The Shootist (Don Siegel, 1976)
John Wayne in one of his most nostalgic Westerns impersonating a dying shootist of reknown. This is a very sentimental plot that not only give hommage to John Wayne's career but also to the classic Westerns of American Cinema. Few people know that Wayne was a hater of the revisionnist Westerns and that the films of Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah and Fred Zinnemann's High Noon was some of the movies he disliked the most. Those movies were too much left-oriented politically for his conservative values.
In The Shootist everything is thought to make the audience cry. With an all-star cast of Lauren Bacall, James Stewart, Ron Howard, John Carradine, Scatman Crothers and John Wayne it's if Hollywood was saying goodbye to one of his landmarks.
J.B. Books (Wayne) goes to his doctor (Jimmy Stewart) for a back pain and gets a diagnostic of an advanced and painful cancer. He decides to stay at the widow Bond Rogers (Bacall) for his last days. Her impressionable son Gillom (Howard) is a fan of Books adventures. they will have a father and son relationship that will change Gillom's life and help him become a real man. On his way to his final days, Books is gonna touch the lives of the many people of the little town of Carson City.
The Shootist was John Wayne's final film of a career of 173 films and one Oscar. As a final "tour de piste" or a farewell to arms, John Wayne was directed by an interesting filmmaker; Don Siegel. The director of Dirty Harry a role he refused when it was offered to him.Siegel's "mise en scène" counter balance for the conservative, cheesy, nostalgic propos of the plot. Many inventive camera angles and lots of somptuous tracking shots rythmed the story of The Shootist. I personnally think that Siegel saved the film from being a total waste. Even though if the audience is there to celebrate Wayne's career it still has something more than just plain sentimentality. I also tend to think that Siegel is one of the most underrated and underapreciated directors of his time: Escape From Alcatraz, The Shootist, Dirty Harry are true American classics that still entertain and challenge the viewer.