Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Paid off my boys and I'm closed...

This post is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series in which the participants must post a single image from a movie he or she deems as the "best shot" for any particular reason.

If more Westerns were like Johnny Guitar, I probably would've seen a lot more films in the genre. Alas, Johnny Guitar is atypical in its camp and more especially in giving two of its best roles to women, specifically Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge. Crawford plays Vienna, an enterprising saloon owner, who faces the ire of the locals who consider her an undesirable outsider. McCambridge's character Emma is an old-time rival of Vienna who seems hell-bent in fueling the fire (and literally does later in the film) of suspicion on Vienna and anyone who associates with her. Their back-and-forth animosity and sniping are my favorite parts of the film even if McCambridge's Emma is a little too one-dimensional in her hysterical villainy.

With that said, McCambridge really gives it her all, with her facial expressions and body language, as evident by all of the above shots of (mostly) her, all of which I strongly considered for my best shot. The one at the bottom left especially where she's flanked by her mourning attire wearing posse is such a striking shot.

But my best shot is from the exact same sequence since after all who is the posse and Emma looking at but a smirking Vienna in all her piano-playing glory...

Best Shot

There were many different iterations of this shot. Some slightly closer, a few further away. Her head would sometimes be turned away, etc. Any and all of those shots would be a fine pick since the things that make this a great shot are constant in this sequence. First, there's that wonderful white dress of hers which is juxtaposed beautifully with the rock and earthy background (a gorgeous production detail on its own) as well as the all-black-wearing lynch mob she's addressing. Her makeup, posture, attitude, and line deliveries do the rest as she hilariously takes her enemies to task seemingly without a care in the world. It's a power play through and through and one that fits so perfectly with this role in this film played by this particular actress.

So now that we got that out of the way, I have an actual serious question. Can anyone tell me why this film was titled Johnny Guitar and not Vienna of the West or something? The photo at the very top of the post would be my pick for the image to go with the new and improved title. Right?


  1. LOVE this shot - it's so completely ridiculous (how is that dress so PERFECTLY white?!?!?) but brilliantly composed.

    And yeah, I have no clue as to why this thing was named Johnny Guitar. Maybe because it's his arrival that starts this whole chain of events? But even that is tenuous.

    1. When Turkey was bleeding all over her, I was pretty sure his blood on her dress was the detail that would betray her to the posse. Alas!

  2. Good choice of shot and I've never understood why the film was named after its dullest character either.

    McCambridge is seriously unhinged here. Supposedly after one particularly flashy display of acting the crew broke into applause and when Crawford heard about it she had a fit and made Mercy's life a living hell on the set and had her blackballed for years after. When asked about it years later McCambridge would only say Joan was "a rotten egg lady".


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