Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Support Your Local Sheriff

Support Your Local Sheriff
seen online via YouTube

I've yet to talk at length about Westerns. My father loved them, of course, whether on TV, with shows like Bonanza and The Big Valley, or films. I can't recall if he had a favorite Western star or not; he seemed to like a wide variety of Western movies. not that I would know for sure; as a kid, I used to think the genre was corny, so I never paid it much mind. I do know that he tended to prefer the standard Golden Age Hollywood fare. I don't recall ever seeing him watch any spaghetti Westerns (though I'm sure he must've seen Clint Eastwood on TV in Rawhide) or any Western after the 60s, but it's been so long.

We know now that the classic Hollywood image of the Wild West was mostly myth - that between the slaughtering of Indians, the unsanitary living conditions, and the casual brutality that leads to gunfights, it probably was not a fun time to be living in. But it was a Western, after all, that taught us that when the legend becomes fact, print the legend. Westerns are so intrinsically American - so tied to the idea of this country being a place that any (white) man can conquer and make his own as long as he has the will and the strength of character to do so - that even today, long after Westerns have declined in popularity from its heyday, their hold, however tenuous, remains.

Blazing Saddles remains, for me, the gold standard in Western comedies, but I would put Support Your Local Sheriff not too far behind. I found out about it from the delightful blog Thrilling Days of Yesteryear and had it on my schedule for a few months before an opening came up this week. James Garner plays the familiar archetype of the stranger who arrives to clean up the one-horse town, but he's no stoic lone wolf like Eastwood (who, oddly enough, ventured into the lighter side of the Western in the same year with the musical Paint Your Wagon). He becomes town sheriff only because he needs the money, and his plan is to eventually leave for Australia, of all places. He's gotta take on the local bad men first, though, not to mention woo the token love interest. It's a slight story, but a fun one. I liked it.

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