EIGHT JAMES GARNER WESTERNS

With the Frontierado Holiday coming up on August 5th, here is another seasonal post.  

sledgeA MAN CALLED SLEDGE (1970) – Garner’s lone Spaghetti Western was a fascinating departure from his usual depictions of a roguish but not ruthless rascal. This time around he plays Luther Sledge, a grim, pitiless bandit leader who becomes obsessed with robbing a fortune in gold from its temporary storage place in a combination fortress and prison for hardened criminals.

Dennis Weaver, Claude Akins and others are along for the ride in this rare type of Italo-Western that incorporates all of the sub-genre’s strengths while omitting nearly all of its weaknesses. Almost every minute of A Man Called Sledge is riveting to look at with only a slight letdown toward the end.

After watching this movie I wanted to see how Garner would have done in the Lee Van Cleef role in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.   

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. 

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.

support gunfighterSUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER (1971) – Garner portrays old west conman Latigo Smith in this nearly flawless comedy. Latigo has just romanced and abandoned a brothel madam but failed to make off with her money. Stranded in Purgatory, a town divided by a mining war, he plies his gigolo trade again with the local whorehouse owner, Jenny.

While trying to acquire enough money to move on, Smith is mistaken for notorious gunfighter Swifty Morgan, leading to all manner of complications which the conman tries to play to his advantage. Suzanne Pleshette co-stars as Patience Barton, the fiery-tempered daughter of one of the mine owners, and becomes Garner’s love interest.

James Garner once said he preferred his earlier movie Support Your Local Sheriff to this flick, but I think he was off. For the sheer number of laughs Support Your Local Gunfighter has it all over the previous film.  

duel diabloDUEL AT DIABLO (1966) – A riveting western which sympathetically portrays the plight of Native Americans while not becoming overly preachy. Jim portrays Jess Remsberg, expert Scout for the U.S. Cavalry, who is on the trail of the man or men who killed and scalped his Native American wife.

Reluctantly, he gets drawn into a cavalry expedition led by rising military star Lt Scotty McAllister (Bill Travers) into the desert territory of Apache leader Chato. Also drawn into the affair is Toller (Sidney Poitier), a former subordinate of McAllister’s who now works as a contractor training horses for the army.

Bibi Andersson plays Ellen Grange, a white woman who had a child by one of the Apaches who raped her and is shunned by “polite society” because of it. Dennis Weaver plays her businessman husband Willard.

Through assorted twists and turns all of these plotlines tie together seamlessly amid a lot of action and gunfire. This is an incredibly underrated western that impresses me more each time I watch it. 

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 … after a shootout with deadly rival Ramsey Bass. 

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. 

support 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 Support Your Local 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

Maverick movieMAVERICK (1994) – Though James Garner was technically playing a supporting role to Mel Gibson in this film, Gibson was portraying Bret Maverick, the character Garner had turned into a sensation in the 1950s. Since this movie would not exist without the cultural cache built up decades earlier by James’ portrayal of both Bret AND “Pappy” Beauregard Maverick (in old age makeup back then) this definitely counts as a Garner film.

NECESSARY SPOILER: The lawman character that Garner portrays in the film turns out to really be Pappy Maverick, with Mel Gibson’s Bret simply playing along with his father’s impersonation.

The movie centers around an action-filled quest to reach Saint Louis in time for a mammoth poker tournament being held on a riverboat. FOR MY FULL-LENGTH REVIEW OF THIS FILM CLICK HERE 

11 Comments

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11 responses to “EIGHT JAMES GARNER WESTERNS

  1. WOW! Dude! I LOVE James Garner but had no idea. Hmmm. Thank You for putting these on my radar! I’m going to bookmark this page and look these up now and again!!! AND….guess what? A friend of mine has agreed to attend the Opera with me in January! Still no idea what it will be, but Thanks for that as well!!! You’ll culture me yet, my learned friend!!! Cheers and Hugs to You!!! 🤗🤗🤗

  2. You can certainly see your skills in the paintings you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. All the time go after your heart. “In order to preserve your self-respect, it is sometimes necessary to lie and cheat.” by Robert Byrne.

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