oh that‘s the last guy that tried to leave!” Joe sits down on the cot!

When The Danby’s find out Joe is in jail Pa Danby (Walter Brennan) decides to go into the jail and have a talk with this new sheriff. Pa storms in and pulls out his gun and sticks it in Jason’s face and Jason puts him finger in the end of his gun. Pa than releases the hammer and Jason confiscates the gun and tells Pa Danby to leave and comeback to visit later. Than in the bar the oldest Danby boy says, “He stuck his finger in the end of your what?!” A truly funny line! The war between the Danby’s and the town is on, but don’t worry it is not your typical shootout! This gunfight is so funny! There is so much funny action I’m not even going to try to describe it to you! So does Purdy get Jason to marry her? Does Jason clean up the town and make it to Australia?! And what happens to the derelict deputy?! Well, You’ll have to watch the film to find out!

While Support your local Sheriff wasn’t an Oscar success it was loved by fans and is truly one of the best comedy westerns ever made! James Garner even returned in 1971 to do another Support film… This time Support your local gunfighter but this time he didn’t play Jason McCullogh. This time he plays a fast talking hustler gunfighter Latako Smith. It is in it’s own way a really good film but not as magical as it’s predecessor!

James would be honored with his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame as well as being inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame. In 2005 he received the Screen Actor’s Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Than in his hometown of Norman, Oklahoma on April 21, 2006, a ten-foot tall bronze statue of James Garner as Bret Maverick. Garner was present at the ceremony.

While Garner has had many health issues including chronic knees problems which would require six or seven knee operations during that time and in 2000 he would have to have both knees surgically replaced. Than on April 22, 1988, Garner had quintuple bypass heart surgery. Garner suffered a stroke and two days later on May 11, 2008 underwent surgery but his prognosis was reported to be "very positive".

Whether you remember him as Bret Maverick, Jim Rockford or for some of his great Movie roles James Garner is a film and TV legend and he has left his legacy for his Film and TV that will live on long after he is gone!

So until next month this is Jason S. Lockard saying if you want a good film Check out a Classic!


Moral Rating:
Mild Violence
Audience: Family
Length: 92 min.
Year of Release: 1969
Our Rating: A+