All of the credit in the world goes to John Wayne for making this film. Here you have the biggest star in Hollywood history, making a film that symbolizes his life. You have an aging actor, whose best days were past him, portraying an aging gunfighter, whose best days were behind him. You have a character trying to fit into a world that had changed too much. Much like Wayne was trying to fit into a changing America. Lastly, you had a character, dying of cancer, trying to accomplish one last thing. Wayne, who was also dying of cancer, like the character, was trying to accomplish one last <more>
thing, a great film. To me, this film is special, because you are seeing in real life, a dying icon make his farewell. Like the character JB Books, Wayne was trying to put a brave face on his final days. He was vulnerable and uncertain about what awaited him, but he sought to accomplish one last goal. I don't care if you like Wayne or not, but how someone could not be emotionally effected by seeing this legend on screen for his last time, well, I feel sorry for you. This film is very special to me.
I've always felt that John Wayne at one point might have meant The Cowboys to be his farewell film. I'm sure that at some time we will learn he was having a health crisis then as he clearly is on this film, but that he recovered. Either The Shootist or The Cowboys could serve as his monument.But in John Bernard Books, Wayne gives us one of his finest acted roles ever on screen, legendary gunfighter from the Old West who arrives in Carson City, Nevada to get a second opinion from Doctor James Stewart. It's a terminal cancer all right and it's going to be rough final trip. News <more>
of Queen Victoria's dying is in the papers the day Wayne arrives in town. He admires the way she left the mortal coil and he resolves in his own mind a plan to go out the same way.Wayne put a great cast together for The Shootist, some of them friends and colleagues he worked with over the years like James Stewart, Lauren Bacall, John Carradine, Harry Morgan, Hugh O'Brian and Richard Boone. If you read Lauren Bacall's memoirs you will be touched at the affection she felt for John Wayne, though their politics were light years apart. James Stewart was quoted as saying he was just honored to be in this film with the Duke.One of John Wayne's best acted scenes ever in any of his films is with Sheree North who plays a former girl friend. She visits him and proposes marriage, but a little later it's learned that she's in cahoots with a 19th century tabloid writer Rick Lenz who wants to exploit his legend in a tell all memoir. To quote the Bard it was "the unkindest cut of all." I was more emotionally moved by that scene than with the final gunfight.Which in itself is something. Wayne challenges local tough Bill McKinney, old enemy Richard Boone, and faro dealer and dead shot Hugh O'Brian to meet him. What happens you have to see the film for, but let's say that Wayne meets the dignified and courageous end we would expect of him. In the three years left to him on earth it was rumored that John Wayne was interested in a few film projects, like maybe he was being saved for something even better. It didn't happen, sad to say, but they don't get better than The Shootist.If they do, that'll be the day.
A really fine film with a really fine cast with an amazing Icon (by d858thompson)
"The Shootist" is a great film. I really, really like this movie a lot and have liked it from the first time I saw it. What I really admire about this film is it's cast, who knew that it was probably going to be John Wayne's last film. They brought out the best for this film.Let's look at the director, Don Siegel, a really top notch director of action films that are more than action films, like "Dirty Harry" and "Escape from Alcatraz." Mr. Siegel seems to really have the talent to blend a story with action.Let's look at the leads. John Wayne - <more>
what can you say the man always will be known as an icon. A true professional - he had little patience with actors who did not show up on time and did not know their lines. Look at the standing ovation he got for his Best Actor Oscar for "True Grit." Hollywood loved this guy! Lauren Bacall - awesome, as always. She always delivers in any part. She's such a reliable, remarkable actress. She's a direct link to another era of Hollywood, when stars weren't jockeying for position at the Sundance Film Festival or showing up in "Us Magazine." Bacall shows up prepared for a role and she gets the job done. And done well. Lauren, you're a great actress and great in this film! Bogie would be proud. Ron Howard - good to see him leave the comfort zone of Happy Days and play a really great character with many facets to his character. You can see the real admiration and respect he has not only for Wayne but for the other actors.And then there's the rest. I mean, come on - where are you going to find a film like this in the '70s with so many really good actors. Not Charo, John Davidson, Jimmie Walker - people trying to survive a disaster - this is a real movie with an awesome story. Jimmy Stewart, Harry Morgan, Sheree North, John Carradine, Richard Boone - awesome! Awesome! What's really touching about this film is that you know that major, major actors took smaller roles in order to be in a movie with Duke Wayne. Amazing. Enjoy the movie, it's great!
In his last movie, John Wayne plays J B Books, an ageing former gunfighter who arrives in Carson City. Books has in the past killed thirty men in gunfights and has become a legend of the West, but this hard-won status has brought him unwelcome attention from would-be gunslingers hoping to gain their own place in history as `the man who shot J B Books'. Early on, Books is told by his old friend Dr Hostetler that he is dying of terminal cancer, and the film chronicles the last week of his life, from 22nd to 29th January 1901, his search for a dignified death in accordance with his own code <more>
of honour.The film is about both endings and new beginnings, so it is significant that the action takes place in the first month of a new century. January 1901 marked not only the beginning of a century, but also the end of an era, because it was the month in which Queen Victoria died; this event is referred to several times in the film. The days of the `Old West' were also coming to an end; under the influence of new inventions such as the motor car and the telephone both of which appear in the film it was becoming a quieter and less lawless place.The time of year is significant in another way. A film which is about both the end of a man's life and the end of an era will inevitably be elegiac in tone, and the standard way of making it would be to film it in autumn, with plenty of shots of falling leaves and grey, misty skies. Don Siegel, however, takes an alternative approach, setting the film during a brief period of brilliant winter sunshine and mild weather known as a `false spring'. This not only provides some strikingly beautiful images, but also has a double symbolic meaning. For Books and for the Old West it is winter; but for the younger generation, spring is coming. One of the most touching features of the film is the relationship between Books and Gillom, the son of his landlady. Gillom idolises Books and treats him as a hero; Books, in the last days of his life, treats the young man as the son he never had and tries to teach him that there is a better way than that of the gun. The Old West may be passing into history, but there are indications that the New West, although it may be less picturesque, will be a better place in which to live. If winter comes, can spring be far behind?The film itself also turned out to mark the end of an era in more ways than one. Although there is some doubt whether Wayne actually knew in 1976 that his cancer had returned, we now of course know that it was to be his last film and that he was to die about three years later, and this knowledge makes the film all the more poignant. It was also one of the last of the great Westerns. Although the genre had seemed in reasonable health in the early seventies, it was to suffer, for various reasons, a sharp decline in the second half of the decade and throughout the eighties. Perhaps the standard conventions of the genre had become so familiar that they seemed like clichés; perhaps the post-Vietnam generation had no time for films which often had as their themes honour, glory and courage. It is notable that the patriotic war film underwent a similar decline at the same time . Certainly, the financial failure of `Heaven's Gate' made investors wary of backing westerns. Even Clint Eastwood, who had seemed to be the heir-apparent to Wayne's crown as King or should that be Duke? of the West, abandoned the genre for a time, although he was to return to it triumphantly with `Unforgiven' in the early nineties.Wayne's great strength as an actor was his ability to convey the tough but honourable man of action. Both these qualities are present in `The Shootist', but he was able to add further qualities, pathos and as sense of a less honourable past. Although Books is hard-bitten and irascible, he is also fundamentally decent, resorting to force only in self-defence. He can show pity- early in the film he spares the life of a villain who tries to rob him at gunpoint, even though he has the man at his mercy. Nevertheless, we are always well aware that he did not gain his fearsome reputation by a scrupulous observance of the Ten Commandments; although this is not an overtly religious film, the story of his last days can be seen as the story of his search for atonement as well as for dignity. In his last film, Wayne achieves one of his greatest performances; it is remarkable that he was not even nominated for an Oscar.The other performance that stands out is that of Ron Howard as Gillom. Howard, of course, is now best known as a director; if his acting career is remembered it is for his role that bland TV series `Happy Days'. Nevertheless, he was also capable of giving good contributions in films `American Graffiti' is another example , and here he brings a touching youthful innocence to the part. There are also good contributions from James Stewart as the gentle, dignified doctor and from Lauren Bacall as Gillom's mother. She has the unusual Christian name Bond, possibly symbolic of the close ties that grow between her and Books at the end of his life . `The Shootist' is a marvellous film, sombre and elegiac, and yet at the same time with a message of hope. A fitting end to Wayne's career. 9/10.
Don Siegel crafted a milestone along the trail to the last sunset with "The Shootist"... (by Nazi_Fighter_David)
"The Shootist" begins with clips from Wayne's previous pictures: "Hondo," "Rio Bravo," "El Dorado" etc...Wayne portrays J. B. Books, the most famous lawman in the West who killed thirty men in his life... Books arrives to Carson City in 1901, the day Queen Victoria died in England...Wayne went first to get a medical diagnosis known to everyone as cancer.Dr. Hostetler James Stewart was too practical... He gives Book the most potent pain-killer he gets, and tells him where to stay in town...The film is build to one and only purpose: To let Wayne die <more>
with dignity, without physical pain, at the Metropole gambling saloon, in a showdown with three heavies: Richard Boone, a bad-tempered ugly man who wants to avenge his brother's death; Hugh O'Brien, a skilled dealer and a presumptuous gunfighter; and Bill McKinney, an unpleasant provoking gunman just released from prison...Ron Howard plays the crude graceless adolescent, the first to meet Wayne in the street: 'The old man ain't worth a bullet,' he says, 'he looks all tuckered out.' In this particular scene, it comes to my mind the insolent young punk, Skip Homeir, who tries to prove something when he confronts Gregory Peck in the psychological Western "The Gunfighter." Wayne seems surprised by the visit of Serepta Sheree North , an unscrupulous aging lady-love who tries to take advantage of him, asking him to marry her simply for a marriage certificate, and a famous name... She surely was not the woman of quality, the good prostitute Claire Trevor in "Stagecoach." John Carradine, who plays the mysterious passenger, also in "Stagecoach," makes a brief appearance as the undertaker...Tying to overcome his bloody past, John Wayne shows, in the film, the other side of the 'Shootist,' his human side... We find him pleasantly amusing when he reveals to Stewart the truth about the red fancy cushion he carries in the film...Filmed in Carson City, Nevada, and with a fine supporting cast, this untraditional motion picture is a lyrical elegiac Western of the highest quality, a moving tribute to a legendary actor and a tender farewell to a Super Star...
John Wayne is an icon, and so many viewers seem to use his work as a referendum on the larger geo-political issues of our time. I find that distasteful, as this isn't a political movie, and one that doesn't even have an oppressed indigenous person in it. This is a personal story of a man who "has outlived his time", who is dying of cancer, and yet is determined to die with dignity. John Wayne really was dying of cancer when he made this movie... he gathered old friends around him--the widow of Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, John Carradine, and addressed the topic of how <more>
legends die. Selling the rights for his corpse to be displayed by the undertaker for $50 cash in advance was a particularly interesting idea. I am viewing this film 27 years after it was made, and there is 'something' it had which is absent from movies today. It is a film addressing mature themes for one thing, but it had a pacing, and made time for it's dialouge--it was never dull, never slow, but proceeded towards it's climax with the sort of gravitas you very rarely see in today's cinematic roller coaster rides, which have become little more than special effects vehicles. There is another reason to see this film--it looks back at 1901 with a loving vision. I was impressed with the historical accuracy in which it was filmed--it was impressive to see the town, from the horsedrawn street car and the Stanley Steamer, to little things like the flour dispenser in the kitchen. Wondered where it was filmed--perhaps the old Old Tucson Studio before it burned down and was rebuilt to be a tourist attraction? Anyway, this was a lovingly crafted film--I don't know if Hollywood could still pull this off "as real" in 2003. So, for big reasons and small, "The Shootist" is worth your time. It is deeper than it looks.
The Duke exits in a blaze of glory (by thegreatmuggwumpy)
This was John Wayne's last film, and it sees the Duke as an aging, ailing but still tough as steel gunslinger named John Bernard Books. Wayne's character rides into town at the start of the film and visits James Stewart's pleasant Doc Hostetler, who tells him that he has terminal cancer and will die within two months. After this, Wayne goes and rents a room with widow Lauren Bacall, and begins to reflect on his situation, trying to figure a way to die retaining the dignity he has fought all his life to keep unscathed. The film is a particularly appropriate one for Wayne's last <more>
picture. The protagonist he plays is a man at the top of his profession with nowhere left to go. Any opponent who has ever fought him has died at the end of Books' barrel; but now, he is fighting an enemy he cannot hope to face and beat like a man. Whatever he does to fight the cancer, it will just take him anyway. And so, Books searches for a way to go down fighting and to die with dignity, not dying a slow crippling death in his bed. Books is a character that has many faults. He is a man who has killed thirty men and shows no remorse. As he puts it himself, `I never killed a man who didn't deserve it'. However, despite all his faults, he shows himself to a gentleman of the old school. He is like a knight in armour transplanted to the last days of the Wild West, trying hard to keep all the old values of a dignity and honour alive. He is a man who lives by a code which he believes in, and which he applies to others: `I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.'There is no real villain in this film. Books, with all his flaws, is not a bad man. The real villains here are the ordinary people who are all around him in the city, willing to exploit him and use his fame, illness and even his death to further their own wealth. The whole town, from reporters to undertakers, are only too eager to exploit him, with only a few good people being an exception to this tragic rule.There is no mistaking that this is the Duke's final picture, and not anybody else's film. It is his persona and his charisma that carries and controls the film. The character of Books a rough, tough, but by no means bad, man is very much similar to that of Wayne's own and this film is essentially a vehicle allowing him to have a dramatic swansong befitting a star of his magnitude. That isn't to say, however, that the others involved with this don't pull their weight. Lauren Bacall delivers well up to her usual standard of acting, presenting a character both strong-spirited and tenderly gentle at once, something which she does extremely well. Ron Howard also acquits himself admirably as her son, turning in a performance which has the same strength and heart as that of his screen-mother Bacall. James Stewart turns in a powerful cameo, adding to the overall poignancy of the whole affair, and Harry Morgan turns in a repellent performance as the contemptible Marshal Thibado. Dirty Harry director Don Seigel directs with skill and ensures that the film remains poignant, but never sentimental. For a western, this film does not have a great deal of action, but such is the quality of acting, direction and scriptwriting, that this doesn't really matter. When the violence does erupt, however, it is occasionally graphic but always exciting. The film's climactic gunfight is a particular highlight and is one of the Duke's best shoot-outs.This is a powerful, entertaining and enjoyable film, regardless; however, it is further ennobled by it being the Duke's final performance. There is something curiously heart-warming about the whole affair, not least the fact that he is enabled to go out in such great style. This is a must for fans of the western genre, for fans of the Duke, or for anyone who just wants to see a well made, poignant film. Highly recommended. 
The legendary John Wayne gives a fantastic understated performance as J.B. Books an aging gunfighter suffering from stomach cancer and looking to live out the final days of his life in peace. Of course, the entire existence of the gunfighter is predicated on the inevitability that once you reach top there is always going to be someone looking to knock you off your pedestal. Here that means J.B.'s retirement won't be so peaceful. Besides this plot point, there is the mature twilight romance between J.B. and Bond Lauren Bacall and his mentor relationship with Gillom Ron Howard . <more>
James Stewart who co-starred with Wayne in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance puts in a cameo as J.B.'s physician. Recommended.
A remarkable movie. Why? Mainly because it is John Wayne's last, and it is packaged and delivered with that thought in mind. John Wayne was clearly anticipating his own real-life demise here, and on a very fundamental level that's what the movie is all about.But don't go in thinking that this is merely some kind of schmaltzy gimmick, a movie made just for the purpose of paying corny homage to John Wayne. It stands as a fine movie in its own right, well-written and well-acted. In fact, it may be John Wayne's overall finest performance and you can put me down as one who <more>
considers the man to have been a talented actor , especially given that he was in considerable real-life discomfort and pain throughout filming. The story is chock-full of pearls of wisdom and memorable lines. It is also chock-full of symbolism on many levels, about history and the final days of the settling of the west, about movies and the end of the western genre in Hollywood, and, of course, about John Wayne personally, facing death, and of how he would be remembered --and exploited-- in death. All that and more is finely woven into the story, and few tricks were missed. As I said, well written.**SPOILER ALERT**One striking piece of symbolism was the exact manner of death of Wayne's character, the notorious gunslinger J.B. Books. In a prearranged a face-to-face simultaneous meeting with three of his worst enemies, a dying Books intended to fight them all at once to the death. Advised by his doctor that he was going to die a suffering death from the cancer that was eating his insides, Books presupposed that not even he could face down three these formidable foes at once and prevail. Books's own personal death with dignity. But then, against all odds, Books proceeds to out-duel and kill each, the message seeming to be that the even most difficult of life's tasks can be faced and conquered if done forthrightly and in earnest. Meanwhile, it was the sneaky bartender, symbolic of life's vices, that got him, shooting him in the back when he wasn't looking and not expecting it. And when you think about it, that's what took down John Wayne too. His vices. And while maybe he should have been expecting it, maybe he wasn't. Just like many of us aren't thinking about our mortality while we partake in the enjoyment of our vices.Another compelling aspect of the film is the stellar cast that was assembled. It reads like a veritable who's who. Lauren Bacall, Jimmy Stewart, Richard Boone, Hugh O'Brien, Harry Morgan, Scatman Crothers, John Carradine, along with several cameos, and others that weren't credited. The inclusion of Ron Howard for his pivotal role was a stroke of prophetic genius, intended or not. All of this talent sublimates itself neatly into the recesses of the story, where the real texture lies.This is a movie that I've seen at least a dozen times, and I never get tired of watching it. Every time I view it I see some little subtlety that I never noticed in previous viewings. Suffice it to say that it's a good film. I recommend it.