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Johnny Guitar (1954)


Kid Dabb
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On tonight at 11:45 PM EST

 

This is a fun movie. Whenever I watch Sterling Hayden I always view his performance as comedy. I can't help it. Even when he plays a straight part I see it that way. Mercedes McCambridge is icing on the cake :)

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Well I find the entire movie to be camp not just Hayden's role (acting).

 

The first time I saw it I turned it off after 30 minutes or so. But someone convince me to watch the entire movie and I'm glad I did.

 

You're correct; It is a fun movie especially Mercedes and Joan shooting it out at the end!

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Mark Cousins said last night that in this film, Mercedes McCambridge represents Joe McCarthy, and all her male friends in this film are members of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. That means Joan Crawford is the hero of the film, and, I assume, represents a strong American liberal and progressive political leader of the 1950s, trying to do the right thing by promoting her strong feminism.

 

I never would have known all of that if it hadn't been told to me by this guy from Northern Ireland. I thought it was just two tough dames having a cat fight. :)

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That McCarthy rant doesn't add up to me.

 

But Joan is clearly a strong women, both in how she deal with men on a romantic sexual level and especially as a business women. So to me any political themes in the movie related to coruption and the locals not wanting a smart outsider business person making money that the locals feel belong to them.

 

Mercedes appears to be a strong women but she is a phony. She can't handle rejection and that is a sign of weakness.

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Gotta love Johnny Geetar !

 

This Western /Noir is great fun, what with its witch hunt storyline, over the top characters (and characterizations) and general camp factor.

Campy, but not excessively so. You can laugh at it and take it seriously at the same time.

I know what Kid means about Sterling Hayden. There's something about the guy that makes me laugh - but in a good way, I'm a big fan of Hayden's. (Kid, have you seen him in *Crime Wave*, where he plays a cynical toothpick-chewing cop who's trying to catch out a former wrong 'un gone straight ? Enjoyable minor noir...)

 

Joan is in her melodramatic element here: it's great to see her sashaying around in her cowboy shirt and pants, laying down the law to her saloon employees and pretending she doesn't give a double whisky for old Johnny anymore.

And what a wonderful foil for her, Mercedes McCambridge is ! She must have had a ball playing that role, all anger and jealousy and pent-up lust (for Johnny? Maybe for Vienna? oh no, that's right, the Dancin' Kid ) and self-righteous declamations. This actress always makes her mark in whatever she's in, be the role large or small (who can forget her in *Touch of Evil* ? "I want to watch." ! )

 

There are a few genuinely disturbing scenes, like the one in which the hapless young member of The Dancing Kid's gang gets hanged. The film is definitely not all fun and games.

 

But on the whole, Nicholas Ray serves us up a big delicious slice of noir masquerading as Western - or maybe its Western masquerading as noir. This is one big off-beat movie. Never dull, always compelling. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes - well, big off-beat movies.

 

(By "big", I mean in its performances and general dramatic yet comic qualities, not length. I do not like loooong movies.)

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Oct 9, 2013 2:10 AM

Not Johnny's gang, the Kid's.

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>That McCarthy rant doesn't add up to me.

 

No, of course not. That has nothing at all to do with the movie.

 

Mercedes just has an attitude that all old-time settlers have about all new-comers. The same theme as in SHANE, with the old-time cattlemen resenting the new-comer farmers. Before that, it was the Indians resenting the White man's mass arrival.

 

I've lived out here in the West for nearly 20 years, and everyone who has been here 30, 40, and 50 years or longer, don't like all the new-comers and all their new tract houses and all the traffic congestion they bring with them. This basic story goes back everywhere thousands of years.

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>misswonderly said: ..have you seen him in Crime Wave, where he plays a cynical toothpick-chewing cop who's trying to catch out a former wrong 'un gone straight ? Enjoyable minor noir...)

 

It always seems to me he's cracking up on the inside about to explode with laughter, like Leslie Nielsen in the Naked Gun series.

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"Western noir" is a dubious category, but with that qualification, The Naked Spur would be my first choice for inclusion. Jimmy Stewart is at his conflicted best, and then of course you've got two of the greatest noir archtypes of all time in Robert Ryan and Ralph (Kiss Me Deadly) Meeker.

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finance and Andy, I am not the first who's come up with the "noir sub-genre" concept. Look, it's a very loose definition, and it touches upon that whole never-ending debate noir fans love to carry on about "how we define film noir". Maybe some purists would object to the idea of "Western Noir". I don't want to get into all that.

 

I will repeat, though, that I'm not alone in regarding quite a few Westerns as quasi-noirs.

Hmm, Andy, I hadn't thought of *The Naked Spur* as one of them. But I see what you mean, the inner conflict, the "grey" area of the characters' moral compasses, the idea of paying some kind of personal price in exchange for a monetary one. Yes, I think I get where you were going with this...

 

Other Westerns often classified as noirs are *Rancho Notorious* and *Pursued*. Quite a few more, I think, but offhand I can't bring them to mind.

 

ps: About *The Naked Spur*: Again, Andy, interesting that you mention that film. All of Anthony Mann's westerns have a noirish feel to them. And you probably know that Mann directed a number of noirs before making his westerns ( such as *Raw Deal* and *Side Street*.)

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Oct 9, 2013 11:00 AM

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PURSUED is the one I always think of...and speaking of Robert Mitchum, I would say that TRACK OF THE CAT is a color noir. (It airs frequently on the Encore westerns channel, so check it out if you have not seen it.)

 

As for JOHNNY GUITAR, this was the last western film Crawford made, though she did a guest-starring role on television's The Virginian in 1970. Before JOHNNY GUITAR, it had been years since she made a western-- all the way back to MGM's MONTANA MOON in 1930 (which had comedy and musical elements).

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Well a lot of Hayden's dialoge is campy especially in the first scene in the bar where everyone meets him for the first time.

 

If this was a live skit on SNL there is no way we wouldn't see some of the actors laughing and messing up their lines. I just love the exchange related to the names of Johnny Guitar and the Dancing Kid. (for the KID to tell Guitar he has a funny name???) Camp fun!

 

My wife watched the movie (typically she falls asleep when watching TV since she get up early for work). She really liked it. She was yelling at the T.V. anytime Mercedes was on. Something to the effect of 'what a B, I hope she gets in in the end'!

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Possibly the very first "Western Noir" ever made might have been 1948's "Station West", with Dick Powell playing an undercover federal agent investigating the murders of two U.S. cavalrymen.

 

And once again, like "Johnny Guitar", this movie's primary filming location was beautiful Sedona Arizona, and where I presently reside.

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Shows that you can read anything you WANT into a movie if you TRY hard enough. Same with music. Peter Yarrow of PETER, PAUL and MARY once claimed to have read an article that claimed "Puff, The Magic Dragon" was a song about DRUGS, a "fact" that Yarrow himself, the song's composer, wasn't aware of!

 

Maybe Cousins was right, maybe not. I always thought the movie was a CLEARINGHOUSE for all those worn out western cliches.

 

Sepiatone

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>Shows that you can read anything you WANT into a movie if you TRY hard enough.

 

Yes, well, there are a certain amount of common stories that get into a lot of films. If Cousins lived out here in the Southwest, like I do, he would recognize the theme of JOHNNY GUITAR to be a common one.... the earlier settlers not wanting any new settlers to come into their valley and fill it up with a bunch of people from the East. There are a lot of wide open spaces in the West, and the scenery is very good in that regard, and a lot of old-timers here hate to see more people arrive and more tract houses built that ruin their scenery.

 

I remember it was the same in San Francisco in the 1960s and 70s, when a lot of office workers downtown complained about a lot of new companies coming into town and building large skyscrapers that blocked their view of the San Francisco Bay. The old-timers attitude was "We were here first, and this is OUR city, and we don't want any more outsiders coming in and ruining our view of the Bay."

 

The same when the Indians of the 19th Century got fed of with European settlers coming into their territory and building towns and taking over vacant land and building houses and starting farms and ranches.

 

It's the same theme in the movie SHANE, with the early-arriving cattle men not wanting all the dirt farmers to move in. That's exactly what Mercedes McCambridge said. She said she didn't want to see any more "dirt farmers and squatters". She did NOT say she didn't want any liberals or progressives or democrats moving into her valley. :)

 

------------------------------

 

Oh and PS: I remember the hippies that had moved into the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco as early as 1965 and 66, got fed up with all the influx of new younger hippies of 1968 and 69+, because all the new hippies from middle-America and the East made the once-attractive and colorful Haight-Ashbury district turn into an over-crowded hippie slum, with beggers bugging people for "spare change" and trying to sell dope openly on the sidewalk, and that brought in a lot of cops, which the older hippies had managed to avoid for years.

 

Edited by: FredCDobbs on Oct 9, 2013 3:09 PM

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Not really. My wife and I first retired to the town of Prescott(location filming for "Junior Bonner" and "Billy Jack", btw) and because the first time we traveled from SoCal and through that town on the way to Williams AZ to take the Grand Canyon Railway, it was early December of '01 and Prescott's town square which bills itself at "Arizona's Christmas City" was all lit up with lights and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. I immediately had a good feeling about Prescott as it reminded me of Bedford Falls.(I half expected to spot Jimmy Stewart running through town and joyfully exclaiming, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!").

 

However, almost four years ago and after we had permanently moved to the house we had purchased in Prescott four years prior to that in which to retire, it seemed eventually every time we'd take some of our out-of-tone guests to Sedona to see the sights(about an hour and half drive), both my wife and I would talk for days about how beautiful it is there and wouldn't it be even nicer to live in Sedona.

 

And so, about a year and half ago now we sold the house in Prescott and purchased one here.

 

(...and we're both lovin' it)

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