Before watching the movie:
I don’t think I’ve paid much attention to anything with James Garner. He was in Move Over, Darling!, but I don’t really remember who was in it, just what happened, which movies of that time seem to be particularly susceptible to.
So, James Garner comes into town and gets mistaken for a notorious outlaw, and things get even more mixed up. So kind of like The Shakiest Gun in the West, but less neurotic.
Smith is a pretty collected character, and the type seems similar to what I understand of Bret Maverick, though Smith is a recovering bad gambler. Thrown into a difficult situation, once he understands what’s happened, he immediately sets to turning it to his profit. I think we’re meant to have a sense that being stuck in this town is the first time he’s come to genuinely care for anybody other than himself in his life, or at least that it’s rare, but that’s not as clear as it could have been. He doesn’t come off as callous, just resourceful.
Patience is a bit of a disappointment. She doesn’t stand out as much as I’d expected or really affect the plot much at all. Her motivation is also a little confusing, because she’s a gun-toting tomboy and proud of it, but she also aspires to go to a college for “Young Ladies of Good Families” in New York and live the upscale life out there, until she gets distracted by her decision that she’s going to marry Smith, which he doesn’t seem to have much choice in, but at least considers it as agreeable as the surrounding circumstances allow. There are two other significant women in the story who have much more impact on the plot and leave as much of an impression, and it’s surprising to see the nominal love interest upstaged by the two older women Smith cons over the course of the movie.
This is altogether a movie to watch for the eccentric ensemble. Smith is essentially the good-humored straight man to an entire town of entertaining characters entrenched in their quirks, foibles, and feuds. Garner navigates that world with charm and aplomb, but the draw is everyone else.