in about 100 words or less
USA 110m, Colour
Director: Nicholas Ray; Cast: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Scott Brady
Despite the somewhat simple plot, Johnny Guitar is not your typical 1950s Hollywood western. Most notable is the use of women as the two lead actors (Joan Crawford as Vienna and Mercedes McCambridge as Emma Small) whose strong-willed characters dictate the actions of every man in the film. Likewise, the two male leads are unusually sensitive figures whose names: “Johnny Guitar” and “The Dancing Kid” reflect their artistic talents over their aptitude for guns and horses. Ray’s symbolic use of colour, although sometimes excessive, establishes the positions of the two opposing sides leaving no uncertainty who the bad guys are. Essential to the film’s plot, and perhaps more stereotypical, is the level of extreme female jealousy which provides the basis for Emma’s violent intentions toward Vienna (Klaus Ming June 2010).