The Shootist (1976)

PG   |    |  Drama, Romance, Western

The Shootist (1976) Poster

A dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity.




  • John Wayne in The Shootist (1976)
  • James Stewart in The Shootist (1976)
  • James Stewart and Ron Howard in The Shootist (1976)
  • John Wayne in The Shootist (1976)
  • John Wayne and Ron Howard in The Shootist (1976)
  • John Wayne in The Shootist (1976)

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16 August 2001 | Joe Gurman
Elegiac in many ways
There's no point in repeating what other viewers have mentioned about the poignancy of Wayne's own losing battle with cancer while making this film. It's clear from the casting that, even before the Duke's condition was known, the producers and director were casting icons of film (Jimmy Stewart) and TV (Richard Boone, Paladin in "Have Gun, Will Travel" and Hugh O'Brian, the lead in "Wyatt Earp") westerns, as well as just fine, older actors (Lauren Bacall [not so old, really, when this was made], John Carradine, Scatman Crothers, Harry Morgan).

More than anything else, this film is about respect: the flawed code of honor that has led Books to kill so many men over honor, respect for the old, respect for the wishes of the dying. An unusual focus for an American film, to say the least.

Finally, I have to say a word for Richard Boone's performance: it's amazing. In a few words and bizarre gestures, he creates a character who has lived for revenge for years, and been terribly twisted by it, while remaining of this world enough to advance to motor cars --- and be hilarious at the same time! This, and his voicing of Smaug in the animated "Hobbit," are brilliant pieces of character acting late in his life.

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