Johnny Guitar | Chicago Reader

Johnny Guitar

110 minutes 2010

Nicholas Ray's great sur-western (1954), in which, as Francois Truffaut put it, the cowboys circle and die like ballerinas. For all its violence, this is a surpassingly tender, sensitive film, Ray's gentlest statement of his outsider theme. Joan Crawford, with a mature, reflective quality she never recaptured, is the owner of a small-town saloon; Sterling Hayden is the enigmatic gunfighter who comes to her aid when the townspeople turn on her. Filmed in the short-lived (but well-preserved) Trucolor process, its hues are pastel and boldly deployed, and the use of space is equally daring and expressive. With Mercedes McCambridge, unforgettable as Crawford's butch nemesis, as well as Ernest Borgnine, Scott Brady, John Carradine, Royal Dano, Ward Bond, and Ben Cooper.

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