The Shootist (Siegel/76)

John Wayne’s last performence was in Don (Dirty Harry) Siegel’s “The Shootist”, and I for one, think it was his best. The quiet acceptance that he was dieing gave it great depth and maturity. What do you think?

I always found this a rather rewarding film, even if the drama sometimes feels a bit overdone

The opening, with the clips from Duke’s old movies is marvellous and the finale is a great; some scenes with Bacall and Howard felt both predictable and redundant, and I wouldn’t have cast Jimmy Stewart as the doctor, somehow it felt wrong. But it’s a good conclusion to a great career.

I know what you mean when you say that the drama is a bit overdone, like when Wayne takes Becall out for a ride on a horse and cart. I think the reason Siegel cast Stewart as the doctor was because he wanted to have a homage to “The Man Who Sho Liberty Valance”.

A quality film, and definitely one of Wayne’s best performances - even if you don’t take the context of Wayne’s own health into account, which, as you say JW, adds considerable pathos.

I like the casting of Stewart and Bacall - it was important to include a few of Wayne’s contemporaries (I’d have liked to see more of his regular old co-stars, such as Ben Johnson and Harry CareyJr), and their presence adds to the wistful aura, the sense of a chapter closing. Even if some of their scenes together are perhaps superfluous.

I guess so, let me make clear that I’m a big Jimmy Stewart fan, I just felt he wasn’t at home in this movie, in this part. Like Starblack says it’s one of Duke’s best performances; he was a more than decent actor, his main fault probably was that too often, in too many mediocre movies, he he tried to live up to his screen persona of the all American hero.

In also like this one very much. Generally I prefer Wayne’s later movies.
Steward didn’t bither me in this one. I go with Starblack since he and Wayne and also Bacall somehow represent the old west, members of an endangered species. Therefore these characters have a special connection. I liked that.

Count me in as always liked the film. Wonder if Wayne said to Siegal…why do you work with that bloke Eastwood…

call me a sentimental old fool but i also think this is wayne’s best performance and it’s a great swansong, very moving as well. if you read the opening chapter in Don Siegiels autobiography about the making of this film that is also very moving and reveals a lot about Wayne. Ennio apparently Wayne said to siegal “who is this punk, i don’t like his films , he shoots people in the back”


I don’t think Bacall was chosen because she represented the Old West; she didn’t make many westerns and it certainly wasn’t the genre she was identified with. I guess she was chosen because she was a fervent liberal democrat, while Wayne, as we all know, was all but that, to put it mildly. In the movie Bacall dissaproves of Wayne’s way of life as a gunslinger and their polical disagreements were probably supposed to enhance (artistically) the conflict on screen. A good idea, but I don’t think it really paid off.

The Shootist was the fitting end of the western.
OK, the real end was the commercial Heaven’s Gate disaster, but after 1976 only a few westerns were made, the genre was dead, and the genre evolution which started with Stagecoach (1939) (or if you like with The Great Train Robbery (1903) ) was on a natural end point.

But as much as I like Siegel, I still think he wasn’t the best possible director for this film. The Shootist is an important western, but it’s not the great masterpiece it could have been.
But it was nevertheless a perfect end for John Wayne’s career.

I’m not a John Wayne fan, but I do like the Shootist.

I agree. If anything, Bacall is more closley identified with the Film Noir genre (after all, she made such classics as “The Big Sleep”).

I’m with you here. For most people, the first “proper” western was “Stagecoache”, so how fitting that the last western that starred one of the old school actors is “The Shootist”, the last movie of the typical western actor.

Not to forget it’s a typical twilight western about the dying of the west.
Sam Peckinpah would have been the fitting director for the “last western”. But him and The Duke?

I don’t think that would have happened, as, apparently, Peckinpah had a bad time with Charlton Heston on the set of “Major Dundee” and the fact that Wayne probably wouldn’t have liked the leval of violance there is in a Peckinpah film. But if it had…

That’s wrong. Heston and Peckinpah were in fact very close on Dundee.

And The Shootist is considerably bloody in all the shootouts.

I don’t think Wayne looked at this film as his swan song. Maybe deep inside he knew it was his last ride but on the outside he didn’t. Therfore he would have objected to making this an homage to him and his career.

I could see Ben Johnson in the Boone role although he would have played it differently. It would have been something to see Uncle Ben shooting the Duke. Also Bruce Dern could have played O’Brien’s role and shot the Duke again. Both of these actors would have brought back different memories of Wayn’s career.

Bacall should have been replace by Maureen O’Hara for one more go round between the pair.

I don’t understand this very well. What about the opening then, with the clips of previous films of the Duke? To me it seems very much a homage to him and his career.

I guess they thought of Dern (would be strange if they did not), but decided that the choice (and the link viewers would make) was too obvious

I know that. But I didn’t say that she starred in many westerns, I just said, that the old actors in the movie stand for the old west in the movie.

Generally true, but there is of course the famous incident in which Heston lost his temper with the director and charged at him on horseback.