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A Pride Month screening

Johnny Guitar

Dir: Nicholas Ray, 1954, U.S.A, English, 110 mins, Cert: PG

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Thu 27 June // 20:00

Tickets: £5 (full)

Book tickets

Directed to within an inch of its life by Nicholas Ray (one of the key figures in the French New Wave’s critical re-evaluation of American studio cinema), Johnny Guitar is a berserk Trucolor Western, featuring a blazingly butch central performance by Joan Crawford, supported by fellow Hollywood weirdo Sterling Hayden (of later Dr Strangelove “Have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?” fame).

Intended as a critique of McCarthyism, Johnny Guitar was derided on release for its overcooked style. But now, 70 years later, it's a beloved and admired product of the Hollywood unconscious - and a camp classic that is referenced both overtly and implicitly in Pedro Almodovar’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (playing at the Cube on Sunday 30th June). 

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Hard-nosed Vienna (Joan Crawford) owns a saloon frequented by undesirables including Dancin' Kid (Scott Brady) and his gang. Another patron of Vienna's establishment is Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden), a former gunslinger and her lover. When a heist is pulled in town that results in a man's death, Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge), Vienna's rival, rallies the townsfolk to take revenge on Vienna's saloon - even without proof of her wrongdoing.

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Johnny Guitar is one of the cinema’s great operatic works, meaning it is pitched from beginning to end in a tone that is convulsive and passionate. There’s really no other film quite like it.” - Martin Scorsese

Johnny Guitar is not really a Western, nor is it an 'intellectual Western'. It is a Western that is dream-like, magical, unreal to a degree, delirious.” - Francois Truffaut