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The Shootist


Roger Davidson

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John Wayne's swan song is a poignant Western about an aging gunfighter, who is dying of cancer and who is wanted dead by many people. He chooses to reside in a boarding house in Carson City, run by a widow (Lauren Bacall) and her son (Ron Howard), a boy who ends up idolizing Wayne for his exploits as a professional gunslinger. Wayne however can't get a moment's peace, because of all the people who can't wait to see him bite the big one. He is also afraid of dying slowly and painfully of cancer, so he decides to gather his old enemies for one final showdown.

The Duke not only makes a brave last stand in the picture as a character, but as an actor as well. Playing a role that is slightly more tender then his rough-and-ready cowboys of the past, he leads a great ensemble cast which, besides the divine Bacall and the boyish Howard, includes James Stewart as the town doctor, John Carradine as the ghoulish undertaker waiting to pick at Wayne's bones, and Harry Morgan in a hilarious turn as a sheriff, who is incredibly blunt about what he thinks of Wayne and his reputation. Still, there has rarely been a Western as elegant, nor as fitting a farewell for an actor whose career spanned 50 years and almost 200 films.

My Rating = Four Stars

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