Year 8, Day 23 - 1/23/16 - Movie #2,224
BEFORE: A couple years later, they made a follow-up to "Support Your Local Sheriff!" - only it's not a sequel, because it used many of the same actors, but playing different characters. Back when I was a kid, I think it was this film (or one similar to it, who remembers?) that allowed me to start to catch on to the idea that movies weren't real, that they were just made up of actors playing parts. After all, how could that young woman in an Old West mining town also be married to that psychologist in modern-day Chicago on the other channel? And how could the mayor of that town also be the commanding officer of a Mobile Hospital in 1950's Korea? Just what the heck was going on there? And then, of course, I started to notice the same faces again and again, with a special ability to point out character actors, a valuable talent that I still possess.
I'm doubling down on James Garner today due to the snowstorm, and to allow myself to finish this chain before February rolls around. Tomorrow I just have to shovel snow and then watch "Maverick", which will bring the James Garner tribute to a close. The Encore Western channel ran this one a while back, but my recording was all glitchy - they're only running the "Support Your Local Sheriff!" film these days, so I have to watch this one on Amazon tonight.
THE PLOT: A con artist arrives in a mining town controlled by two competing companies. Both companies think he's a famous gunfighter and try to hire him to drive the other out of town.
AFTER: James Garner is still charming in this one, with the snappiest dialogue, and the ability to outthink himself out of just about any sticky situation - but I think I liked the character he played in the last film better, just because he was more noble and honest. Here he's a combination con man and gigolo, fleecing both men and women out of their money, only to lose it time and time again at the roulette table.
Of course, as a kid I didn't understand much about relationships, so I probably didn't understand why he did what he did - why he was hanging out with women in the first place, let alone why he seemed to love them one minute and then try to escape from them the next. I probably thought he just couldn't make up his mind - but of course the women he's with at the start of the film are older women with shrill voices, who may have a lot of money, and the implication we're supposed to draw is that the money is the only thing about them he finds interesting. By contrast, the miner's daughter may not be rich, but she's got youth and beauty on her side.
At least this time, the town has a name - Purgatory, and I guess from that we're supposed to infer that since he's stuck there, he's not really good and not really evil, his fate could go either way. He could straighten up and fly right, but it's all too easy for him to pile one lie on top of another, starting with not correcting people when they mistake him for a famous gunfighter, Swifty Morgan. OK, so they're lies of omission, those still count.
So forgive me if I feel that things work out just a bit too well for our hero in the end, he never has to pay the price for telling lies, taking people's money and pretending to be someone that he's not. Of course he gets the girl, but does he really deserve her? And once that happens, everything else starts to go his way, including some very lucky breaks. It almost doesn't seem fair.
Also starring Suzanne Pleshette (last seen in "The Birds"), Jack Elam, Harry Morgan, Henry Jones, Willis Bouchey, Walter Burke, Kathleen Freeman (all carrying over from "Support Your Local Sheriff!"), Dub Taylor (last seen in "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot"), John Dehner, Joan Blondell (last seen in "The Public Enemy"), Marie Windsor, Ellen Corby (last seen in "Vertigo"), Chuck Connors (last seen in "Pat and Mike").
RATING: 5 out of 10 Kewpie dolls