"The day they lay you away, what I do on your grave won’t pass for flowers."
Description: Petulant remark of Marshal Thibido (Harry Morgan) after hearing that legendary gunfighter John Bernard Books (John Wayne) is dying from cancer in the western film The Shootist (1976).
When J.B.Books learns from Carson City doctor (Jimmy Stewart) that he has terminal cancer, he decides to spend his last days in the boarding house of Bond Rogers (Lauren Bacall). Reluctant at first to house such a notorious man, Bond takes sympathy on his plight and allows him to stay. Her teenage son, Gillom Rogers (Ron Howard) is elated that such a celebrity is staying in his home.
|Gillom Rogers:||Bat Masterson told Cobb...|
|J. B. Books:||Bat Masterson?|
|Gillom Rogers:||Yeah, he said that a man has to have guts, deliberation and a proficiency with fire arms.|
|J. B. Books:||Did he mention that third eye you better have?|
|Gillom Rogers:||Third eye?|
|J. B. Books:||For that dumbass amateur. There's always some six-fingered bustard that couldn't hit a cow in the tit with a tin cup. That's the one who usually does you in. But Masterson always was full of... sheep-dip.|
As he settles in to his room, Books receives a visit from Marshal Walter Thibido who demands "I want you out of town. These are law-abiding people here and I don't want any trouble. I can deputize as many men as I need to see that you leave." But Books declines. "I'm not going anywhere, Marshal. I'm dying and I intend to die right here."
Surprised, Thibodo asks, "Really? You're really dyin'?" Books recommends Thibido check with Doc Hostetler to verify his story, at which time Marshal Thibido proclaims, "Hot damn! You know, Books, that's the best news I've had all day. While I was walking over here I was thinking, what if Books decides to kill me? Who will take over as marshal? Will the town council pay my pension to my wife? Damn, that's good news."
Before parting, Thibido says, "The day they lay you away what I do on your grave won’t pass for flowers."
Later, when Brooks senses that Beckum, the local undertaker's (John Carradine) offer of a free funeral is bogus, he complains, “You son of a bitch. You aim to do to me what they did to John Wesley Hardin. Lay me out and parade every damn fool in the state past me at a dollar a head, half-price for children, and then stuff me in a gunny sack and shovel me under.”
"Bond, I don't believe I ever killed a man that didn't deserve it." - J.B. Books
During his stay, Books asks his widowed landlord to take a ride in the country so he can get a last look at the western landscape. She agrees and during their drive, they share their thoughts and both become closer, but Books knows that he is on the way out and so he decides to have a final showdown with Sweeney, a local rancher (Richard Boone) who holds a grudge and Pulford (Hugh O'Brien), the town gambler who believes he is the best shot in the territory. Of course, Books knows there is a good chance he will die in the shootout, but compared to the long and painful death that lies before him from cancer, a quick death of a bullet seems a better choice.
The day of the shootout, Gillom Rogers waits outside of the saloon, and after the gunshots stop, he enters the saloon to find Books wounded and all of his challengers dead. But just then, the saloon bartender pulls out a shotgun and shoots Books. Gillom fires his gun and kills the bartender, but then shocked that he killed a man, he drops his gun.
With a dying glance, and a nod of his head, Books communicates that Gillom did the right thing, that is, dropping the gun and giving up any notions that being a gunfighter was a good thing.
Earlier in the film, Brooks shared his philosophy on life to Gillom Rogers, saying, “I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I expect the same from them.”