The Shootist is about a gun fighter who goes to a town to have a medical examination because he has been feeling sick. On his way to the town he is jumped by a criminal but quickly gets the better of the criminal. He arrives at the town and gets his examination from a doctor who is played by Jimmy Stewart. He finds out from Jimmy Stewart that he is dying, so he stays a hotel with a widow played by Lauren Bacall named Bond Rogers and her son played by Ron Howard who is named Gillom Rogers. john Wayne tries to keep his identity as Bernard T. Books, the notorious gun slinger, a secret, but word soon gets out about his identity and all kinds of people come to the house he is staying at a and bother him such as a journalist, a woman John Wayne had loved one time named Serepta, which might be one of the strangest names I have ever heard, a sheriff played by the doctor who plays Colonel Potter in Mash and an under taker played by the great John Carradine. John Wayne decides that instead of dying a slow, painful death with only laudinum, a foul tasting, addictive mixture of alcohol and opium, to dull the pain, he will go out with a blaze of glory in one final gun fight with three of his enemies in a saloon.
John Wayne delivers his last and one of his greatest acting performances in this movie. What makes this movie even more poignant than watching John Wayne play a character who is dying is knowing that this is his last movie and that only a few years later John Wayne would ironically die from the same thing that is killing him in this movie, something that even today terrifies many of us, cancer. Lauren Bacall does a great job as the land lady who lets John Wayne stay at her house. Ron Howard does a great job as her son. Jimmy Stewart does a great job as the doctor, and John Carradine is amusing at the under taker who tries to gyp John Wayne. The cast for this movie is star studded. It must have been a big deal at the time that this was decided to be John Wayne’s last movie, and many influential actors must have clamored for parts in this movie to be in the last movie with the greatest western actor of all time besides Clint Eastwood.
There are only three or four total action scenes in this movie, if you don’t count the flash backs from other John Wayne movies at the start of the movie, which are supposed to chronicle the life of Bernard T. Books. A criminal tries to rob John Wayne, but John Wayne gets the better of the criminal and leaves him in the wilderness with a bullet hole in his stomach. John Wayne is then attacked by a couple more people at the boarding house, but he easily kills both of them, although his room is trashed, which leads to some bad blood with Bond Rogers.
There is an amusing scene when John Wayne is dealing with the guy in charge of the horse stables, and they are haggling over the price of John Wayne’s horse. There is another amusing scene when John Wayne throws the journalist out of his boarding house. These scenes do a good job of adding some humor to an otherwise tragic, serious movie.
There is some suspense when the two criminals sneak up and try to kill John Wayne in the middle of the night. However, he manages to quickly dispatch them.
Bernard T. Books is an interesting, memorable character. He is the last gun fighter or character that John Wayne would ever play. I think it is fitting that John Wayne ended with a western role because those were definitely his best movies. Despite the fact that John Wayne is dying, he bravely faces his death with grit, honor and his incredible shooting abilities. Gillom Rogers is an upcoming, aspiring youth who idolizes John Wayne and kind of wants to be like him. He has John Wayne train him to shoot, which he uses later on to kill the man who had killed John Wayne.
Bond Rogers is a somewhat forgettable, icy woman. She does not seem to care too much about John Wayne, and later on she is in some dramatic scenes but her acting is still very restrained. I think it is a good thing that she under acted, though, because it puts more of the spot light on John Wayne’s character.
There are three villains in this movie; a guy named Cobb who Ron Howard works for, a mean guy whose brother was killed by John Wayne named Sweeney and a professional, cool gun fighter and card dealer named Pulford. John Wayne has a gun fight with all three of these men, and all three of them try different methods to kill John Wayne such as using a table to block the bullets or sneaking around a counter to take John Wayne by behind. However, it is a completely average character who finally manages to kill John Wayne. John Wayne was right when he said with some foreshadowing that it is usually a no name who manages to kill the best gun fighters.
The music in this movie is very poignant. Much of this movie is silent with no background music, which makes the dialogue easier to hear. However, during certain dramatic parts of this movie, the music adds a lot to the effect of it.
The settings for this movie are typical such as a boarding house and saloon. However, having John Wayne’s final gun fight in a saloon I think is very appropriate because John Wayne has had many gun fights and fist fights in saloons.
This is John Wayne’s final movie, and it is quite the movie to end John Wayne’s career on. Everything is tied up with John Wayne having his final gun fight and dying in a blaze of glory. Quite frankly, I think is the best final movie for an actor ever. I can not think of a good actor who ended their career on a better note, certainly not Bela Lugosi, poor guy.