Monday, April 12, 2021

Support Your Local Gunfighter

James Garner stars in Support Your Local Gunfighter and it’s easy to see why he was a star.  His combination of good looks, witty dialog, and charisma carries what would otherwise be a second-rate film.

My introduction to James Garner came with The Rockford Files, which began a few years after this 1971 movie.  Jim Rockford and Latigo Smith, the character Garner plays in Support Your Local Gunfighter, share many personality traits.  In fact, even though Maverick isn’t one of my favorite TV shows, there is a clear line from Brett Maverick to Latigo Smith to Jim Rockford.  It even looks like Latigo Smith’s clothes were the same as Brett Maverick’s, at least as far as shirts and ties go.

There’s a lot going on in Support Your Local Gunfighter and at times, it can be confusing to keep track of who is who and who is doing what to whom.  After an establishing shot, the action starts on a train car, where Smith, as the audience will eventually learn is his name, seems to be on his way to Denver to get married.  However, he also seems to be somewhat unwilling and bribes people to let him get off at the next stop, which happens to be a town called Purgatory.

The reason for the town’s name becomes obvious, especially when Patience Barton, who is anything but, makes her presence loudly known.  Played by Suzanne Pleshette, Patience is a far cry from Emily Hartley in The Bob Newhart Show, the character she played beginning the year after making Support Your Local Gunfighter.

The problem with Patience and Taylor Barton, her father played by Harry Morgan, and Jug, Smith’s sidekick played by Jack Elam, and most of the supporting characters, is that they are all played for laughs.  They talk loudly and act broadly.  Watching Support Your Local Gunfighter through a 21st century lens, which I admit is not really fair, the movie makes fun of Patience in all her scenes, implicitly and sometimes explicitly contrasting her behavior with a stereotypical view of how a young woman should act.  Sometimes it was amusing but it was also grating.

Much of the plot revolves around Latigo Smith being mistaken for a famous gunfighter and using the misunderstanding to his financial advantage.  All the disparate plot lines eventually converge and of course there is a happy ending for the good guys.  Burt Kennedy directed but Support Your Local Gunfighter is not best his movie.  But it is only 1 hour and 33 minutes long so if you’re a fan of James Garner, Suzanne Pleshette, Harry Morgan, or Jack Elam, you’ll enjoy this lightweight movie.