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About ten minutes into The Shootist, Doctor Hostetler (James Stewart) te lls aging western gunfighter John Bernard Books (John Wayne) “You have a cancer.” Knowing that his death will be painful and lingering, Books i s determined to be shot in the line of “duty”. In his remaining two mon ths, Books settles scores with old enemies, including gambler Pulford (H ugh O’Brian) and Marshall Thibido (Har ry Morgan) and reaches out to new friends (including feisty widow Lauren Bacall and her hero-worshipping son Ron Howard). In the end , is shot to death, but in so doing he is ab le to dissuade another from following his blood-stained example. Through out the film, Bo ok’s imminent demise is compared with the decline of th e west, as represented by the automobiles and streetcars that have begun to b light the main street of Wayne’s home town. It is unknown if John Wayne was aware that he was dying of cancer when he agreed to film The Shootist; whatever the case, the film is a powerful valedictory to a rem arkable man and a fabulous career.


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