|John Wayne, James Stewart, Ron Howard, Lauren Bacall, Richard Boone, Hugh O’Brian, Bill McKinney, Harry Morgan, John Carradine, Scatman Crothers|
Three years after starring in “The Shootist,” John Wayne passed away from lung and stomach cancer. This movie turned out to be his last film, and it is poignant because it is a story about an aging cowboy who is dying of cancer.
At the time that he made this western, John Wayne had been living cancer-free for ten years. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1964, but recovered and made the classic western “The Sons of Katie Elder” which was released in 1965. After “The Sons of Katie Elder,” John Wayne starred in 17 more movies, including the film “True Grit” for which he won an Academy Award.
In “The Shootist,” John Wayne stars as a legendary old gunfighter named John Bernard Brooks who wants to live the last days of his life peacefully. He visits an old doctor friend, Dr. Hostetler (which was appropriately played by James Stewart) to get a medical diagnosis and is told that he has incurable cancer. Brooks then secures a room at a boarding house that is run by a widow named Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her teenage son Gillom (Ron Howard). The widow has no idea who John Bernard Brooks is until later.
Once Brooks is recognized and word spreads about his cancer, he discovers that he can’t live the remainder of his life as peacefully as he would like. There are people who want to make money selling his life story. And, of course, there are numerous, cocky gunfighters who want to make a name for themselves by killing Brooks with their gun.
Nevertheless, as Brooks’ days near their end, the old gunfighter becomes a hero to the young teenager Gillom and a friend to his mother.
“The Shootist” has a special place in western fans’ hearts because it is the last western movie made by John Wayne. The story is appropriate for its place in western film history because it is about an aging gunfighter who knows that he is going to die and wants to do so peaceably. Ron Howard, Lauren Bacall, and James Stewart co-star in this classic western with John Wayne.
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