One Little IndianONE LITTLE INDIAN (1973) – Light-hearted family western. James Garner portrays Corporal Clint Keyes, who, after clashing with his Indian-hating superior, escapes a potential hanging for it and rides off into the desert with a pair of camels left over from the ill-advised American Camel Corps attempt in the 1800s.

Clay O’Brien was the title character, Mark, a white boy who had been raised by Native Americans and who winds up tagging along with Keyes, Lone Wolf and Cub-style. Vera Miles plays the widowed Doris McIver and a very young Jodie Foster has the role of her daughter Martha. (“Why did you say that NAME!?”)

Morgan Woodward portrays the bad guy Sgt Raines, who relentlessly pursues Keyes to bring him back to be executed for mutiny and desertion. Robert Pine, Andrew Prine and Dallas‘ Jim Davis are in the cast as well. Naturally there’s a happy ending with Mark, the widow McIver and her daughter serving as a pre-packaged family for Garner’s character in the finale.

Not a great movie but you can watch it with your kids.     

Glitter DomeTHE GLITTER DOME (1984) – Adapted from the novel by Joseph Wambaugh, this was made in the glory days of HBO Productions. Jim stars as Los Angeles Detective-Sergeant Aloysius Mackey, a profoundly cynical veteran cop who long ago resigned himself to the fact that a case is considered closed when the file is stamped “case closed” whether it really is solved or not. Just force a quick solution and move on to “close” another case, since so many murder cases are backed up.

That captures the entire approach of this gritty murder mystery, which is to say it’s like Film Noir Squared. John Lithgow plays Al Mackey’s partner Marty Wellburn, who is a sensitive sort finding it harder and harder to maintain sufficient detachment to do his job. Margot Kidder is Willie, Garner’s love interest.

The murder victim is a Hollywood producer who it turns out was making kiddie porno films on the side. Mackey and Wellburn’s investigation leads them into increasingly sleazy circles of L.A.’s underbelly. Stuart “Angel” Margolin directed capably but not outstandingly.

SPOILER: The telefilm maintains its hard-edged cynicism to the bitter end, with Mackey making up a “confession” from a dying sleazeball just to get the case closed, then actually solving the case afterward. The closing line of the movie manages to bring a bittersweet smile despite all the preceding darkness.  

Bret MaverickBRET MAVERICK: THE LAZY ACE (1981) – James Garner returned to the role of gambler/ gunslinger Bret Maverick nearly 25 years after it propelled him to stardom. The network had fruitlessly tried reviving the Maverick franchise in the 1970s with The New Maverick and Young Maverick starring Charles Frank as Ben, the latest member of the Maverick family.

At last common sense prevailed, with executives realizing Garner was always the main draw for the Maverick series, and Jim was back in the lead role. This telefilm which launched the new series featured the aging Bret winning a high-stakes, all-star poker game then settling down in the Arizona town of Sweetwater as a saloon owner.

Stuart Margolin directed and played in the supporting role of Philo Sandeen, a less annoying version of the weasely Angel from The Rockford Files. Ed Bruce co-starred with Garner as the suspicious town sheriff with Janis Paige and Darleen Carr as a lady gambler and a newswoman, respectively.      

Darby's RangersDARBY’S RANGERS (1958) – Garner’s first big-screen starring role came in this black & white World War Two movie. Jim plays the real-life Colonel William O Darby, leader of the title unit during the war.

Virtually all the other characters and events are fictional, so overall this is on the same pulp fiction/ dime novel level of heroic embellishment as the much later Pappy Boyington television series. Training, romancing women, learning to deal with killing, romancing women, danger, romancing women, etc.

This flick follows Darby’s Rangers from their formation to training in Scotland, then through campaigns in North Africa to Anzio and costars Jack Warden, Edd “Kooky” Byrnes, Stuart Whitman, Peter Brown and many more. It’s not meant as a profound look at war, it’s just a rah-rah actioner and is reasonably enjoyable on that level.    

Hour of the Gun bestHOUR OF THE GUN (1967) – Jim stars as Wyatt Earp in a movie which OPENS with the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and then spends most of its time on the revenge killings which followed. Which is fine with me, since that’s where most of the action was.

Jason Robards co-stars as Doc Holliday in the odd tradition of frequently having people WAY too old play the deadly dentist, who died at age 37. Jon Voight is Curly Bill Brocius, Robert Ryan plays Ike Clanton, Frank Converse is Virgil Earp and William Windom plays Texas Jack Vermillion.

Garner is very, very serious as Wyatt so the cynical jokes go to Robards as Doc. As usual, the facts go out the window in favor of more simplistic storytelling, but the goodbye scene between Earp and Holliday is appropriately gruff but affectionate.  

Mister Buddwing posterMISTER BUDDWING (1966) – Garner tries to stretch dramatically and doesn’t always succeed in this black & white would-be arthouse film adapted from the novel by Blackboard Jungle‘s Evan Hunter. Jim plays an amnesiac man who wakes up on a Central Park bench with few clues to his identity – a phone number on a piece of paper and a ring with the initials G.V. 

He names himself in the most silly way this side of Buddy Love but for the most part his unrealistic and self-consciously “DEEP” search for his identity is more hit than miss. Our star gets to act opposite a lot of quality actresses like Jean Simmons, Suzanne Pleshette, Katharine Ross and Angela Lansbury with Nichelle Nichols showing up briefly.

Think of it as a failed attempt at crossing Film Noir with Eugene O’Neill on the big screen. There’s some decent tension when the title figure thinks he may be an escaped mental patient mentioned in the news. 

support your local sheriffSUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF (1969) – This lesser forerunner of Support Your Local Gunfighter sports many of the same cast members. In this one James Garner plays a slightly mysterious gunslinger headed for the Australian gold fields. Joan Hackett is his love interest, the eccentric, off-kilter Prudie and Jack Elam once again serves as our hero’s sidekick.

Garner’s Jason is an amazingly skilled marksman who hires on as Sheriff to tame the local criminal clan led by Walter Brennan and Bruce Dern. Many western cliches are skillfully lampooned in this funny flick, but I got spoiled by seeing Gunfighter first. 

Naturally the good guy and gal win out, the bad guys get theirs and true love conquers Jason’s wanderlust. Jack Elam gets the last word, like in the later film. My favorite parts of this flick are the scenes parodying High Noon

They Only Kill Their MastersTHEY ONLY KILL THEIR MASTERS (1972) – Big screen murder mystery with Jim in the role of Eden Landing Police Chief Abel Marsh, the character Andy Griffith later played in two tv movies. A Doberman is at first suspected of killing its female owner until it appears it was murder instead.

Abel adopts the dog while pursuing his investigation and therefore gets Veterinary Assistant Katharine Ross as his love interest. Despite how small Eden Landing is, the town is crawling with intrigue and kinky sexual activities which wind up playing a part in the motives behind the murder.

Hal Holbrook, Peter Lawford and a slew of other recognizable faces show up in supporting roles. This movie features Garner’s character being perpetually annoyed at the budgetary and jurisdictional limitations of his tiny domain. There are lots of adult themes in this flick. Not until The Glitter Dome would James appear in a story with this much tawdriness behind it. The prudish and the “woke” will very likely need smelling salts from some of the language.     

Skin GameSKIN GAME (1971) – Uneven tone ultimately relegates this drama/ comedy to second-rate status. The year is 1857. James Garner is conman Quincy Drew and Louis Gossett Jr portrays Jason O’Rourke, a free black man.

The pair of con artists are plying the dangerous Skin Game, a con in which Quincy pretends to sell Jason, complete with phony slave papers, and then helps him escape so they can pull the con again in a different locale. Things take a chilling turn when they try the game one time too many and are called out by a previous victim. 

There is such odd bouncing back and forth from deadly seriousness to light-hearted comedy that the overall film doesn’t work. And the way Gossett uses a made-up gibberish language to command a slave uprising belongs in an absurdist piece, not a quasi-realistic effort like this. With Susan Clark, Ed Asner and Brenda Sykes.   

Pink JungleTHE PINK JUNGLE (1968) – In this adventure comedy Garner plays fashion photographer Ben Morris, who gets mistaken for a spy by the overly suspicious authorities in a tiny South American nation.

Temporarily stranded in this hotbed of intrigue and tinpot politics Ben makes the best of his circumstances. Keeping him company are gorgeous Eva Renzi as Ben’s model Alison and George Kennedy as the unsavory Sammy.

This trio and assorted other shady characters get involved in the search for a lost diamond mine. Cheap production values limit The Pink Jungle, which COULD have been the Romancing The Stone of its era with a bigger budget.

And stay alert for the final line of the movie, which is the best joke of the entire production!   



© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 


Filed under FRONTIERADO, opinion


  1. Pingback: TWENTY JAMES GARNER MOVIES | Balladeer's Blog

  2. was it support your local sheriff that jack elam hangs from the caboose talking about starring in Italian westerns?

    • Hello! That was at the end of Support Your Local Gunfighter. In Support … Sheriff he says “And me? I go on to become one of the most beloved figures of the American west.” … Gunfighter was in the first group of ten Garner movies.

  3. Hart

    Kudos! Garner was one of the best. I agree about the Skin Game though.

  4. Maya

    He was certainly a handsome man.

  5. Kathleen

    I’ve seen all of these except Pink Jungle Skin Game and They Only Kill Their Masters.

  6. Kim

    Why no Castaway Cowboy?

  7. Arthur

    One Little Indian is a nice movie!

  8. Dennis

    Garner was in a lot of westerns!

  9. Mary

    I think I saw the Pink Jungle once.

  10. Jason

    Glitterdome is some dope shit!

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