The Shootist stands as one of John Wayne’s towering achievements. Don Siegel’s terrific film is simply beautiful, and beautifully simple, in its quiet, elegant and sensitive telling of the last days of a dying gunfighter at the turn of the century. Wayne and Lauren Bacall are both outstanding.
The time is 1901. Wayne a prairie-hardened gunfighter, rides into the new century where Carson City is in segue to modern civilization. Saloon shootouts still occur; Hugh O’Brian’s card dealing is still not to be challenged.
Wayne’s trip is to town doctor James Stewart, who confirms a cancer diagnosis. Atop this comes an emerging tenderness between Wayne and Bacall which is articulated in careful politeness and the artful exchange of expressions that evoke memories of great silent films.
1976: Nomination: Best Art Direction