For, July 19, 2013

If you manage to find some free time on Pioneer Day — Wednesday, July 24th, of course — you might want to take in one of James Garner's best big-screen Westerns, the hilarious comedy "Support Your Local Sheriff."

It will be playing that day for two matinees, 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m., in the ornate Egyptian Theater in Ogden, which is worth attending just for the experience of watching a movie there.

Five years before Mel Brooks lampooned Western-movie clichés with "Blazing Saddles," "Support Your Local Sheriff" did it just as effectively, albeit without all the off-the-wall anachronisms and with a G rating!

The title role of Jason McCullough is tailor-made for Garner — in fact, it plays out as almost an extension of Bret Maverick, the character that made him a TV star. He wanders into the rowdy town of Calendar, Colo., just passing through and on his way to Australia, as he tells anyone who will listen. But the town has recently gone through a change since the discovery of gold and needs a sheriff to keep order, especially with the villainous Danby clan stirring up trouble.

McCullough doesn't want the job, of course, but the mayor (Harry Morgan) woos him, and also hopes McCullough might take a shine to his attractive but klutzy daughter Prudy (Joan Hackett). McCullough reluctantly accepts the job but warns that it's temporary; afte all, he's on his way to Australia. Although he's a quick draw, McCullough is also something of a pacifist, and uses non-lethal means of dealing with troublemakers, from throwing rocks to applying psychology.

Some of the film's funniest moments come when he deals with one of the Danby sons (Bruce Dern) by putting him in the new, unfinished jail, and convinces him he has to stay in his cell, though it has no bars; when the head of the clan (Walter Brennan) shows up, points his gun at McCullough and the new sheriff puts his finger in the barrel; and when he decides to deputize the town "character" (Jack Elam).

To be honest, "Support Your Local Sheriff" seems like an odd choice for the 24th of July in Utah, but if you want to laugh, it's better than anything else in theaters right now.