Although their is a video link to later Moviedrome host Mark Cousins (1997-2000) introducing this film, I could not (once again) find a video link of earlier Moviedrome host Alex Cox (1988-1994) introducing Nicolas Ray’s 1954 cult cross-gender western Johnny Guitar. Nevertheless, as usual, you can read the transcript for his intro here. The episode’s original airdate was July 10, 1988 (read here). I am sorry but Cox is totally wrong on this one. First off, the film’s cult reputation lies in Ray’s and screenwriter Philip Yordan’s (adapted from Roy Chanslor’s 1953 novel of the same name) audacious blend of camp and social commentary that has earned it a cult reputation over the years (read here). Johnny Guitar is not so much a revisionist western as it is an intentionally vicious parody of one. For example, despite rescuing anti-heroine Vienna (Joan Crawford) twice, actor Sterling Hayden’s title character comes off as uncharismatic throughout. In fact, he and the rest of the male cast are upstaged by the two lead actresses of the film – Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge, who plays the villainous Emma Small. Taking all of this into consideration, one is tempted to call Johnny Guitar (in some respects) a feminist western. But then again, that is still heavily debatable. Some people I know who adore Johnny Guitar have even implied that it can be praised as a western with lesbian overtones. Again, still heavily debatable. At the same time though, others (critics and viewers alike) have viewed it as a social commentary on McCarthyism (read here). Debatable or not though, Johnny Guitar does work on all of these levels. What Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly from one year later (read my review here) did for 1950’s film noir, Johnny Guitar does for 1950’s westerns. In this case, Johnny Guitar can best be viewed as a 1950’s western with openly anti-fifties tendencies. If any of you readers are interested in reading my list of my favorite Nicholas Ray films, read here.
Here is a youtube link to Johnny Guitar’s original theatrical trailer