Film and Plot Synopsis
In this comedy western, a rundown town in Colorado suddenly discovers that they are living on a gold vein. Thousands of prospectors descend upon the town, and soon, they entire town devolves into a lawless society. The townspeople are desperate for a sheriff but are unwilling to rise to the challenge themselves. When potential prospector Jason McCullough rides into town looking for work, the townspeople look to him as their savior. However, will Jason’s unorthodox ways restore order to the town, or will the criminal organization led by the notorious Pa Danby kill Jason before he gets the chance?
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‘Support Your Local Sheriff!’ Movie Summary
Calendar becomes a busy and mysteriously lush mining town. Prudy’s father Olly (Harry Morgan) becomes mayor of the Calendar while several of the original settlers, Henry Jackson (Henry Jones) and Fred Johnson (Walter Burke), make up the town council. The now wealthy town now encounters unfamiliar problems such as corruption. The town must pay a toll to Pa Danby (Walter Brennan) and the Danby family to ensure that their gold can make it to the capital of Colorado. To make matters worse, Calendar is overrun with rough criminals who act without a consideration for the law. The town council laments that they cannot find a sheriff to get the town under control, especially after their last one was killed by the Danby family.
Potential prospector Jason McCullough (James Garner) rides into town hoping to make a small fortune so that he can continue his trip to his ultimate destination, Australia. Jason stops into the saloon for a whiskey and sees Joe Danby (Bruce Dern) gun down a man in a dispute over a poker game. Jason informs Joe that he saw Joe draw his gun first, a fact that Joe disputes. After a few hours in Calendar, Jason realizes that he needs a job to pay the extraordinary prices that are charged throughout the town. Jason applies for the job of sheriff, and after displaying his extraordinary skills as a sharpshooter, the town council immediately hires him.
It’s bad enough to have to kill a man without having to listen to a whole lot of stupid talk from him first. James McCullough (James Garner)
Jason immediately breaks up a fight in the muddy streets and directs one of the brawlers, Jake (Jack Elam), to go over to the saloon and inform Joe that Jason will be over to arrest him in a few minutes. Olly takes Jason over to his house, where the mayor has offered the new sheriff a place to stay. Jason encounters Prudy in a series of embarrassing situations before heading over to the saloon to arrest Joe. Jason successfully disarms Joe and kills one of his henchmen while Jake intervenes to kill a second gunman before he can shoot Jason.
Jason takes Joe over to the town’s new, unfinished jail. Jason places Joe into a cell that lacks bars on the doors and windows, but it does have a chalk outline on the floor that depicts the line that prisoners cannot cross. The floor also has some splashed red paint on the floor that appears to be blood to the unknowing prisoners. Jason makes Jake his new deputy, although the former stable man is not sure he wants the job.
Not long after, Pa Danby rides into town with his other two sons, Tom (Gene Evans) and Luke (Dick Peabody). He immediately heads to the jail to confront Jason. Jason places his finger into Pa Danby’s gun and diffuses the old man’s anger. Pa Danby is frustrated by Jason’s attempts to tame the town and to hold Joe in the jail for his trial. Pa Danby hires several gun men to come to town and either kill or scare off Jason, but they all fail. Pa Danby also attempts to break his son out of the jail, but the newly installed bars prove to be too strong for a jail break. At the same time, Jason engages in romantic interludes with Prudy and enlists Jake’s help in prospecting for gold during the day.
After his failed attempts to liberate his son, Pa Danby decides to enlist the help of his brothers and their sons to take Joe away from Jason by force. The news of the impending assault spreads across town, and Jason tells Prudy that he has decided to just leave town and resume his trip to Australia. To Jason’s surprise, Prudy expresses her approval of Jason’s cowardly idea, which causes Jason to reverse himself and dedicate himself to standing up to the overwhelming Danby forces. Olly and the rest of the citizens of the town vote to stay out of the fight, and Prudy accuses them of being cowards. As Olly and the town council hide out in the local brothel, Jason is left to fight the Danbys with only the help of Jake and Prudy.
The Danbys ride into town and immediately engage in a gunfight. Jason decides to end the gunfight by chaining Joe to the business end of a canon. Jason orders Pa Danby and his men to drop their weapons and surrender or he will fire on Joe’s stomach at close range. A hesitant Pa Danby gives in and surrenders. With the Danbys disarmed, Jason informs Jake that he was bluffing the whole time and that the canon was never loaded. To prove his point, Jason lights the wick. The canon fires and destroys the brothel, causing the customers and the prostitutes to run out in the street in their underwear.
In the aftermath, Jason and Prudy decide to get engaged. Jake addresses the audience and informs everyone that the couple eventually married, and that Jason went on to become the governor of Colorado. Jake also informs the audience that Jason never made it to Australia, and that Jake eventually became the sheriff and one of the most beloved characters in Western history.