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The Shootist (1976)

aka The Shootist

"He's got to face a gunfight once more to live up to his legend once more. To win just one more time."

Directed By: 
Details: 100 mins · English · PG (USA)


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Small John Bernard Books
Small Bond Rogers
Small Gillom Rogers
Small Dr. E.W. Hostetler
Small Mike Sweeney


No_movie_poster Bruce Surtees Director of Photography
No_movie_poster Elmer Bernstein Original Music Composer
Small Don Siegel Director
No_movie_poster William Self Producer
No_movie_poster Douglas Stewart Editor
No_movie_poster Glendon Swarthout Novel
No_movie_poster Miles Hood Swarthout Screenplay
No_movie_poster Scott Hale Screenplay
No_movie_poster M.J. Frankovich Producer
No_movie_poster Douglas Stewart Editing


"He's got to face a gunfight once more to live up to his legend once more. To win just one more time."


The aging Books and the Old West are dying. Arriving in Carson City, Nevada on January 22, 1901, reading reports of the death of Great Britain's Queen Victoria in the newspaper, Books seeks a medical opinion from someone he trusts, E. W. "Doc" Hostetler (Jimmy Stewart). Hostetler confirms a Colorado doctor's prognosis of a painful and undignified death from cancer, so Books rents a room from the widow Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son Gillom (Ron Howard) to contemplate his fate.

A distinctly nervous Marshal Walter Thibido (Harry Morgan) visits the house to order the notorious gunfighter to leave town. Books tells him about his terminal illness. The lawman is both relieved and elated, telling him, "Don't take too long to die."

Books' presence in town becomes known. Old enemies and glory seekers are drawn to him. Mike Sweeney (Richard Boone) wants to avenge a brother's death. A newspaperman (Rick Lenz) wants to exaggerate and glorify the violence in Books' life. Others seek fame by killing the gunfighter, Books being forced to shoot two strangers who try to ambush him in his sleep. Gillom is impressed, but his mother loses boarders and is upset by the violence in her home.

Old flame Serepta (Sheree North) shows up to ask Books to marry her. He is touched until he learns that she wants to use his notoriety to make money from the sensationalized ghost-written "memoirs" of his widow. After Doc Hostetler sells Books laudanum to ease his pain and advises him not to die a death like he has described, Books bargains with someone who plans to profit from his death, the undertaker Hezekiah Beckum (John Carradine), from whom he orders a headstone with specific writings on it.

Gillom tries to sell Books' horse to Moses (Scatman Crothers), the local blacksmith to help pay back his mother's loss of boarders, however, Books negotiates a better deal, confronts Gillom, and they work out their differences. Books sets himself up to die on his birthday rather than die of cancer and sends Gillom to three specific men: Mike Sweeney; Jack Pulford (Hugh O'Brian), a professional gambler and pistol shot; and Jay Cobb (Bill McKinney) (each one being unaware that Gillom told the others) with a message saying he will be at the Metropole saloon on January 29, his 58th birthday.

On his birthday, the headstone he ordered arrives and shows 1843 as the year of his birth. Having made a gift of his horse, which he bought back, to Gillom as he has grown fond of him, Books says goodbye to Bond, whom he has gotten friendlier with and departs to meet his fate.

In a changing frontier, Books arrives at the saloon by trolley and Sweeney in an Oldsmobile Curved Dash (which debuted in 1901). It is early in the day, so there are no other customers for the bartender besides the four men. Books orders a drink from the bartender, and lifts his glass to each of the three men who are there at his invitation.

Suddenly, one by one, the men draw their guns and open fire, each taking on Books. In the ensuing shootout, Books kills all of his opponents but is shot twice himself. Gillom arrives after the gunfight to find Books wounded but still alive. The bartender sneaks up on Books and empties a shotgun into his back. Gillom picks up Books' gun and kills the bartender. Gillom looks at Books' gun in horror, then tosses it away. Books looks on, nods his approval, and dies. Saddened, Gillom covers Books's corpse with his coat and takes off his cap in respect for the dead. As Hostetler arrives, Gillom leaves.

Walking through the crowd of people who have heard the gunfire, Gillom meets his mother and they both walk in the direction of home.

Release Dates:

DVD : 2001-07-24