It's Been Years Since I Saw John Wayne's Last Film, And I Haven't Felt Like Watching It Since. But Then, I Saw This.

"I just don't want to play anything petty, or small, or mean. I don't mind being rough and tough; cruel. But in a big way. No petty things."

Wayne's last film, The Shootist, is primarily famous for just that fact: being John Wayne's last film. And for being one of the finest examples of "Truth And Fiction, Walking Side-By-Side." It's the story of J. B. Brook, an aging gunfighter who's dying of cancer and searching for a way to "go out on top." And it stars an aging Wayne, who was dying of cancer when he made the film, and whose performance feels very much like an attempt to go out on top, as well.

When I saw the film some years back, I simply could not separate the fictional character from Wayne himself. Watching the legendary star so close to the end (and such a shadow of his former, iconic self) was hard for me; it felt like a dirge, not a film. And my sadness at watching Wayne "go out" was the only emotion I could remember in the years since, so I've been exceedingly disinclined to return to it any time soon/ever. (What a cast, though; what a cast.)

And then I saw this "behind-the-scenes" video (from Eyes on Cinema), and it's so charming and warm-hearted (and with just enough language to make Wayne feel unrehearsed rather than produced), I'm tempted to give the film another go. Perhaps I can see it as a grateful eulogy rather than a sorrowful reminder; a fond farewell to a guy "going out on top."

On-set interviews with John Wayne and behind-the-scenes footage of Wayne's last film 'The Shootist' from director Don Siegel.
Attribution(s):"John Wayne at His Airport" comes from tom.arthur via Visualhunt/CC BY-NC-SA.