The Shootist

  • Directors: Don Siegel
  • Producers: M J Frankovich, William Self
  • Writers: Glendon Swarthout, Scott Hale, Miles Hood Swarthout
  • Genres: Drama, Western
  • Actors: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Harry Morgan, Ron Howard, James Stewart

The Shootist tells the story of John Bernard (J.B.) Books (John Wayne) (born January, 29, 1843), an aging gunfighter, the most celebrated “shootist” extant, who is struggling with terminal prostate cancer. The movie begins with a clip montage of some of Wayne’s earlier western movies. Although Books is perceived by some of the characters as an amoral opportunist, he expresses his simple creed when he says, “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.” Arriving in El Paso, Texas (Carson City, Nevada in the movie) in 1901, Books seeks the second medical opinion of an old friend, Doc E. W. Hostetler (Jimmy Stewart).

Once Hostetler confirms the presence of the cancer, Books rents a room from the widow ‘Bond’ (“that’s a crackerjack of a name for a woman”) Rogers (Lauren Bacall), and her son Gillom Rogers (Ron Howard). Books’ presence in town is soon known to most, and the news spreads by telegraph throughout the country. This results in the arrival of troublemakers to lure Books back to his past. Not only does he have to deal with his inevitable death, but he has to deal with the vultures who come to profit from his infamy. Having never had trouble facing death in other men, Books now struggles with the fact that death is calling on him. On his 58th birthday, January 29, 1901 he confronts the three men, offering to settle an outstanding score, and they meet in an empty saloon, where he kills Mike Sweeney, Jack Pulford and Jay Cobb. Then the bartender shoots Books and in return Gillom shoots him, throws the gun away and walks out of the saloon and down the street.

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