One of John Wayne’s most famous movies is Rio Bravo, and a parody version of the film was released ten years after the original.
While parody movies first became a big deal with the release of Airplane! in 1980, parody has been a part of the movie business since the earliest days and Charlie Chaplin. Long before Blazing Saddles, another movie was already out there poking fun at the Western genre. It’s called Support Your Local Sheriff and it’s now free to stream on YouTube.
What’s special about 1969’s Support Your Local Sheriff, besides the hilarious performance of iconic actor James Garner, is the filmmaker’s historic failure to admit the movie is a parody. But if you’ve seen it, then you know that, in fact, it is a direct parody of the hit 1959 John Wayne movie Rio Bravo.
Directed by Burt Kennedy, Support Your Local Sheriff looks like a standard Hollywood-era Western set in the 19th-century American frontier, but it comes with a twist of humor that subverts the expected Western tropes.
A Man On His Way To Australia
Support Your Local Sheriff follows James Garner as Jason McCullough, a skilled but extremely nonchalant gunslinger. McCullough takes the job of sheriff in a lawless gold rush town, only temporarily as a method to earn money on his way to Australia. Shortly after, he arrests Joe Danby for murder, imprisoning him in a makeshift jail without bars.
The plot centers on McCullough’s attempts to maintain law and order in the town while also dealing with the Danby family, who are determined to break Joe out of jail. McCullough uses his wit and resourcefulness to keep Joe behind bars, improvising by using red paint to mark the absent jail bars and fooling the prisoner. He also navigates a romantic subplot with Prudy Perkins, the mayor’s daughter.
Support Your Local Sheriff Subverts Western Tropes
The origins of Support Your Local Sheriff can be traced back to a Hollywood era where Westerns were a cultural staple. Burt Kennedy, already known for his work in the genre, took the helm.
However, the movie distinguishes itself through its unique tone, intentionally blending classic Western elements with comedy. The script by William Bowers deviates from the traditional narrative structure to bring humor into scenarios traditionally portrayed as grim or action-packed.
The production was a modest affair with an estimated budget of $750,000. Adjusting for inflation, that means in modern terms, they only spent around $5.4 million to make it.
That might not sound like much compared to modern Hollywood budgets, but at the time, it was a typical figure for a mid-level budgeted Western.