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The Shootist

The Shootist – 1976
He’s got to face a gunfight once more to live up to his legend once more. To win just one more time.
Don Siegel

Glendon Swarthout (novel)
Scott Hale (screenplay) and
Miles Hood Swarthout (screenplay)

M.J. Frankovich producer
William Self producer

John Wayne – J.B. Books
Lauren Bacall – Bond Rogers
Ron Howard – Gillom Rogers
James Stewart – Dr. E.W. Hostetler
Richard Boone – Mike Sweeney
Hugh O’Brian – Jack Pulford (faro dealer at Metropole Saloon)
Bill McKinney – Jay Cobb (owner, Cob’s Creamery)
Harry Morgan – Carson City Marshal Walter Thibido
John Carradine – Hezekiah Beckum (undertaker)
Sheree North – Serepta (Books’ ex-girlfriend)
Rick Lenz – Dan Dobkins (reporter, ‘Morning Appeal’) (as Richard Lenz)
Scatman Crothers – Moses Brown (liveryman)
Gregg Palmer – Burly man
Alfred Dennis – Dearden (barber)
Dick Winslow – Streetcar driver
Melody Thomas Scott – Girl on streetcar (as Melody Thomas)
Kathleen O’Malley – Schoolteacher
Johnny Crawford – Books’ victim in flashback (uncredited)
Christopher George – Books’ victim in flashback (uncredited)
Leo Gordon – Books’ victim in flashback (uncredited)
Charles G. Martin – Murray (the bartender) (uncredited)
Ricky Nelson – Books’ fellow lawman in flashback (uncredited)
James Nolan – Gambler (uncredited)
Henry Slate – Pulford confidante (uncredited)
Ralph Volkie – White-haired bartender (uncredited)

Review by Theo Robertson

The Shootist (1976)

Hardly A Great Tribute,
I’ve never been a fan of John Wayne. His films in general and his westerns in particular drown in unrealistic American WASP-ish values and unrealistic history. Look at the opening sequence when Wayne’s character protects himself from a would be mugger. In reality most gunfighters were poor shots, not to mention most of their victims died after being shot in the back, so the idea of shooting someone’s gun from out of their reach is rather laughable because these things didn’t happen, and going back to the historical unreality Wayne’s character is responsible for killing 30 men in gunfights, but in reality the top gunslinger in the wild west – Depending what source you read – is either Jim Miller or John Wesley Hardin neither of whom killed more than twenty men in gun fights.

I can understand the subtext of THE SHOOTIST . Wayne was diagnosed with cancer and this is supposed to be a tribute, but instead of being sad and poignant ends up as feeling both self indulgent and tasteless. It also jars style wise since this type of western (That had more or less been invented by John Ford) had disappeared after the likes of A FISTFULL OF DOLLARS, THE WILD BUNCH and THE CULPEPPER CATTLE CO were released a few years earlier

What you think of this film all depends on what you think of both John Wayne and John Ford.

Review by Zetes

The Shootist (1976)

It should be painfully mediocre, but John Wayne pulls it off, and then some,

A desperate grasp for cheap sentimentalism, or at least it would be if it weren’t for John Wayne’s performance. He was dying of cancer at the time, and he plays a man who is dying of cancer. Why should anyone even have to try? Yet John Wayne, class act that he is, gives a remarkable performance enriched with deep pathos and humanity, far more than anyone could expect from such an otherwise mediocre film.

Damn every claim that Wayne was not a great actor; the proof of the opposite can be found far and wide in the man’s filmography, and one of the best examples can be found in The Shootist. After Wayne, James Stewart gives a good supporting performance as his doctor. Harry Morgan is the only actor in the film who really impresses besides its star. Ron Howard I’ve always found difficult to take seriously, what with all his television roles and his mostly mediocre and overrated directorial career. But he’s pretty good here, and he especially has a good final scene. Lauren Bacall is the low point in the film. She was never a good actress, let’s face it. Well, she did decently in To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, but all the other roles I’ve seen of hers were painfully dull. She’s particularly awful here. It’s pretty sad when you’re totally outclassed by Ron Howard. And then she has to act opposite Wayne giving his all?

Truly, truly embarrassing. I don’t really want to bitch out Don Siegel, who surely made some fine films in his day. But his direction here is painfully mediocre. Any hour-long episode of any television Western has much more talent behind it. He may not have been a hack director, but it sure feels like a hack director was standing behind the camera during the movie’s filming. The screenplay is poorly constructed, but it has some rather good dialogue, most of it belonging to Wayne. I like Elmer Bernstein’s score, too, most of the time. The music over the closing credits is particularly good.

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70s Films

A tour through the great and not so great films of the seventies The seventies saw a huge change in styles and genres from the advent of the slasher horror movies like Halloween and the blockbuster summers films started by Jaws. More...

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