Johnny Guitar

Johnny Guitar is a 1954 American Trucolor western drama film directed by Nicholas Ray starring Joan Crawford , Hayden Sterling , Mercedes McCambridge , and Scott Brady .

The screenplay was adapted from a novel by Roy Chanslor. Though credited to Philip Yordan , he was merely a front-page screenwriter, blacklisted Ben Maddow . [2] Filmed in Republic’s Trucolor process, the film was directed by Nicholas Ray and produced by Herbert J. Yates .

In 2008, Johnny Guitar was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. [3]


On the outskirts of a wind-swept Arizona cattle town, an aggressive and strong-willed saloonkeeper named Vienna maintains a volatile relationship with the local cattlemen and townsfolk. Not only does it support the railroad being ugly (the cattlemen oppose it), but she permits “The Dancin ‘Kid” and her confederates to frequent her saloon. The locals, led by John McIvers on the subject of Emma Small, a onetime rival of Vienna, are determined to force Vienna out of town, and the heist of the stage (they suspect, erroneously, by “The Dancin ‘Kid” ) offers a perfect pretext. Vienna faces them down, helped by the mysterious and just arrived Johnny Guitar. McIvers gives Vienna, Johnny Guitar, and “The Dancin Kid” and his sidekicks 24 hours to leave. Johnny turns out to be Vienna s ex-lover and a reformed gunslinger whose real name is Johnny Logan. Smouldering love / hate relationship develops.

The Dancin ‘Kid and his gang rob the town bank to fund their escape to California, but the pass is blocked by a railroad crew dynamiting a way in, and they flee back to their secret hideout behind a waterfall. Emma Small convinces the townsfolk that is guilty of the rest and the posse wrinkles to her saloon. Vienna appears to be the best of a verbal confrontation when one of the wounded bank robbers, Turkey, is discovered under a table. Emma persuades the men to hang Vienna and Turkey, and burns the saloon down. At the last second Vienna is saved by Johnny Guitar.

Vienna and Johnny escape the posse and find refuge in The Dancin ‘Kid’s secret hideaway. The posse tracks them down, and the last two of Kid’s men are killed by infighting. A halt is called to the bloodbath by the posse’s leader, McIvers. Emma challenges Vienna to a showdown; The Dancin ‘Kid calls to Emma is killed by a bullet to the head by an angered Emma. Emma then shoots Vienna, but only in the shoulder; Vienna shoots Emma in the head. The posse allows Johnny and Vienna to leave the hideout in peace, watching them go.


  • Joan Crawford as Vienna
  • Sterling Hayden as Johnny Guitar (Johnny Logan)
  • Mercedes McCambridge as Emma Small
  • Scott Brady as The Dancin ‘Kid
  • Ward Bond as John McIvers
  • Ben Cooper as Turkey Ralston
  • Ernest Borgnine as Bart Lonergan
  • John Carradine as Old Tom
  • Royal Dano and Corey
  • Frank Ferguson as Marshal Williams
  • Paul Fix as Eddie
  • Rhys Williams as Mr. Andrews
  • Ian MacDonald as Pete


Crawford and Nick Ray were scheduled to make a film called Lisbon at Paramount. But when the script proved unacceptable, Crawford brought the book Ray to direct it. [4] [5] [6] [7]

Crawford wanted Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck for the role of Emma Small, but they were too expensive. [8] Claire Trevor was unable to accept the film because she was unable to accept it. [9] Finally, Nicholas Ray brought in McCambridge. quote needed ]

Most people asked Crawford was easy to work with, always professional, generous, patient and kind. [10] [11] Issues between the two women cropped up early on, but Ray was not alarmed – at first. He found it “heaven feels” that they are greatly affected by the conflict. [6] Crawford had once dated McCambridge’s husband, Fletcher Markle , the reasons for the fire . According to some of the other co-stars, McCambridge needled Crawford about it. [10]McCambridge also appeared to have said that Crawford and Ray were in the midst of an affair. Crawford, on the other hand, said “special attention” that Ray was giving to McCambridge.[6]

Making things worse Was That Was McCambridge battling alcoholism During this period, [12] something she later Contributed to the admis entre her problems and Crawford. [13]

After filming, McCambridge and Hayden publicly declared their dislike of Crawford, with McCambridge labeling Crawford, “a mean, tipsy, powerful, rotten-egg lady”. [14] Hayden said in an interview, “There is not enough money in Hollywood to lure me into making another picture with Joan Crawford, and I like money.” this quote needs a quote ]

Crawford for her part of McCambridge, “I have four children – I do not need a fifth.” [6] However, Crawford was surprised by Hayden, claiming she had a letter from him saying he would love to work with her again. this quote needs a quote ]

Later, Ray claimed that Crawford, during a rage, drunkenly threw McCambridge’s costumes into the street. [15] Crawford later laughingly admitted to having thrown McCambridge’s own clothing into the street. [6] Ray also said of that time, “Joan was drinking a lot and she liked to fight,” but that was also “very attractive, with a basic decency.” [16]


The film opened to negative reviews. DESPITE a number of initial negative reviews, in the USA and Canada Johnny Guitar grossed more than $ 2.5 million as of January, 1955 ($ 21,396,003.72 in 2012 dollars, adjusted for inflation) [17] and Was No. 27 is Variety’s list of top money-makers of 1954 . [18]

Variety commented, “It proves [Crawford] should leave saddles and Levis to someone else and stick to city lights for a background. [The film] is only a fair piece of entertainment. [The scriptwriter] becomes so involved with character nuances and neuroses , all wrapped up in dialogue, that [the picture] never has a chance to rear up in the saddle … The people in the story never achieve much depth, this character shallowness being at odds with the pretentious attempt at analysis to which the script and direction devotes so much time. ” [19]

Bosley Crowther singled out Crawford’s physical bearing for criticism in his New York Times review, stating “… no more femininity comes from her than from the rugged Mr. Heflin in ‘Shane.’ For the lady, as usual, is the sexiest as the lions on the public library and as a package of unwrapped razor blades. [20]

The film later became by whom? ] as one of Ray’s best movies, topped by the famous song.

The film is beloved by French filmmaker Francois Truffaut , who described it as ” Beauty and the Beast of Westerns, a Western dream”. [21] Truffaut was especially impressed by the film’s extravagance: the bold colors, the poetry of the dialogue in certain scenes, and the theatricality which results in cowboys vanishing and dying “with the grace of ballerinas “.

In his 1988 release Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown , Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar pays homage to the film. His lead character Pepa Marcos ( Carmen Maura ), a voice artist, went out while dubbing Vienna’s voice in a scene where Johnny (voiced earlier by Pepa’s ex-lover Iván) and Vienna banter about their conflicted past. Almodóvar’s movie with a chase and an obsessed woman shooting at her lead character.

In 1998, the Chicago Reader ‘ s Jonathan Rosenbaum listed Johnny Guitar as one of the top 100 American movies. [22]

In 2012, Japanese film director Shinji Aoyama listed Johnny Guitar as one of the Greatest Films of All Time. He said, ” Johnny Guitar is the only movie that I’m like to remake someday, I know it’s impossible, it’s probably closest to the worst nightmare I can have. my warped thought that I want to remake my own nightmare. ” [23]

The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in these lists:

  • 2003: AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Heroes & Villains :
    • Emma Small – Nominated Villain [24]
  • 2008: AFI’s 10 Top 10 :
    • Nominated Western Film [25]


Many critics, including Roger Ebert , [26] have pointed out that the film is a hidden commentary on the McCarthy witch-hunts . [27] The film is more than just a Western – Truffaut, who admired the film, called it “a phony Western”. this quote needs a quote ]

In an interview in the Criterion Collection release of The Killing , Sterling Hayden said that he did not care for Johnny Guitar . “They hit the throat,” he said, acknowledging that “I can not play guitar, and can not sing a good-goddamn, either.” “I was at war on that movie, during the daytime, with Joan Crawford,” he recalled, “and at night with my second wife.” Despite his reservations about the movie, Hayden released his popularity.

According to Martin Scorsese , contemporary American audiences “did not know what to make of it, so they either ignored it or laughed at it.” European audiences, on the other hand, free of charge biases, saw Johnny Guitar for what it was: “an intense, unconventional, stylized picture, full of ambiguities and subtexts that rendered it extremely modern.” [28]

The film has been released in VHS, DVD and Blu-ray formats.


Johnny Guitar was adapted to a stage musical, which debuted Off-Broadway in 2004, with a book by American television producer Nicholas van Hoogstraten, lyrics by Joel Higgins , and music by Martin Silvestri and Joel Higgins . It starred Judy McLane, Ann Crumb , Steve Blanchard , and Robert Evan, and was the recipient of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, nominated for the Lucille Lortel Awards and the Drama Desk Awards.

In popular culture

  • The movie is seen Briefly in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown as the characters portrayed by Carmen Maura and Fernando Guillén are dubbers for the movie into Spanish.
  • While on the run, the murderous couple in The Mermaid of the Mississippi , played by Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve , go to Johnny Guitar in Lyon and discuss the film in the street afterwards.
  • In Bonanza episode 12.1, “The Night Virginia City Died,” Vienna’s bar is burned down for the umpteenth time. The footage is spectacular, and appears to be used in many movies and TV shows.
  • In the Sunn O))) album, White1 , the song, “My Wall”, frequently mentions Johnny Guitar in its lyrics.


  1. Jump up^ ‘The Top Box Office Hits of 1954’,Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955
  2. Jump up^
  3. Jump up^ National Film Registry Titles 1989 – 2013 | Archived copy . Archived from the original on 2013-03-28 . Retrieved 2014-06-12 .
  4. Jump up^ Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud
  5. Jump up^ Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Star
  6. ^ Jump up to:e Joan Crawford, The Essential Biography
  7. Jump up^ Production Files
  8. Jump up^ Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud, page 266.
  9. Jump up^ Johnny Guitar output queues
  10. ^ Jump up to:b Johnny Dearest,, November 2003
  11. Jump up^ Interview with Ernest Borgnine, “Archived copy” . Archived from the original on 2014-09-15 . Retrieved 2013-01-04 .
  12. Jump up^ ” ‘ The Exorcist’ actress Mercedes McCambridge dies at 85″ . USA Today . March 17, 2004.
  13. Jump up^ Mccambridge Mercedes: A Biography And Career Record
  14. Jump up^ “The Exorcist actress Mercedes McCambridge dies at 85″ . USA Today. March 17, 2004 . Retrieved 2013-10-24 .
  15. Jump up^ Interview with Ray
  16. Jump up^ Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud
  17. Jump up^ “CPI Inflation Calculator” . . Retrieved May 19, 2015 .
  18. Jump up^ The Top Box Office Hits of 1954 “,Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955.
  19. Jump up^ Quirk, Lawrence J.The Movies of Joan Crawford. The Citadel Press, 1968.
  20. Jump up^
  21. Jump up^ Truffaut,The Movies in My Life
  22. Jump up^ Gold List-o-Mania, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love by Jonathan Rosenbaum, June 26, 1998
  23. Jump up^ Aoyama, Shinji (2012). “The Greatest Poll Movies” . Sight & Sound .
  24. Jump up^ “AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Heroes & Villains Nominees” (PDF) . Retrieved 2016-08-06 .
  25. Jump up^ “AFI’s 10 Top 10 Nominees” (PDF) . Archived from the original on 2011-07-16 . Retrieved 2016-08-19 .
  26. Jump up^
  27. Jump up^ For example, Andrew Geoff,The Movies of Nicholas Ray(1991, 2004)
  28. Jump up^ Martin Scorsese introduction Johnny Guitar (USA, 1954) dir. Nicholas Ray . YouTube . April 24, 2011 . Retrieved May 19, 2015 .

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