Welcome to The Daily Cup a movie blog/writing project by Kyle B. Dekker, presented by Hot Chocolate Media. You can read series concept here. The basic rules, Kyle must watch 365 movies in 2018 and write about all of them. 292 of them have to be movies he's never seen before. Thanks for reading.
I’m a big fan of westerns, but I haven’t watched many from the 1950s, their veritable heyday in American cinema. My western tastes tend to stick to the more stylistic and violent spaghetti westerns and such from the 1970s. I plan to watch quite a few 1950s westerns during this projects, and my first in Johnny Guitar (1954).
Starring Joan Crawford as Vienna, a single woman who has built her own saloon and casino in the middle of nowhere. Positioned to become very rich once the railroad comes to town and her land is needed to help prosperity grow. This, along with her saloon attracting less than desirable outlaws has put her at odds with the local ranchers. The ranchers are lead by the angry and spiteful Emma Small played by Mercedes Cambridge. A huge conflict ensues between the women and the men around them are drawn into it.
The film itself is very simple, all of the action takes place in just a handful of locations, big action sequences are at a minimum, and there are relatively few characters. Director Nicholas Ray crafts a compelling story with a small tool box, it works so well because the western backdrop is just there as a basic veil to call out some ugly politics happening in America in the 1950s.
This film came out at the height of McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee. An ugly era of blacklisting in Hollywood and an attack on media and artists from reactionary politicians. The character Emma Small is hell bent on destroying Vienna and her band of less than desirable outlaws, even without proof or evidence of any of their wrongdoing. But she will get her way, even if she has to lie, and twist the words of others to get what she wants. If you want more insight into this way to view the film I highly recommend Roger Ebert's review of it here.
The performances in this film are fantastic. Most notably from Joan Crawford and Mercedes Cambridge. Each woman’s seething hate of each other is very evident on screen, And my study of the film indicated there was real tension between the actors off set, kudos to the director for getting that to work on screen. I was also excited to see Ernest Borgnine on screen as a ethically challenged outlaw who crosses many lines by the end of the movie. He is one of America’s finest character actors of all time, and is great here.
This was a really great film, an interesting story of conflict and mob mentality dressed in a western robe. Packed with fantastic performances and tension filled scenes where actors stare each other down till one of them breaks. Add in that the entire film is a send up of McCarthyism and communist witch hunts in Hollywood and Johnny Guitar is a must watch for any classic film lover.
Movies new to me watched: 21/292
Other movies: 7/73
Total movies watched: 28/365
Have your own thoughts or opinions on this movie? Comment below or contact Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @kbdekker.