Support Your Local Sheriff! [1969]

While hardly the first Western spoof to ride out of Hollywood, Support Your Local Sheriff is easily one of the best. James Garner plays the confident, cool-headed cowboy who strolls into a wild gold rush town on the way to Australia and takes the job as sheriff. Like a parody of My Darling Clementine by way of Rio Bravo, he arrests the hotheaded but hopelessly confused son (Bruce Dern) of a ruthless ranching magnate (Walter Brennan). Stuck with a half-built jail (where he keeps his prisoner penned up with pure psychology and a few spatters of red paint), a rummy sidekick (google-eyed Jack Elam in one of his first comic turns), and a disaster-prone tomboy (Joan Hackett), he takes on a succession of gunfighters with increasing exasperation. "Sure is a childish way for a grown man to make a living," he laments before chasing one gunman out of Dodge by pelting him with rocks. Directed with laconic ease by veteran Western director Burt Kennedy, it's a clever spoof of familiar conventions in a lighthearted vein, more understated and affectionate than Mel Brooks's outrageous farce Blazing Saddles. It inspired a slew of imitators, including a decade of silly Disney Westerns that sank the genre in slapstick shenanigans, and was followed in 1971 by Kennedy's pseudosequel Support Your Local Gunfighter, which reteamed Garner and Elam in a more mercenary story of con artists and gunslingers. --Sean Axmaker

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