Johnny Guitar

Nicholas Ray

It. tit..: Johnny Guitar; Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Roy Chanslor; Scen.: Philip Yordan; F.: Harry Stradling; Mo.: Richard L. Van Enger; Scgf.: James Sullivan; Co: Sheila O’Brien; Mu.: Victor Young; Su: T. A. Carman, Howard Wilson; Int.: Joan Crawford (Vienna), Sterling Hayden (Johnny ‘Guitar’ Logan), Mercedes McCambridge (Emma Small), Scott Brady (Dancin’ Kid), Ward Bond (John McIvers), Ben Cooper (Turkey Ralston), Ernest Borgnine (Bart Lonergan), John Carradine (Old Tom), Royal Dano (Corey), Frank Ferguson (sceriffo Williams), Paul Fix (Eddie), Rhys Williams (Mr. Andrews), Ian McDonald (Pete), Will Wright (Ned), John Maxwell (Jake), Robert Osterloh (Sam), Frank Marlowe (Sam), Trevor Bardette (Jenks); Prod.: Herbert J. Yates per Republic Pictures; Pri. pro. Novembre 1954. 35mm. D.: 110’. Col.







T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes


“He who one day realizes what remembrance is remains an eternal prisoner of one and the same remembering.” This quotation from Kierkegaard refers to the distinction proposed by The Banquet between remembrance and memory, and it was useful to me more than forty years ago in arguing the idea that the cinema of Nick Ray is a cinema of remembrance. We know, for instance, that when Sterling Hayden asks Joan Crawford, “How many men have you forgotten?”, Joan Crawford does not respond to him with another question like “How many women do you remember?” but answers him in the same spirit and says, “As many as you remember?”. Or it could be, “As many as you. Remember?”. We discover, for example, that Turkey does not die because of his loyalty divided between Vienna and Kid, but because he is unable to find a place for himself (like Plato in Rebel without a Cause) in those years, months and days not shown in the film and that gave him the look in his eyes when he lived alone with the two and before the arrival of Guitar. For this reason he decides to shoot, after having been made to choose between “Dancing Kid” and Vienna, telling them, “You’ll miss me”. For this reason, the man who enters with music (memory) into that space of remembrance (Guitar, evidently) responds to him with still more violent gunfire, justifying himself by saying, “I had the feeling that the boy wanted to destroy the house”. He had done so already before and had destroyed much more than Turkey’s loves and betrayals, the reflection of other ones that are new only because all that is new is responded to and questioned. (…) To see the images of Johnny Guitar is to see the remembrance of them. For someone who sees the film for the first time, it is still a matter of seeing again. Because all the characters do nothing else. And what do they re-see? The five years which we do not see, of which we know nothing for certain, and which passed between Guitar’s leaving one saloon and his entry into another. The five years that have given Vienna bitterness, Johnny exhaustion, Kid despair, Emma frustration and hatred, Turkey the first unrequited love, and as a consequence, certain death. The five years that created these eyes, these voices, this time, this space. Each one sees them until they die, and those who survive (Vienna and Johnny) know that that they will not find another life “wherever they go”, “wherever they stand”. Is Johnny Guitar a film constructed as a flashback on an enormous ellipse? Or is it an enormous ellipse constructed on a flash that cannot come back? Or is it one and the same thing?

João Bénard da Costa, Nicholas Ray, Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museu do Cinema, Lisbon 2007. 

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