Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Johnny Guitar


Well, we continue our Joan Crawford talk this week with an actual film starring Joan Crawford, and not one merely about her.  Yup, it's time for Hit Me With Your Best Shot!  Now, much like last week's entree, this is pretty much camp fodder, but Johnny Guitar has a better reputation and a legit fanbase.  I can't pretend that I'm part of it, as I find the film to be really messy, scattered, laughable and obnoxious, but Crawford is pretty incredible here (bringing such Faye Dunaway realness to the screen) and so for that I kind of appreciate this for what it is.  What it is is a campy western with a fearless lead performance.  What it isn't is a good movie.

But it's chuck full of amazing stills because Mercedes McCambridge is so all over the place and shamelessly hysterical in the most heightened of ways, and the painted backdrops are so...PAINTED...and Crawford strikes her movie star pose every single chance she gets...so chosing one shot was really hard.

And then this happened:



I just love this moment, this look, this framed in shot and how Crawford just breathes in the whole scene without even engaging the camera.  Like, she's so engaging us without even engaging us, if that makes any sense.  She's always so aware of the audience.  I guess that's what made her a 'movie star', because I don't think we could really say she was an 'actress' (and this is not a diss to her talent at all, but there is a difference between an actress and a star).  Crawford knew we were watching her, and so she always put on a show.

12 comments:

  1. I watched this film a couple months back and found it hilarious in all its bitchy ways. This is one film where the men take a back seat and the women actually have a stand off at the end. Crawford is the only one who can shashay her shoulders. Mercedes McCambridge got a standing O from the crew from one of her speeches which sent Ms. Crawford in a tailspin. After that McCambridge could feel the wrath and could not find work for a few years. She personally blamed Crawford for this stating that Crawford used her influence on higher ups to not higher her! This film is a cult classic and these gals know how to chew the scenery

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    1. I've heard (well, I'm sure we all have) that Crawford was not a very likable person and that her relationships with co-stars was...salty at best.

      Doesn't surprise me.

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  2. It is an awesome film. Truly one of the finest and most underrated westerns ever. I need to see it again.

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    1. Well, I can't agree...cause, like...eww, but you can't deny Crawford just GOING FOR IT!

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  3. LOL at Joan bringing Faye Dunaway realness - but it's really Mercedes who brings the OTT here - she is just DELICIOUS. I love this for having such giant balls to GO THERE and be completely ridiculous. It truly represents the best of both Westerns and Melodramas, and all the uneasiness a combination of those two genres suggests.

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    1. LOL, Mercedes made me uncomfortable. She was just...IN YOUR FACE and had absolutely no restraint. This movie...it's absolutely ridiculous.

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  4. Great shot choice. I thought this movie was GLORIOUS, but I can see why not everyone would feel the same. ;)

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    1. I feel like the only person who kind of hated this :-P

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  5. First of all love your choice of shots. Crawford was fully in power by this time even with a strong director like Nick Ray in the director's chair and she knew what worked for her and what her fans expected even in an offbeat genre picture like this. And of course she had that block of wood Sterling Hayden to roll right over playing opposite her.

    Looking at her in this I can't help but wonder what happened to that softly dazzling girl from the thirties. I mean there was always a desperate ambition burning behind her eyes and a determination to both her stance and expression but over the years she slowly squeezed every ounce of femininity out of her persona until she was the shellacked shell of the Grand Guignol period of her career. In this there's still traces but she looks so at home in the butch get-up and absurd in that white dress. However even though they loathed each other off screen she and Mercedes McCambridge spar off each other in a highly entertaining way, though I'm with you that this isn't one of Ray's strongest efforts nowhere close to The Lusty Men or In a Lonely Place.

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    1. LOL, block of wood indeed!

      I really need to get more acquainted with Crawford's earliest work. I'm most familiar with her later, 40's/50's fair, so I'm anxious to see her in her earlier years.

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  6. Like all great stars that worked in the studio era many of Joan's early films are junk made quickly to keep her in front of the public interlaced with a few gems. She's really at her early best in Grand Hotel but some others worth catching are Chained, Forsaking All Others and Paid. I'm guessing you've seen The Women which is almost the 40's and from the same period Strange Cargo, an allegorical tale about an escape from Devil's Island, is interesting. Also in '32 she starred in a version of Rain which was an enormous flop but it actually an interesting take on the material now.

    If you want to go way, way back to her silents The Unknown with Lon Chaney is one twisted film or the film that made her a star Our Dancing Daughters captures her in all her mad youth glory.

    There are a couple to avoid at all costs unless you want to be a completist!! The Gorgeous Hussy, which finds poor Joan in hoop skirts and crinoline, for her a woeful mistake! Today We Live where she is supposed to be a high borne English Lady...she's not convincing for an instant and the picture is a ponderous bore and worst of all Ice Follies of 1939 where she and Jimmy Stewart! are an ice skating team!! To me, not counting the egregious twaddle she made at the end of her career, this is her worst film.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendations and the warnings!

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