John Wayne's elegiac swan song; Farewell, Duke...
MilesAndTrane | Chicago, Il USA | 03/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As movie genres come and go, the American Western was gasping for its last breath when John Wayne starred in "The Shootist" in 1976. This story about a dying gunfighter counting down his last days in the New World is loaded with an extremely heavy dose of symbolism. This is a quiet western, completely emphasizing dialogue over action. Directed by Don Siegel, a master of the western, the overall mood laments the passing of the Old West and its ideology. I agree with other comments that this film has a slightly made-for-TV quality about it, but it's clear this is supposed to be a delicate look at the death of a revered cowboy, and not a wide-open prairie epic. Like the character himself, John Wayne was dying, and provided for us what would be his final performance. The last words Wayne ever said onscreen at the end of this film are the same words I'd say to him if I had ever met him - "Thank you, sir."Set in Nevada in 1901, Wayne plays John Bernard Books, considered one of the last infamous gunfighters of the Old West. Books settles into Carson City and learns he's dying of cancer. Hoping to live his last few days quietly, he is befriended by a strong-willed widow (Lauren Bacall) who owns a boarding house, and her impressionable son (Ron Howard). His presence becomes known, and enemies from his past emerge looking for a fight, while other so-called friends try to coax the legendary outlaw into letting a little fame rub off. Books soon develops a tender friendship with the Bacall character, while becoming a mentor to her eager son, even though the local Marshall is pressuring him to leave town immediately. Books soon figures out how to rid himself of his enemies and his debilitating condition in one swift stroke. The cast is a large who's-who of western actors and they do an all-around great job; Lauren Bacall looks a little less glamorous than usual, but fits right in as the stern yet feminine widow. Ron Howard gives a brash, "aw shucks" grown-up version of Opie, and Harry Morgan provides a little humor as the cowardly, trash-talking town deputy. There's also a small but fantastic supporting role by the eternal Jimmy Stewart as the doctor who informs Wayne of his ailment.As the titular dying gunfighter, Wayne's role is not as complex as it was in "The Quiet Man" or "The Searchers", but this is still some of the best acting he's ever done. This is a solemn film, about someone reaching the end of their life and isn't afforded much time to rest and reflect because their past is catching up. The sad perspective of the Old West as an antiquated era also shows how we sometimes have trouble trying to stay with the times when the rest of the world is rapidly moving forward. This movie has grown in appreciation over time with many Wayne fans due to his calm, age-old performance. I can't think of another film that has served as such a fitting goodbye to an actor. "The Shootist" is - both literally and figuratively - the Duke's final bow."
Remarkable ride into the sunset
Steven Hellerstedt | 02/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An aged gunfighter tries to find a quiet corner to spend his last days after learning he has terminal cancer, but the world has other plans.
John Wayne plays the old cowboy in THE SHOOTIST, truly one of the most remarkable westerns ever. For one thing, this is Wayne's last movie, and it's fitting that the movie cowboy icon bows out in a movie about a famous gunfighter coming to terms with his own mortality. That the character has `a cancer,' as doctor Jimmy Stewart barks out at one point, makes it all the more immediate. At the time THE SHOOTIST was filmed Wayne had already lost one lung to cancer. Wayne, an understated and honest actor, is so perfect for the role it was a little surprising to hear, on the short `making of' documentary on the dvd, that George C. Scott was consider for the role. Scott was a powerful and clever actor, and certainly would have done a good job with this juicy role, but he lacked Wayne's personal history with cancer and icon status. The cast is filled with strong character actors, most of them playing varying degrees of baddies. Henry Morgan is the sheriff who can't wait for Wayne to kick the bucket. John Carradine plays the gaunt mortician who has a particular interest in what happens after the bucket is kicked. Hugh O'Brian and Richard Boone are a couple of old foes with serious scores to settle.
But the movie is content, wisely, to concentrate most of its attention on character. The heart of this movie is in the scenes between Wayne and Lauren Bacall, as the widow from whom he rents a boarding room from, and her son, played by Ron Howard. Fans of Wayne, those familiar with his earlier westerns, will find these scenes quietly moving. For my money THE SHOOTIST is a classic, contains what may be Wayne's best on-screen performance, and is essential viewing for those who love western movies. A five-star gem.
The "Duke" Saves His Best For Last!
bixodoido | 03/18/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Wayne's last film serves as an epitaph of his enormously popular career in film."The Shootist", directed by Don Siegel in 1976, went through numerous delays and battles before the film was finished. But what the audience is left here is nothing short of a masterpiece. This should serve (and in my opinion, it does serve)as the pinnacle of both John Wayne's and Don Siegel's careers.Many people who are not John Wayne fans will get the exact same enjoyment out of this film as much as his biggest fans do. Simply because the film is beautifully shot and is deeply heartfelt and moving.John Wayne plays J.B. Books, a gunfighter looking to retire. When he returns to Carson City 15 years after one of his greatest gunfights, he is a changed man. He is also an ill man. Doc Hostetler (played be Jimmy Stewart) is forced to tell Books the bad news that he is dying of cancer. (Unfortunately, Wayne truly was dying of lung cancer during the filming of the motion picture). Obeying Hostetler's orders, Books gets a room at Widow Rogers' (Lauren Bacall) boarding house and intends to live out the rest of his life in peace. This does not happen however as the rumour spreads quickly around the town that Books is dying and every gunfighter trying to make a name for themselves unsuccessfully try to shoot him down.With just days before his 58th birthday, Books decides to "go out in style" (guns blazing). He gets Widow Rogers' son, Gillom (played by Ron Howard) to tell local gunfighters Cobb, Pulford and Sweeney that he will meet them at the Metropole Saloon on his birthday. It's just hours before the Rogers' realize what Books is planning to do.The film does tend to become depressingly downbeat at times but in the end, this proves to be John Wayne's finest work. Wayne gives the performance of his career with this film and it's probably just as well that the "Duke" went out with this blaze of glory than say the sequel to "True Grit". (Not that "Rooster Cogburn" is a bad movie, but it doesn't even compare to this magnificent piece).Also watch for excellent performances by Richard Boone (Sweeney), Hugh O'Brian (Pulford), Harry Morgan (Thibido), Scatman Crothers (Moses) and especially John Carradine as Beckum, the undertaker. (Surprise, surprise!!!) The scene in the barber shop between Books and Beckum is truly wonderful.Parents, if you intend to show this film to your children, let them know there is some bloody violence and strong language (for a John Wayne movie). Otherwise, show them this fine work of art. That's right, this is art."
John Wayne's last movie
Gunner | Bethlehem,Georgia | 04/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Shootist DVD
It's difficult to watch the Shootist, knowing that John Wayne was, in fact, dying of cancer, as was his character in the movie, and this was his last completed movie. John Wayne plays a dying cowboy/lawman that has come to town to die. It is, also somewhat symbolic of an Age dying, when you see the street cars down the middle of the main drag.
Highly recommended for fans of John Wayne, Western movies, and action films.
Gunner April, 2008