Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Johnny Guitar (1954)

Let's devote today to another brilliant actress, Joan Crawford. Now I will admit, if I was alive during her time (let's say the 50s) and alone with her in a room, I might be terrified. Perhaps not all the rumours and talk is true, but when I think of Miss Crawford, immediately I am full of images from the film Mommie Dearest. You know, like this one:
Although, I do know and appreciate her work in acting to be superior to most, I cannot think of her and not think "NO MORE WIRE HANGERS". Im sorry Joan Crawford. I admire you, but you are one scary broad!

Moving along...
The movie of the day, a great achievement in both films portraying women and westerns is 1954's Johnny Guitar. Up until this point in film, westerns were a man's game. Men, the buff heros/villians of the gun-slinging wild west. Johnny Guitar came out and changed all of this. While, yes, the film's title is the name of a man, the movie is really about Crawford's character Vienna.

Vienna is a tough, gun totting, manager of a gambling saloon. She is in complete contrast to the helpless damsel in distress so often being the types of women portrayed in westerns. She wears the pants, but at the same time holds this feminine charm over the main men in the movie.

Now if this wasn't enough powerful estrogen, we have another tough lady, Emma Small played by Mercedes McCambridge. Before watching the movie, there was a little introduction done by TCM. Robert Osbourne mentions the tensions and feud that arose between McCambridge and Crawford while filming. Crawford was said to need to be "the queen bee" on all her films. She desired to be the only star and the centre of attention. McCambridge did not like this at all, she even quoted saying how she doesn't like "bees" or "queens". The tension is clearly evident in the character interaction and adds some fire and realism to the end product. It is truly a thing to behold.

The film goes on as most westerns do, there is a town struggle and violence errupts. Confusion about a hold-up and murder of Emma's brother. Vienna being in the centre of this and blamed by Emma and the authorities for something that she had nothing to do with. Her only fault was for having a sort relationship with a man caught in the kafuffle, the Dancin' Kid, whom Emma desires.

Johnny Guitar arrives on the scene, a long-lost lover of Vienna's and too becomes caught in the middle. Will love flourish again? When there is a showdown between the 2 top tough ladies of the town, who will come out on top? The ending is really everything you want it to be.
The most interesting and impressive thing about this film, to me, is how old Crawford is in this film...49! I had to reread that a few times when I calculated it all. It's almost hard to believe that at that time, with the stunts and moves she pulls in this movie that she is that age. While at this point in her career, it's difficult to say she's a "beauty" like in her youth, she is certainly handsome. One has to look very closely for any signs of age in this film because at most, my guess who have been that she looks to be in her mid 30s. Perhaps Crawford's obsession with health and beauty routines truly paid off! I hope to look that great when I almost reach 50!

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