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A lone horseback rider crosses a range and sees a stagecoach getting held up far below. One of the stagecoach riders is shot dead... and so begins the weird journey of Johnny Guitar. Mr. Guitar (Stering Hayden) is the horseback rider and he's headed to Vienna's, a saloon (complete with gambling) where he has been employed by Vienna (Joan Crawford). Vienna has made a deal with a railroad man to bring the train right to the front of Vienna's, and that means big business. There's one little problem--Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge) and the rest of the townsfolk.

Emma's brother was the gent shot dead in the stagecoach, and Emma claims that the killing was the work of the Dancing Kid, and Emma also claims that Vienna (who happens to be the love interest of the Kid) is in cahoots with the Kid and his gang of 3. One of those 3 is Ernest Borgnine, who's very entertaining in his role. Mr. Guitar lands smack dab in the middle of this catfight, and claws are bared.

I saw this on my cable's On Demand/TCM channel, and I loved it so, that I watched the first half of it again, 2 days later. The film was introduced by Robert Osborne and he let's the audience know that there was a hatred (my word) on the set between Crawford and McCambridge, and it really shows on film.

To me this film plays like an Oater-Noir. You don't know who's telling the truth as accusations fly between the women, and it seems like the characters are flawed all to hell and back. Good guys turn bad and bad guys turn good. There's snappy dialog, with Hayden getting the lion's share of good lines, although Joan has some real gems herself. The film starts out strong and gains momentum until somewhere near the end when it just finishes at a crawl. Entertaining nonetheless.

It's from Republic. It's in color. It has Ward Bond in it dammit!!(That's my new catchphrase for telling/typing about a film with Mr. Bond) It's JOHNNY GEETAR. Hire him to play at your next catfight.
It's like Rodney King used to say, "Can't we all get a bong."
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Johnny Guitar (1954) · Tumbleweed Terrace