Johnny Guitar – Worth A Watch

Rating (3 out of 5)

Summary: I received a glowing recommendation from Scott on this film and he encouraged me to watch “Johnny Guitar” film. I watched this 1957 Western (available on Hulu) and I was pleasantly surprised. After 15 minutes of watching the movie, I knew I wanted to see what happened to all the characters. Despite the Hollywood ending, I enjoyed the movie. A Western that surprises by having both the hero and villain be extremely strong female characters, which must have been ahead of its time. If you can overlook the melodramatic acting style of the day, “Johnny Guitar” is a fun movie.

Plot: Vienna (Joan Crawford) hopes to strike it reach with the train coming through her property. After a stagecoach is attacked and Emma’s (Mercedes McCambridge) brother is killed, she targets Vienna and her 4 friends. Vienna sends for Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) to help keep the peace. Emma wants Vienna and her chums out of town.

Detail: My favorite part of the movie is when Johnny interjects himself between the two feuding sides at Vienna’s. His easy and polite demeanor a reduce the tension between the two groups. Even his easy honest answers to questions about the stagecoach robbery he witnessed glued me to the screen. The mob then challenges him to play guitar and he whips up a nice tune. What a quirky memorable scene! “Johnny Guitar” may be the inspiration for the “Ballad of Buster Scruggs” first story.

SPOILER! The men from town seem reluctant to kill. The reluctance first starts in the genuinely tense hanging scene where the men refuse to lynch a Vienna. The men hand Emma the whip to lynch Vienna. This all leads to the fantastic end, at the final shootout. The townsmen step down and proclaim they are done with killing, leaving Emma to gun down Vienna on her own. Even Johnny and Dancin’ Kid (Scott Brady) don’t interfere on behalf of Vienna. Emma and Vienna duel to the death.

Emma’s overly focus hatred of Vienna stemmed of love denied for Dancin’ Kid. Dancin’ Kid loved Vienna, but Vienna loved Johnny Guitar. A pathetic love triangle reason and a poor reason to slay 6 people.

Another plot issue arises with one of Dancin’ Kid’s partners, Bart Lonergan (Ernest Borgnine). Bart picks a fight with Johnny at the bar for no particular reason. After they fight outside where Bart receives an ass-whoopin‘, now he is focused on retaliation against Johnny. Never completely understood his problem with Johnny in the first place. The subplot is forced but required for future plot development.

Overall, “Johnny Gutiar” would be a great film to see someone remake.