|Key Cast||Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Scott Brady, Ward Bond|
“Johnny Guitar” Sees Joan Crawford Face Off Against Mercedes McCambridge in a Tense, Evocative Western
Joan Crawford stars in “Johnny Guitar,” as Vienna, a tough and willful owner of a remote Arizona gambling saloon who dreams of becoming rich when the new railroad comes to town. She is opposed by a local townswoman named Emma Small (played by Mercedes McCambridge) who feels threatened by the new railroad and is particularly volatile.
After one of Vienna’s part-time flames, Dancin’ Kid (Scott Brady) comes to her saloon with his outlaw gang, the tension between the women intensifies because Emma and the other locals finger Dancin’ Kid his gang for robbing a stagecoach and killing Emma’s brother. Vienna and Dancin’ Kid vehemently deny any involvement. As the situation grows worse, her one-time lover, Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) arrives and comes to her aid. But, “Johnny Guitar” isn’t all that he appears to be either.
Emma eventually leads a vengeance-obsessed posse with complicated motives against them all.
Full of striking imagery and rich dialogue, “Johnny Guitar” is notable for its strong female leads and an evocative, dramatic atmosphere.
The western includes a memorable and haunting theme co-written and sung by none other than Peggy Lee. The solid supporting cast is impressive, featuring the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Ward Bond, John Carradine, and Royal Dano.
• The animosity between Vienna and Emma in “Johnny Guitar” actually mirrored the strained relationship between Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge on the set. It appears that the hostility originated with Joan Crawford who reportedly threw all of McCambridge’s costumes on an Arizona highway in a fit of rage. The origins of Joan Crawford’s contempt for Mercedes McCambridge is not clear, but it is suspected that part of the reason may be due to the fact that Crawford wanted Claire Trevor for the role instead of McCambridge.
• Joan Crawford bought the rights to the book for “Johnny Guitar” from Roy Chansolor who wrote it in 1952. Joan Crawford agreed to sell the rights to make the western from the book with the stipulation that she star in it. Republic Studios agreed, casting Crawford as the lead and hiring Nicholas Ray to direct the western. Ray had just finished his contract with RKO, so “Johnny Guitar” was his first film after leaving them. According to press reports, Nicholas Ray also had difficulty working with Joan Crawford and this is one of the reasons why “Johnny Guitar” wasn’t one of his favorite films. Nevertheless, the western is one of his most memorable movies and has developed a cult following over the years. (Another famous Nicholas Ray directed movie is “Rebel without a Cause.)
• “Johnny Guitar” was one of the few westerns from the fifties to show how women’s liberation existed in the west. Another western that exemplifies this theme is “Rancho Notorious” starring Marlene Dietrich. It has been speculated that one of the reasons why Joan Crawford wanted to make “Johnny Guitar” was to show that she (Joan Crawford) was a better leading actress in a female-dominated western than Marlene Dietrich.
• In 2008, “Johnny Guitar” was added to the U.S. Library of Congress National Film Registry. It is one of the few westerns to be awarded this special distinction.
Johnny Guitar Movie DVD
This Joan Crawford western co-stars Sterling Hayden and Mercedes McCambridge.
In a fiery performance, Joan Crawford squares off against Mercedes McCambridge in this classic western that is unlike other westerns because of the strong female leads.
Johnny Guitar is one of the few westerns movies to be selected for the U.S. Library of Congress National Film Registry.
Johnny Guitar Blu-ray DiscThis Blu-ray Disc version of the movie Johnny Guitar features a high-definition transfer of the western for exceptional picture quality.
Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge give fiery performances in this western where the women are as tough as the men.
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