The Shootist


1h 39m 1976
The Shootist

Brief Synopsis

A dying gunfighter tries to set his affairs in order.

Film Details

Also Known As
Shootist
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Jan 1976
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 22 Aug 1976
Country
United States
Location
Burbank, California, USA; Carson City, Nevada, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

When gunfighter John Bernard Books learns he has cancer, he sets out to get shot in the line of duty rather than fight a terminal illness. In his remaining two months, Books settles scores with old enemies, and managers to reaches out to new friends in the process.

Film Details

Also Known As
Shootist
MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Jan 1976
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 22 Aug 1976
Country
United States
Location
Burbank, California, USA; Carson City, Nevada, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Art Direction

1976

Articles

The Shootist


The year is 1901. John Bernard Books, an aging gunfighter, returns after many years to Carson City, a town full of old friends and old enemies. There he meets Bond Rogers, the widowed owner of a boarding house, and her son Gillom, who idolizes Books and wants to become a gunfighter just like him. A visit to a doctor confirms Books' deepest fears: he has cancer and his days are numbered. As Books settles down in the boarding house, his desire for tranquility is inevitably threatened by snooping reporters and aspiring gunfighters eager to make a name for themselves. Sweeney, the brother of one of his earlier victims, is out for revenge - and Books finds himself in one last great gunfight.

Although Elmer Bernstein received an Academy Award for his score for Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), today it is not as highly regarded as his work for films such as The Shootist (1976), The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and especially The Magnificent Seven (1960), one of the most famous of all film scores. Due in part to his studies with composer Roger Sessions and his experience with Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps Band, Bernstein has an affinity for a wide variety of American musical idioms, especially jazz, which he used to great effect in his recent score for Devil in a Blue Dress (1995). The Western genre is one of his particular strengths, as demonstrated by his collaborations with such notable directors as John Ford, Anthony Mann, Henry Hathaway, John Sturges, and in this case, Don Siegel. In recent years, Bernstein has championed the cause of classic film score composers such as Miklos Rosza, Dimitri Tiomkin and Max Steiner, recording their scores through his own record label, Film Music Collection.

The montage sequence which recounts J. B. Book's past as a gunfighter uses footage from earlier John Wayne vehicles such as Red River (1948), Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1967), making it literally a summation of his Western film career. When Wayne read Glendon Swarthout's novel in 1974, he tried to buy the screen rights to it, but Paramount had beat him to it. Although in retrospect Wayne seems like the obvious first choice for the lead role, in fact it was offered to Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Charles Bronson, Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood, all of whom turned it down before Wayne was selected.

John Wayne was highly self-conscious of his public image, considering it unmanly to be photographed in production stills while makeup was being applied with a powder puff. He also insisted on using a particular reddish tint of makeup, which flattered his complexion but created headaches for cinematographer Bruce Surtees. Most importantly, he insisted on toning down the profanity and more explicit references to cancer from the original novel and refused to shoot a villain in the back during a key fight scene, as these details contradicted the basic morality of his on-screen legend. When Doctor Hostetler, played by James Stewart, informs Books that he is dying of cancer, the scene takes on added resonance today; it was Wayne's final film before succumbing to the disease in 1979.

The Shootist received one Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction, thanks to the work of production designer Robert F. Boyle and set designer Arthur Jeph Parker. One example of the film's meticulous attention to period detail is the town's turn-of-the-century horse-drawn trolley, which actually had been used for a connecting route between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. Richard Boone, who plays the lead villain, is best known for his stint on TV as the hero of the long-running series, Have Gun, Will Travel (1957-63).

Director: Don Siegel
Producer: M. J. Frankovich, William Self
Screenplay: Miles Hood Swarthout and Scott Hale, based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout
Cinematography: Bruce Surtees
Editing: Douglas Stewart
Music: Elmer Bernstein
Principal Cast: John Wayne (John Bernard Books), Lauren Bacall (Bond Rogers), Ron Howard (Gillom Rogers), James Stewart (Dr. Hostetler), Richard Boone (Sweeney), Hugh O'Brian (Pulford).
C-99m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

By James Steffen

The Shootist

The Shootist

The year is 1901. John Bernard Books, an aging gunfighter, returns after many years to Carson City, a town full of old friends and old enemies. There he meets Bond Rogers, the widowed owner of a boarding house, and her son Gillom, who idolizes Books and wants to become a gunfighter just like him. A visit to a doctor confirms Books' deepest fears: he has cancer and his days are numbered. As Books settles down in the boarding house, his desire for tranquility is inevitably threatened by snooping reporters and aspiring gunfighters eager to make a name for themselves. Sweeney, the brother of one of his earlier victims, is out for revenge - and Books finds himself in one last great gunfight. Although Elmer Bernstein received an Academy Award for his score for Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), today it is not as highly regarded as his work for films such as The Shootist (1976), The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and especially The Magnificent Seven (1960), one of the most famous of all film scores. Due in part to his studies with composer Roger Sessions and his experience with Glenn Miller's Army Air Corps Band, Bernstein has an affinity for a wide variety of American musical idioms, especially jazz, which he used to great effect in his recent score for Devil in a Blue Dress (1995). The Western genre is one of his particular strengths, as demonstrated by his collaborations with such notable directors as John Ford, Anthony Mann, Henry Hathaway, John Sturges, and in this case, Don Siegel. In recent years, Bernstein has championed the cause of classic film score composers such as Miklos Rosza, Dimitri Tiomkin and Max Steiner, recording their scores through his own record label, Film Music Collection. The montage sequence which recounts J. B. Book's past as a gunfighter uses footage from earlier John Wayne vehicles such as Red River (1948), Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1967), making it literally a summation of his Western film career. When Wayne read Glendon Swarthout's novel in 1974, he tried to buy the screen rights to it, but Paramount had beat him to it. Although in retrospect Wayne seems like the obvious first choice for the lead role, in fact it was offered to Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Charles Bronson, Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood, all of whom turned it down before Wayne was selected. John Wayne was highly self-conscious of his public image, considering it unmanly to be photographed in production stills while makeup was being applied with a powder puff. He also insisted on using a particular reddish tint of makeup, which flattered his complexion but created headaches for cinematographer Bruce Surtees. Most importantly, he insisted on toning down the profanity and more explicit references to cancer from the original novel and refused to shoot a villain in the back during a key fight scene, as these details contradicted the basic morality of his on-screen legend. When Doctor Hostetler, played by James Stewart, informs Books that he is dying of cancer, the scene takes on added resonance today; it was Wayne's final film before succumbing to the disease in 1979. The Shootist received one Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction, thanks to the work of production designer Robert F. Boyle and set designer Arthur Jeph Parker. One example of the film's meticulous attention to period detail is the town's turn-of-the-century horse-drawn trolley, which actually had been used for a connecting route between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. Richard Boone, who plays the lead villain, is best known for his stint on TV as the hero of the long-running series, Have Gun, Will Travel (1957-63). Director: Don Siegel Producer: M. J. Frankovich, William Self Screenplay: Miles Hood Swarthout and Scott Hale, based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout Cinematography: Bruce Surtees Editing: Douglas Stewart Music: Elmer Bernstein Principal Cast: John Wayne (John Bernard Books), Lauren Bacall (Bond Rogers), Ron Howard (Gillom Rogers), James Stewart (Dr. Hostetler), Richard Boone (Sweeney), Hugh O'Brian (Pulford). C-99m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. By James Steffen

Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)


Elmer Bernstein, the film composer who created unforgettable music for such classics as The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, and won his only Academy Award for Thoroughly Modern Millie, died of natural causes at his Ojai, California home on August 17. He was 82.

Elmer Bernstein, who was not related to Leonard Bernstein, was born on August 4, 1922, in New York City. He displayed a talent in music at a very young age, and was given a scholarship to study piano at Juilliard when he was only 12. He entered New York University in 1939, where he majored in music education. After graduating in 1942, he joined the Army Air Corps, where he remained throughout World War II, mostly working on scores for propaganda films. It was around this time he became interested in film scoring when he went to see William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), a film whose score was composed by Bernard Herrmann, a man Bernstein idolized as the ideal film composer.

Bernstein, who originally intended to be a concert pianist and gave several performances in New York after being discharged from military service, decided to relocate to Hollywood in 1950. He did his first score for the football film Saturday's Hero (1950), and then proved his worth with his trenchant, moody music for the Joan Crawford vehicle Sudden Fear (1952). Rumors of his "communist" leanings came to surface at this time, and, feeling the effects of the blacklist, he found himself scoring such cheesy fare as Robot Monster; Cat Women of the Moon (both 1953); and Miss Robin Caruso (1954).

Despite his politics, Otto Preminger hired him to do the music for The Man With the Golden Arm, (1955) in which Frank Sinatra played a heroin-addicted jazz musician. Fittingly, Bernstein used some memorable jazz motifs for the film and his fine scoring put him back on the map. It prompted the attention of Cecil B. De Mille, who had Bernstein replace the ailing Victor Young on The Ten Commandments (1956). His thundering, heavily orchestrated score perfectly suite the bombastic epic, and he promptly earned his first Oscar® nod for music.

After The Ten Commandments (1956), Bernstein continued to distinguish himself in a row of fine films: The Rainmaker (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Some Came Running (1958), The Magnificent Seven (a most memorable galloping march, 1960); To Kill a Mockingbird (unique in its use of single piano notes and haunting use of a flute, 1962); Hud (1963); earned a deserved Academy Award for the delightful, "flapper" music for the Julie Andrews period comedy Thoroughly Modern Mille (1967), and True Grit (1969).

His career faltered by the '80s though, as he did some routine Bill Murray comedies: Meatballs (1980) and Stripes (1981). But then director John Landis had Bernstein write the sumptuous score for his comedy Trading Places (1983), and Bernstein soon found himself back in the game. He then graced the silver screen for a few more years composing some terrific pieces for such popular commercial hits as My Left Foot (1989), A River Runs Through It (1992) and The Age of Innocence (1993). Far From Heaven, his final feature film score, received an Oscar® nomination for Best Score in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Eve; sons Peter and Gregory; daughters Emilie and Elizabeth; and five grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Elmer Bernstein (1922-2004)

Elmer Bernstein, the film composer who created unforgettable music for such classics as The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, and won his only Academy Award for Thoroughly Modern Millie, died of natural causes at his Ojai, California home on August 17. He was 82. Elmer Bernstein, who was not related to Leonard Bernstein, was born on August 4, 1922, in New York City. He displayed a talent in music at a very young age, and was given a scholarship to study piano at Juilliard when he was only 12. He entered New York University in 1939, where he majored in music education. After graduating in 1942, he joined the Army Air Corps, where he remained throughout World War II, mostly working on scores for propaganda films. It was around this time he became interested in film scoring when he went to see William Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), a film whose score was composed by Bernard Herrmann, a man Bernstein idolized as the ideal film composer. Bernstein, who originally intended to be a concert pianist and gave several performances in New York after being discharged from military service, decided to relocate to Hollywood in 1950. He did his first score for the football film Saturday's Hero (1950), and then proved his worth with his trenchant, moody music for the Joan Crawford vehicle Sudden Fear (1952). Rumors of his "communist" leanings came to surface at this time, and, feeling the effects of the blacklist, he found himself scoring such cheesy fare as Robot Monster; Cat Women of the Moon (both 1953); and Miss Robin Caruso (1954). Despite his politics, Otto Preminger hired him to do the music for The Man With the Golden Arm, (1955) in which Frank Sinatra played a heroin-addicted jazz musician. Fittingly, Bernstein used some memorable jazz motifs for the film and his fine scoring put him back on the map. It prompted the attention of Cecil B. De Mille, who had Bernstein replace the ailing Victor Young on The Ten Commandments (1956). His thundering, heavily orchestrated score perfectly suite the bombastic epic, and he promptly earned his first Oscar® nod for music. After The Ten Commandments (1956), Bernstein continued to distinguish himself in a row of fine films: The Rainmaker (1956), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Some Came Running (1958), The Magnificent Seven (a most memorable galloping march, 1960); To Kill a Mockingbird (unique in its use of single piano notes and haunting use of a flute, 1962); Hud (1963); earned a deserved Academy Award for the delightful, "flapper" music for the Julie Andrews period comedy Thoroughly Modern Mille (1967), and True Grit (1969). His career faltered by the '80s though, as he did some routine Bill Murray comedies: Meatballs (1980) and Stripes (1981). But then director John Landis had Bernstein write the sumptuous score for his comedy Trading Places (1983), and Bernstein soon found himself back in the game. He then graced the silver screen for a few more years composing some terrific pieces for such popular commercial hits as My Left Foot (1989), A River Runs Through It (1992) and The Age of Innocence (1993). Far From Heaven, his final feature film score, received an Oscar® nomination for Best Score in 2002. He is survived by his wife, Eve; sons Peter and Gregory; daughters Emilie and Elizabeth; and five grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Damn.
- John Bernard Books
John Bernard, you swear too much.
- Bond Rogers
The hell I do.
- John Bernard Books
Do you know that man?
- Mrs. Rogers
Not him personally; but I had some dealings with his brother, Albert.
- John Bernard Books
What kind of dealings?
- Mrs. Rogers
Oh.
- Mrs. Rogers
I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.
- John Bernard Books

Trivia

This was John Wayne's final film.

To add a sense of realism to John Waynes character, archive footage from several of the Duke's westerns was used to introduce J.B. Books after the beginning credits. Included was footage from Hondo (1953), Rio Bravo (1959) and El Dorado (1967).

When viewing footage of the final gunfight in the bar, John Wayne saw that it was edited to show him shooting a guy in the back. He said "I've made over 250 pictures and have never shot a guy in the back. Change it." They did.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer August 20, 1976

Released in USA on video.

Began shooting January 1976.

Completed shooting April 1976.

Released in United States Summer August 20, 1976