Johnny Guitar

Starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden and Mercedes McCambridge
Written by Ben Maddow and Philip Yordan
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Production Year 1954
Running time 110 minutes

 Francois Truffaut called this extraordinary and eccentric film 'The Beauty and Beast of Westerns - a Western Dream' .
It tells the story of a female saloon keeper played by Joan Crawford, her liasion with a bandit called The Dancin' Kid and her battle with Emma Small, a revenge-obsessed local cattle rancher. The baroque and stylised script was by blacklisted screenwriter Ben Maddow and references the bigotry and intolerance of the Communist witch hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy that were prevalent at the time. Maddow's name was replaced with that of Philip Yordan for release.

 The film's iconoclastic director Nicholas Ray is idolised by many notable directors of the modern era including  Martin Scorsese, Pedro Almodovar, Wim Wenders and Jean Luc Godard. After Johnny Guitar, Ray went on to make Rebel Without A Cause - one of the key films of the 1950s and influential to this day. It starred James Dean, whose performance and character in the film  means he remains  a powerful cultural icon.

 The Acton Film Club has never screened a Western in the 3 years since it started - this kinky and delirious blend of Freudian symbolism, alpha females and cowboy action seems the right place to start...