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Johnny Guitar

Nicholas Ray
USA 1954 / 110’

Two years prior to the release of this film, Zinnemann made High Noon, and a year before Stevens made Shane, both classic Westerns. What does Nicholas Ray do? He shoots a Western from another planet, offering one of the genre’s strangest works of the 1950s, only superficially based on the classic schematic. Ray plays with the film’s visual aspects (color variations), sexual symbols, as well as men’s and women’s figures. The lead heroine is a hard-hitting saloon owner (Joan Crawford), a sometime vamp deprived of sex appeal, who is struggling against thugs (not necessarily of the opposite sex), aided by her lover and superb gunslinger (the precious Sterling Hayden), who would gladly forget about having ever held a gun. The film flopped in America, while Godard and other French New Wave filmmakers hailed Ray a genius.

Marcin Pieńkowski

Nicholas Ray

Nicholas Ray is a Hollywood legend and outsider beloved by French New Wave filmmakers, who saw in him one of the most important auteurs of American cinema. He shone with Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean, and his oeuvre brims with existential and fatalistic noir films (In a Lonely Place, They Live by Night), Western variations (Johnny Guitar, The True Story of Jesse James), bold social commentary (Knock at Any Door, Bigger than Life), war movies (the great Bitter Victory), and even high budget biblical cinema (King of Kings). He stopped directing regularly in the 1960s, but would return with unusual films such as his avant-garde take on America in We Can’t Go Home Again or the mockumentary Lightning over Water made (on his deathbed) with Wim Wenders.


1948 Żyją nocą / They Live by Night

1949 Pukać do każdych drzwi / Knock on Any Door

1950 Pustka / In a Lonely Place

1952 Nieokiełznani / The Lusty Men

1954 Johnny Guitar

1955 Buntownik bez powodu / Rebel without a Cause

1956 Ponad życie / Bigger than Life

1957 Prawdziwa historia Jesse Jamesa / The True Story of Jesse James

1957 Gorzkie zwycięstwo / Bitter Victory

1961 Król królów / King of Kings

1976 We Can’t Go Home Again

1980 Film Nicka / Lightning over Water

Prepared by: Marcin Pieńkowski

Cast & Crew

director Nicholas Ray
screenplay Philip Yordan
cinematography Harry Stradling Sr.
editing Richard L. Van Enger
music Victor Young
sound T.A. Carman , Howard Wilson
cast Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge
producer Nicholas Ray
production Republic Pictures
sales Hollywood Classics
source of print Action Cinémas
language english
colouration colour