The Shootist actor John Wayne was very particular about the type of roles that he felt passionately about. He represented his own form of masculinity that his longtime fans came to associate with the image of America. Many of Wayne’s greatest roles came from fictional stories, but The Shootist actually had a real-life connection that gave the movie its title.
‘The Shootist’ stars John Wayne as a dying gunfighter
The Shootist follows an older gunfighter named J.B. Books (Wayne) in 20th Century Nevada. He goes to see a local doctor, who gives him the bad news that he has cancer and not much longer to live. Books turns to a widow named Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall) and her son, Gillom (Ron Howard), to get some peace and quiet.
Several new faces appear, all wanting something different from him. However, he tries his best to hide his diagnosis, even in the face of those trying to kick him out of town. One man wants to get revenge for his dead brother, leading Books to pursue a new mission. He comes up with a plan to go out on a bang.
Shootist Clay Allison’s quip inspired the movie title
The 1979 Wayne Western called The Shootist had a seemingly obvious origin – the profession of its lead character. Sure, Books is a shootist, which is what strikes fear and disgust in so many people in this Nevadan town. However, there’s some real-life history that inspired the title, according to IMDb.
Gunslinger Clay Allison was a bounty hunter and hired killer born on Sept. 2, 1841, and died on July 1, 1887, at the age of 45. He was known and feared across all of Texas for his marksmanship skills, but his temperament certainly didn’t help. He was frequently intoxicated and would burst into fits of rage, which didn’t make for the best combination.
Most Texans that recognized him didn’t dare approach him, let alone ask what he did for a career. His answer to this question was that he was a “shootist,” rather than a bounty hunter or a gunfighter. This quip further struck fear in the hearts of locals.
Therefore, the Wayne movie earned the title The Shootist.
‘The Shootist’ was John Wayne’s final movie
Wayne didn’t intend to stop working, even despite his failing health. Nevertheless, he did his very best to keep up performing in Western and war movies. Unfortunately, it eventually caught up with him, inadvertently making The Shootist Wayne’s last film of his career.
The Western movie died on June 11, 1979, as a result of stomach cancer. The subject material of The Shootist hit a little too close to home for the Wayne family, as it became one of the most difficult movies from his career for them to watch. His daughter, Aissa, said that she could “barely watch” it.
The Western movie star still had another film planned after The Shootist, called Beau John. It was supposed to be a “half-Western” that focused more on the characters’ relationships than the typical cowboy plot that many of his fans expected from him.
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