(Review originally written at 6 May 2005)

It was strange to watch this movie knowing that this was John Wayne's last. Even stranger was it because the character he plays is dying of cancer just like John Wayne himself was at the moment. It gave the movie a deeper meaning and made some of the scene's more emotional.

The story is told in a absolutely fantastic way. The story is slow but the mixture of good old western style and drama makes the movie always interesting to watch. The movie had so many deeper meanings. The movie is set in 1901, the time when the time of the good old west was almost at its end. Only thing that stands in between of the good old west and modern times are characters such as John Bernard Books (John Wayne), an old gunslinger from the good old days. His character is coping with his inevitable coming death but also coping with the fact that the good old days of gunfights at the O.K. Corral and saloons are over for good. He basically is the only remaining person still alive from the good old days with a reputation, so when he dies the old west dies with him. In a way this also shows some parallels with Wayne's death, when he died a piece of the genre Western died with him as well.

Beside 'The Duke' the movie also has some fine other great actors such as: Lauren Bacall, James Stewart (also his last Western as an actor, he however later still provided one of the voices for his final movie "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West".), Scatman Crothers and John Carradine. Still it was kind of an odd sight to see John Wayne and Ron Howard acting in scene's together. I don't know for some reason it just felt unreal.

The movie also has a fine and a bit of underrated musical score from composer Elmer Bernstein. The movie itself is also kind of underrated, not in terms of the rating it gets but in terms of how well known it is to the general public. This is really a movie that deserves to be seen by more, if only also because of the fact that its Wayne's last role before his death in 1979. Don Siegel movie's are often underrated for some reason, he was a great director that made some real classics but yet he never won any big awards and he is probably only known to the general public for making "Dirty Harry".

Don't watch this movie expecting spectacular gunfight and other Western clichés. Yes there is some shooting in this movie but really, this movie is more of a drama than a Western. Still fans of the Western genre will also not be disappointed because of the atmosphere and also mainly just simply because of Wayne's character.

An extremely worthy last movie for 'movie-legend' John Wayne.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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