The Shootist (1976)

shootist poster 1976 movie john wayne
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Decent story that is a bit post-modern and self-aware

Westerns won't win everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Shootist

Studio:  Paramount Pictures/Dino De Laurentiis Company

Genre(s):  Western/Drama/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  July 16, 1976 (Premiere)/July 21, 1976 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG

the shootist john wayne lauren bacaal

Don’t get attached to me…I’m not going to be around long

J.B. Books (John Wayne) is the last of the famed gunmen.  The shootist has traveled to Carson City to consult his old friend Doc Hostetler (James Stewart) on his condition…only to learn the truth that he’s dying.  With a short time left, Books finds himself at the home of Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) who with her son Gillom (Ron Howard) grow to know the gunfighter.  Books knows his time is growing short, but he wants to go out his way…and he intends to do it.

Directed by Don Siegel, The Shootist is a Western drama.  The film is an adaptation of the 1975 novel by Glendon Swathout and the last film of John Wayne.  The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

I am not the biggest Western watcher and of Western films, John Wayne films always seem the driest.  The Shootist feels like a different type of movie than the standard John Wayne movie…it is the end of an era, the end of a genre, and the end of a legend.

the shootist john wayne ron howard

Bet Andy never taught you this…

The movie is a bit meta in that the story ties into the world of cinema at the time.  While there were still some Westerns being made, the Western was dying on the screen and TV.  The West was no longer there, and the last Western heroes like Wayne were getting old (Eastwood would be the biggest exception).  Books realizes he’s the last of a kind and that the world is different than when he was a gunfighter…his world is shrinking as he dies.  He wants to go out with a bang.

John Wayne has his standard John Wayne performance, but there is a sadness to it.  It is probably more read into since it was Wayne’s last film, and Wayne just looks tired and worn out.  It is often believed that Wayne was dying at the time of the filming, but he was clear of cancer (he had it earlier and died of it later).  Wayne has a good supporting cast with Ron Howard in the heart of Happy Days, Lauren Bacall, Harry Morgan, John Carradine, Scatman Crothers, and James Stewart (whom Wayne convinced to take the role).

the shootist john wayne last shot final film

A legend takes his last shot…

The movie looks pretty good.  The film opens with old clips of Wayne from older films to tell the story of “Books”.  The old west town has been used a lot and Carson City is also an interesting choice since it was kind of the “end of the line” for the West.  The shootouts are decent but seem secondary to the story.

The Shootist is a better movie than I expected.  It isn’t too long, and that works to its advantage.  John Wayne (like him or not) was a monumental figure and a big star.  His body of work is large and his enduring quality has allowed him to continue to be known…and this is one of his better outings.  John Wayne outlived his onscreen character’s death, but his legacy lives on.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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