Monday, September 8, 2014

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw

One of the movies that's back on FXM this month after a significant absence is The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw. It's getting its third airing in about a week tomorrow morning at 4:15 AM.

Kenneth More stars as Briton Jonathan Tibbs, although we don't see him at first. Instead, we see his wealthy uncle Lucius (Robert Morley), who is rather exasperated with the nephew, who has gone off heaven only knows where. It turns out that Tibbs is in the carriage house of the estate, tinkering on a new invention called a horseless carriage, the movie being set at some point in the late 19th century. Lucius insists that Jonathan take up the family business of gunsmithing, which they've been doing since 1605, or else be disinherited. Jonathan doesn't really want to, but then comes up with a brilliant idea. The business is in a parlous state, needing to see more guns to survive, and where better to sell guns than in the wild west? That of course is the western part of the United States, while Jonathan and Lucius live in Britain. You have to wonder whether it's just an excuse to get away, but whatever, after this brief opening the movie shifts to America.

Going out west means such staples of western movies like the stagecoach ride to the town of Fractured Jaw. Along the way, we learn that the town is in the middle of a range war, with the Lazy S and Box T ranches going at each other over grazing and water rights. For a Briton to go to the town to sell guns to both sides and anybody not on either side seems mildly suicidal, to say the least. But before we can get to Fractured Jaw, we get anothe rstaple of western movies, which is the ambush by Indians. This one turns out differently, though, as Tibbs gets out of the coach, calmly walks up behind the indian chief, and gets him to break of the attack through sheer chutzpah.

Once in Fractured Jaw, Tibbs meets the proprietress of the local hotel and saloon, the lovely Kate (Jayne Mansfield). He also runs into various of the hired guns from both the Lazy S and Box T, all of whom get the impression through a comedy of errors that Tibbs is working for the other side. The misunderstandings continue, and when an in-the-sleeve gun disarms one of the hired gunman, the mayor of Fractured Jaw (Henry Hull) makes Tibbs the sheriff and tells him to deal with the problem of disarming all of the hired gunmen. Our fish out of water goes through the rest of the movie being oh-so-British, but somehow winning over Kate's heart, the Indians, and then the two groups of gunmen, as the movie reaches its inevitable happy ending.

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw is an amiable little movie, somewhat reminiscent of the later Support Your Local Sheriff! in that you've got a goy who has no intentions of becoming a sheriff getting the job by accident, and then proceeding to clean up the town almost in spite of himself. The comedy, however, is somewhat softer in tone then the more outrageous Support Your Local Sheriff!. Not that it's not funny, of course. More does a surprisingly good job, as he doesn't seem like the sort of person you'd expect to appear in either a western or a comedy. Jayne Mansfield is lovely to look at as always what with that huge bustline; her acting and the musical numbers she performs do nothing to take away from the plot. The plot is somewhat predictable, but at the same time there's nothing particularly wrong with it. All in all, it's a fairly entertaining little movie. And thankfully, the last time FXM aired it, it was in the correct Cinemascope aspect ratio.

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw has been released to DVD, but I think the DVDs are out of print.

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