Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: Movie Review: Johnny Guitar (1954)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Movie Review: Johnny Guitar (1954)

by Tony Dayoub

To say that Johnny Guitar is simply a western is to ignore its quite substantial and not overly implicit meaning. Indeed much of what is going on in Nicholas Ray's film is happening underneath its shallow— and by this, I don't mean banal—surface. But to read Bosley Crowther's New York Times review of May 28, 1954, one would expect this film to be just another horse opera, and a rather weak one at that.
...Joan Crawford plays essentially the role that Van Heflin played in Shane...The only big difference in the character, as plainly rewritten for her, is that now it falls in love with the ex-gunfighter, whom Sterling Hayden here plays.

But this condescension to Miss Crawford and her technically recognized sex does nothing more for the picture than give it some academic aspects of romance. No more femininity comes from her than from the rugged Mr. Heflin in Shane. For the lady, as usual, is as sexless as the lions on the public library steps and as sharp and romantically forbidding as a package of unwrapped razor blades.
Ouch, I think I cut myself with one of Crowther's metaphorical shavers.

To read the rest of review at Decisions at Sundown click here.


Burning Reels said...

Only seen a handful of Nic Ray films (including this) - any favorites or recommendations Tony?

Tony Dayoub said...

I can honestly say that I've liked every one of his films that I've seen. But I haven't seen all of his movies. I'm making an effort to write about all the ones I have seen over the next few days (as a tie-in to the Criterion release of BIGGER THAN LIFE tomorrow). I loved IN A LONELY PLACE, which you can read about in my last post. JOHNNY GUITAR is a flawed personal favorite. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE is the next one I'll be writing about, and I would put that one about even with IN A LONELY PLACE.

Ones that I haven't seen, but will be catching up with in the next few days before I write about them are BIGGER THAN LIFE (which I hear is as good as he gets), THE TRUE STORY OF JESSE JAMES (which I hear is mediocre), and PARTY GIRL.

I'm not going to get to KING OF KINGS, I don't think, until maybe Easter. But I remmeber that one being an interesting, if too reverential, take on the Christ story.

There's a slew of his earlier films which I haven't seen that I hear are also worthwhile.

Alex DeLarge said...

This is one of my favorites in the genre and one that is difficult to track down. The only DVD available is a Spanish import that is region locked; I own a copy ordered through that looks so much better than TCM's broadcast. I love the decisive dialogue with its intoxicating rhythm.