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Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Johnny Guitar" 

Tru-Color meets True Star-Mojo in this fever dream of a gender-bending Western, this week's "Best Shot" topic. Herewith some shot choices around the web (click on the pics for the articles) and a few of my thoughts as well, as your host. 

Director Nicholas Ray, too little known today, was on a real roll in the 1950s, and between his best loved films, noir classic In a Lonely Place (1950) and ur teen angst drama Rebel Without a Cause (1955) came this divisive oddity Johnny Guitar (1954).

We'd call Johnny Guitar a feminist Western except that the women have basically switched roles with the men rather than proven their equals. Sterling Hayden and Scott Brady as "Johnny Guitar" and "The Dancin' Kid" are, despite their considerable masculine attractiveness, essentially the passive "girls" of the picture, romantic objects or helpful companions who would rather not get caught up in bloody showdowns. Joan Crawford, at her butchest, definitely wears the pants in this movie literally and figuratively. Further complicating the highly discussable gender dynamics (the secret to why the movie had a second life if you ask me) is the inimitable Mercedes McCambridge as Emma Small. She's styled not unlike Joan's twin and she may or may not be in love/lust with The Dancin' Kid or Johnny Guitar or Vienna but she's definitely harboring repressed passions! 

(which you may join at any time - Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver is next Wednesday!) 
8 shots chosen by 11 blogs 

Crawford strikes her movie star pose every single chance she gets."
-A Fistful of Films

I wasn’t completely sold on Johnny Guitar as a movie. I am sold, however, on Joan Crawford as a movie star."
-Coco Hits New York 

Sterling Hayden, epitome of masculinity, holding a dainty, PERFECTLY CLEAN, bright blue & white teacup."
-Dancin' Dan 

An image of things that shouldn't go together being forcibly wedged into one place...
-Antagony & Ecstacy 

Hilariously takes her enemies to task seemingly without a care in the world...
-Sorta That Guy 

A quick glimpse of the frame could be easily mistaken for a shot from, say, a Quentin Tarantino film, or perhaps a Russ Meyer film."
- The Entertainment Junkie

As if having her rival be dragged out and hanged wasn't enough, Emma's gotta be all small about it and make sure that everything is destroyed..."
-The Film's The Thing 

 It's a rare Western where two women are given the meatiest roles... and I loved how the central conflict boiled down to a showdown between them."
- Film Actually

[Paul Outlaw actually chose the piano shot but his runner up is this - love his comment on it!]

 There's no time for three costume changes like that time when you're running for your life...
-The Film Experience 

'It' their fight. Has been all along.' "
-The Spy in the Sandwich 


Taxi Driver (1976) which you have no excuse not to join in on. It's easy to find!
 [Amazon Instant | Netflix Instant | iTunes]


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Reader Comments (8)

and Sterling's greatest triumph!

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Was sad to have missed this one; your description and the collected shots have certainly raised my interest in the film. Hope it shoes up on Netflix Streaming some day. I'll definitely play along next week, though.

Also: please excuse my nitpicking, but there's no Umlaut in ur! ;)

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSebastian Nebel

This movie has one of the great up-in-flames scenes, and perfect performances by Crawford and McCambridge. I saw it a few years back during a Joan Crawford retrospective series, and I was SO glad I'd picked it. Hope to see it again someday soon - these shot write-ups are great!

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

This was fun. I don't care for this film...and a rewatch didn't change that...but like you said; Joan 4ever!

Can't wait for next week!!!

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I loved The Entertainment Junkie's pick. Oh, if only Taratino's Hateful Eight was about a woman leading a pack of male outlaws.

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

This is one trippy flick, beautiful to look at, hysterical to guffaw at. Joan's hairdo definitely inspired Faye's look for the infamous living room smackdown in Mommie Dearest. The symbolism is laid thickly, with a lovely slice of cheese--Technicolor cheddar. Johnny Guitar is a near miracle-- it almost succeeds in turning Joan into an honest-to-goodness martyr.

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

i apologize to everyone that I haven't posted yet. I have had a truly hellish bout of insomnia and have had trouble getting anything accomplished on no sleep. a few final words on this movie soon.

April 9, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This is only two years after The Quiet Man and Ward Bond is almost unrecognizable, in the best way possible.

April 9, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

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