Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Duke's Last Movie as “The Shootist” Helps Youngster

John Books, is dying of cancer and just wants to spend his last days with a minimum of pain and some dignity. A old friend and doctor he knows confirms an earlier doctor’s diagnosis and tells Jon he has one or two months to live. He takes a room in a boarding house, but the owner, finding out who he is when her young son Gillom (Ron Howard) tells her, wants Jon out. She relents when he tells her of his condition and things gets complicated when the young son wants shooting lessons. The rest of the story you need to see. Shown by Jack Nachbar at The Edge Center in Bigfork on September 10th at 6:30PM free of charge. The movie will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film at the time period of the picture.

This is a role John Wayne could not play as a younger man. His character, J.B. Books (first photo above), needs to show what a long tough life can do to a man, and try to keep that young man from taking the same path. Second photo above shows Wayne as Books at the start of the last movie scene the Duke ever made. It is a 1976 Western and was received very well with several awards. Viewers also got to see Ron Howard as a developing actor in the role of the young man Books tries his best to keep from following his past. There is no shortage of stars with Lauren Bacall as the kid’s widowed mother, James Stewart as Book’s friend the doctor and Harry Morgan as a nervous sheriff.

Often regarded as Wayne’s last movie due to his having cancer during its production is not exactly accurate. He had a lung and several ribs removed due to the disease long before the movie and was declared cancer free by the time of the film. But it turned out to be his last film anyway, because three years after its production, and before the Duke could make another film, cancer came back and took his life. Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times ranked The Shootist #10 on his list of the 10 best films of 1976. The film was nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA film award, and a Writers Guild of America award.

John Wayne is an American icon of the tough talking and softhearted film hero. Born Marion Mitchell Morrison in Iowa (1907-1979), John Wayne’s family relocated to Los Angeles when he was nine. This movie gave him his last chance to work in the career that he loved. Through his career he won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, but his most endearing legacy to his fans was the character the Duke played on and off the screen. This persona has been the basis of many stars screen personality and it has served them well. He was among the top box office draws for three decades which made him very special to studios. “An enduring American icon, he epitomized rugged masculinity and is famous for his demeanor, including his distinctive calm voice, walk, and height,” from Wiki at

John Wayne liked working with Lauren Bacall so much from their experience in “Blood Ally” (1955) he personally picked her for her role in “The Shootist,”first photo above. Born Betty Joan Perske (1924 -2014) she was an American actress known for her distinctive voice and sultry looks. It was the “look” that everyone loved...and only Lauren could deliver with such emotion, intensity and charisma, second photo above. She was named the 20th greatest actress of the 20th century by the American Film Institute, and received an Academy Honorary Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1996, "in recognition of her central place in the Golden Age of motion pictures.". Her performance in The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination. A month before her 90th birthday, Bacall died in New York City after a stroke. Read more at:

An interviewer once asked Ron Howard if John Wayne had given him any tips on acting during “The Shootist.” Turns out that during the filming of the final shootout, Wayne took him aside and said he had some advice for him. Eagerly awaiting some profound advice, Wayne said "Ron, if you want to look menacing - close your mouth." ...first photo above. Books did finally teach young Gillum to shoot in the movie (second photo above). William "Ron" Howard was born March 1, 1954 and is an American film director, producer and actor. Opie Taylor in “The Andy Griffith Show Series” introduced Ron to American TV viewers for an for eight year run.  Later as Richie Cunningham in the “ Happy Days Series” he again made TV fans happy. He was in the Music Man in 1962, and the coming of age film "American Graffiti" 1973. Those along with this movie are his early acting successes. But Ron Howard, the director, made him a movie legend. Go to . to see his directing credits since there are so many. Howard was awarded the National Medal of Arts and  inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 2013.

And then there is Jimmy Stewart, who had a small role in the above. He only agreed to play the role in the film because John Wayne had specifically requested him. He was retired with very bad hearing and his time on this production proved to be to be trying for James and the director, plus maybe even the Duke. His hearing was bad enough so he couldn’t hear his cues so it looked like he and Jon were just not prepared for shooting some scenes. That made everyone mad. It is said, “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’…”. More at:

Above photo of the Duke was one of his last "shots" ever within a movie. This movie is presented free of charge and some appropriate snacks will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist Lynn. Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday September 10th at 6:30PM.

No comments:

Post a Comment