Shootist [1976]

The last film of John Wayne could not have been more fitting, full of details that can't help but make one reflect upon his legacy in the movies and his life as a star. Wayne plays a career gunfighter in the autumn of his life, trying to hang up his pistols after he discovers he's dying of cancer. Boarding in the house of an attractive widow (Lauren Bacall) and her son (Ron Howard), Wayne's character opts for peace in his final days but is dogged by his reputation when a handful of killers seeks him out for a final fight. Howard is fine as a fatherless boy who needs the strong mentor the hero represents, and James Stewart--who costarred with Wayne in the great Man Who Shot Liberty Valance--plays the doctor who gives the big man the bad news. Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) thoughtfully directs a very special and sensitive production. --Tom Keogh

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