Johnny Guitar

“Baroque - very baroque” was Nicholas Ray's summary comment on Johnny Guitar, one of the oddest, most entertaining Westerns ever made. Joan Crawford plays a hard-edged saloon keeper named Vienna, battling local hypocrisy to save her establishment and her right to own it. Her foe takes the physical form of Mercedes McCambridge, whose ancient jealousy of Vienna knows no bounds. But as she whips the community into a lynch mob mentality, McCambridge (marking Johnny Guitar as a film by Nicholas Ray) exposes the real enemy: insidious mob psychology, and outrageous sexual hypocrisy practiced by average guys of both sexes. Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden), a soft-spoken, moody kind of fellow, is an unlikely hero at best (in fact, his presence in the title is a foil for the extent to which he is overshadowed in the film by the two women), but one who is forced, by virtue of conscience and intelligence, to take a stand. (JB)

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