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The Shootist

The Shootist

Director:Don Siegel
Cast:John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, Bill McKinney, James Stewart
Genre:Drama, Western, Classic

At Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church July 19 at 7 p.m.

By Lee Gardner | Posted 7/12/2006

In his final movie, aging, cancer-ridden western icon John Wayne plays aging, cancer-ridden gunfighter icon J.B. Books, whose doctor (James Stewart) tells him he has weeks to live. Books holes up in a rooming house run by the prim widow Rogers (Lauren Bacall, still doing wonders for a movie screen) and her post-teen son Gillom (Ron Howard), hoping to die in peace. But his notoriety, his reputation as a bad man, and the ill-kept secret of his impending adios allow him no rest, eventually propelling him toward one last showdown. The story is set in 1901, in a Carson City, Nev., with telephone poles, doorbells, and streetcars, and the rheumy, toupeed Wayne looks convincingly near death’s door--director Don Siegel doesn’t have to work too hard for his elegiac end-of-the-West tone. But despite all the fan-boy love directed at Siegel (Dirty Harry, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) as a muscular, no-nonsense auteur, The Shootist is flabby and flat-flooted, sentimentality and loginess cutting the acid of the relatively tart script. (Siegel almost redeems himself with the final shootout. Almost.) Wayne was dead within three years and movies such as Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales, also released in 1976, embodied a leaner, meaner western. Maybe the genre, as represented here, was better off toes up.

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