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The Shootist (1976)

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A dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity.



(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Marshall Thibido
Dobkins (as Richard Lenz)
Burly Man
Alfred Dennis ...
Dick Winslow ...
Streetcar Driver


John Books an aging gunfighter goes to see a doctor he knows for a second opinion after another doctor told him he has a cancer which is terminal. The doctor confirms what the other said. He says Books has a month maybe two left. He takes a room in the boarding house and the son of the woman who runs it recognizes him and tells his mother who he is. She doesn't like his kind but when he tells her of his condition, she empathizes. Her son wants him to teach him how to use a gun. Books tries to tell him that killing is not something he wants to live with. Books, not wanting to go through the agony of dying from cancer, tries to find a quicker way to go. Written by rcs0411@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He's got to face a gunfight once more to live up to his legend once more - TO WIN JUST ONE MORE TIME.


Drama | Romance | Western


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

20 August 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Scharfschütze  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$5,987,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


| (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


James Stewart only agreed to play a cameo role in the film because John Wayne had specifically requested him. His short time on the film proved to be trying. The bad acoustics of the huge, hollow sound stages worsened his hearing difficulties, and he stayed by himself most of the time. He and Wayne muffed their lines so often in the main scene between them that director Don Siegel accused them of not trying hard enough. Wayne's reply was a variation on an old John Ford line, advising the director, "If you'd like the scene done better, you'd better get a couple of better actors." Later on, the star told friends that Stewart had known his lines, but hadn't been able to hear his cues, and that in turn had caused his own fumbling. Because Stewart's movie career had ended several years before, he was only paid $50,000 for his part. See more »


When Books is riding the trolley for the last time and talking with a young lady, a modern garage door is visible behind him. This type of garage door was not invented for another 25 years. See more »


Carson City Marshal Walter Thibido: You wouldn't gun down a police officer.
John Bernard Books: What'd stop me? Fear of dying?
See more »


Featured in The 80th Annual Academy Awards (2008) See more »


Willow, Tit Willow
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert
Performed by John Wayne & Lauren Bacall
See more »

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User Reviews

Don Siegel crafted a milestone along the trail to the last sunset with "The Shootist"...

"The Shootist" begins with clips from Wayne's previous pictures: "Hondo," "Rio Bravo," "El Dorado" etc...

Wayne portrays J. B. Books, the most famous lawman in the West who killed thirty men in his life... Books arrives to Carson City in 1901, the day Queen Victoria died in England...

Wayne went first to get a medical diagnosis known to everyone as cancer.

Dr. Hostetler (James Stewart) was too practical... He gives Book the most potent pain-killer he gets, and tells him where to stay in town...

The film is build to one and only purpose: To let Wayne die with dignity, without physical pain, at the Metropole gambling saloon, in a showdown with three heavies: Richard Boone, a bad-tempered ugly man who wants to avenge his brother's death; Hugh O'Brien, a skilled dealer and a presumptuous gunfighter; and Bill McKinney, an unpleasant provoking gunman just released from prison...

Ron Howard plays the crude graceless adolescent, the first to meet Wayne in the street: 'The old man ain't worth a bullet,' he says, 'he looks all tuckered out.' In this particular scene, it comes to my mind the insolent young punk, Skip Homeir, who tries to prove something when he confronts Gregory Peck in the psychological Western "The Gunfighter."

Wayne seems surprised by the visit of Serepta (Sheree North), an unscrupulous aging lady-love who tries to take advantage of him, asking him to marry her simply for a marriage certificate, and a famous name... She surely was not the woman of quality, the good prostitute (Claire Trevor) in "Stagecoach."

John Carradine, who plays the mysterious passenger, also in "Stagecoach," makes a brief appearance as the undertaker...

Tying to overcome his bloody past, John Wayne shows, in the film, the other side of the 'Shootist,' his human side... We find him pleasantly amusing when he reveals to Stewart the truth about the red fancy cushion he carries in the film...

Filmed in Carson City, Nevada, and with a fine supporting cast, this untraditional motion picture is a lyrical elegiac Western of the highest quality, a moving tribute to a legendary actor and a tender farewell to a Super Star...

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