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James Garner capped his years of big-screen stardom with the warm-hearted western satire Support Your Local Sheriff. When that 1968 film scored a hit, he re-teamed with producer-director Burt Kennedy for this rousing 1971 follow-up. Although not a sequel, Support Your Local Gunfighter had the same spirit as its predecessor. Once again, Garner stars as a wild West con man, though this time he's on the run from marriage rather than the law. He hides out in the town of Purgatory, where he makes a fortune pretending to be a notorious gunman - until the real thing decides to show up.
After rising to stardom in the TV western Maverick (1957-60), a comic series reflecting his own offbeat sense of humor, Garner shot to big-screen stardom with such hits as The Great Escape (1963) and The Americanization of Emily (1964). By the 1970s, however, his box-office appeal was fading. He would return to television after Support Your Local Gunfighter, first in another western comedy Nichols (1971-72), then as the ultimate small-time private eye in The Rockford Files (1974).
But first he had two dates with western legend Kennedy, who had started his career writing such classic Randolph Scott westerns as Seven Men From Now (1956) and Ride Lonesome (1959). Kennedy moved into directing with such idiosyncratic, small-scale westerns as Mail Order Bride (1964), The Rounders (1965) and Welcome to Hard Times (1967). After his two films with Garner, Kennedy devoted most of his time to television, though he would return to the big-screen as co-author of Clint Eastwood's filmmaking saga White Hunter, Black Heart (1990) and director of the Hulk Hogan adventure comedy Suburban Commando (1991). Kennedy passed away earlier this year.
One of the main attractions in Support Your Local Gunfighter is the supporting cast of comedy veterans and western stalwarts like Dub Taylor, Chuck Connors (of TV's The Rifleman) and Harry Morgan. Before scoring as the wisecracking wife on The Bob Newhart Show, Suzanne Pleshette played the rough-and-tumble cowgirl who dreams of finishing school and the big city.
But the real news in both Support films was character actor Jack Elam, both times as Garner's sidekick. In Support Your Local Gunfighter, he's cast in a similar role to Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou (1965), playing a drunken bumbler with a secret. Originally an accountant, Elam traded his financial services for a small role in his first film, 1949's Trailin' West. With an unusual look (stemming from an eye injury from his childhood), he originally specialized in menacing roles in a variety of genre films, from the quintessential film noir Kiss Me Deadly (1955) to the epic spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West (1969). His performances in Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter revealed a comic side he would later exploit in such films as The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979) and The Cannonball Run (1981), along with the TV series The Texas Wheelers (1974) and Easy Street (1986).
Producer/Director: Burt Kennedy
Screenplay: James Edward Grant
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Jr.
Art Direction: Phil Barber
Music: Jack Elliott, Allyn Ferguson
Cast: James Garner (Latigo Smith), Suzanne Pleshette (Patience Barton), Jack Elam (Jug May), Joan Blondell (Jenny), Harry Morgan (Taylor Barton), Marie Windsor (Goldie), Henry Jones (Ez), Chuck Connors (Swifty Morgan), Dub Taylor (Doc Schultz), Kathleen Freeman (Mrs. Perkins), Ellen Corby (Abigail), John Dehner (Colonel Ames), Grady Sutton (storekeeper).
C-93m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller