Thursday, May 22, 2008


Johnny Guitar is a 1954 Western made by Republic Pictures, famed for its unusual storyline and colorful cinematography. It features Joan Crawford as a tough, trouser-wearing saloon owner and Sterling Hayden as the eponymous musician who helps her fight a wrongful accusation of murder by the town officials, who are led by another woman (Mercedes McCambridge).

It was directed by Nicholas Ray, from a screenplay by Philip Yordan (although this credit is disputed and claimed by Ben Maddow), which was based on a novel by Roy Chanslor. The film was the last feature film produced in Republic's color process Trucolor.

The film's unusual sexual politics influenced some later Westerns (e.g. Samuel Fuller's 1957 Forty Guns, starring Barbara Stanwyck, revisits the formula of the strong woman. It also influenced foreign cineastes such as Godard, Truffaut, and Sergio Leone. The plot of Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) is partly based on Ray's Western.

MY REVIEW: Johnny Guitar starts off like it's going to be a really good western, but then it turns into a weird, goofy, colorized, comedic movie with gay sexual undertones. I think that is what the filmmakers were trying for and if it was then they did a great job but I was hoping for better. The first part of the movie is so good that it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the movie which is kind of like watching a skit at an improv theater.

I'm not saying that is a bad thing though. I did enjoy the film. Crawford and McCambridge give two really good performances, even if they are the goofiest two performances I've ever seen. Some scenes are really good, like the YouTube clip above, but some scenes are just so awkwardly done that it takes away from the rest of the movie.

I found out while doing my research of the movie that the writer was made to testify at the McCarthy trials and that Johnny Guitar's plot is supposed to be based off of the trails. Which is all fine and dandy but why did it have to have all these goofy scenes and performances. What is up with all the weird homosexual talk. I wish it could have been a kickass western but it's basically a good western with awkward 50s humor thrown around.

MY CHEESY RATING: Johnny Guitar will play a nice tune for you but don't let him play an encore. 6 out of 10



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