Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Johnny Guitar (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Johnny Guitar (1954)

In Nicholas Ray's off-beat Western and bizarre psychological film for Republic Pictures, often called a 'lesbian western' and a visually-excessive melodrama:

  • the entrance of gun-crazed drifter and reformed gunslinger Johnny Guitar/Johnny Logan (Sterling Hayden) during a sandstorm into a deserted Arizona saloon with a guitar strung over his shoulder - and later, his description of his own identity to inquisitive gunslinger The Dancin' Kid (Scott Brady) (saloon-owner Vienna's former lover) during a robbery of the local bank - Guitar declined to get involved: "Besides, I'm a stranger here myself" - these were words that would reverberate throughout the remainder of the film
The Introduction of Saloon Owner Vienna -
Confronting Vigilantes Led by Rival Rancher Emma Small
Emma: "I'm going to kill you"
Vienna: "If I don't kill you first"
  • the introduction of the main protagonist - non-conformist, strong-willed, drag-queen-looking, deserted Arizona saloon-owner Vienna (Joan Crawford), who often wore masculine clothes: a black shirt, a string tie around her collar, pants, and boots; she was described as very manly by her saloonkeeper employee Sam (Robert Osterloh): "I've never seen a woman who was more a man. She thinks like one, acts like one, and sometimes makes me feel like I'm not"
  • the scene of Vienna's descent down the stairs of her casino, with a gun threat to a group of intolerant 'good guy' vigilantes, led by blood-lusting, mean-spirited, sexually-repressed, bull-dyke rancher Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge), who displayed hostility and animosity toward a new casino on the outskirts of town - Vienna cautioned: "Down there, I sell whiskey and cards. All you can buy up these stairs is a bullet in the head. Now which do you want?"
  • the scene of Emma's face to face warning: "I'm going to kill you" and Vienna's reply: "If I don't kill you first!"
  • Vienna's 'love scene' with ex-lover Johnny Guitar from five years earlier in her past - a relationship of attraction and repulsion; he asked: "How many men have you forgotten?"; she responded: "As many women as you've remembered"; he asked for her to tell him something "nice": "Lie to me. Tell me all these years you've waited....Tell me you'd have died if I hadn't come back...Tell me you still love me like I love you"; when she was forced to comply (without feeling), he briskly said: "Thanks. Thanks a lot!" She smashed his drink glass, and claimed that she struggled on her own to build her saloon, and that life was now different: "Stop feeling so sorry for yourself. You think you had it rough. I didn't find this place, I had to build it. How do you think I was able to do that?... I want you to know. For every board, plank and beam in this place...No, you're going to listen...You can't shut me up, Johnny. Not any more. Once I would have crawled at your feet to be near you. I searched for you in every man I met." He claimed that they could still be married and end the 'bad dream': "It's just like it was five years ago. Nothing's happened in between...Not a thing. You've got nothin' to tell me, cuz it's not real. Only you and me, that's real. We're havin' a drink at the bar in the Aurora Hotel. The band is playing, we're celebrating 'cause we're getting married. And after the wedding, we're getting out of this hotel and we're going away. So laugh, Vienna, and be happy. It's your wedding day." She finally agreed that she had waited for him, and was finally relieved for his return: "What took you so long?" and she sobbed in his arms as she kissed him
  • the sequence of Emma and her gang's seizure of Vienna to lynch her, and the burning down of Vienna's casino
  • the film's show-down challenge and ending - when Johnny Guitar rescued Vienna from the lynch-happy posse of vigilantes led by Emma; the two female leads faced off with a bloody one-on-one pistol duel on the porch of The Dancin' Kid's secret hideaway cabin (after a bank robbery), and although Vienna was wounded in the shoulder, she shot and killed Emma. Johnny carried Vienna away for a new life, as Peggy Lee sang the title song with the words: "There is no one like my Johnny."

Arrival of Gunslinger Johnny Guitar

Flashback to Guitar's Past Affair with Vienna

The Burning of Vienna's Casino

Emma's Lynch Mob Posse

The Final Challenge and Face-Off Between Vienna and Emma


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