by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Johnny Guitar (1954)

Movie Grade A-

McCarthyism Connection Grade B+

McCarthyism Connection
"Johnny Guitar (1954) is a film about the House Un-American Activities Committee, the fear of communists and the drive to have members of the Hollywood community name names.".  Grant Tracey


Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) travels to a saloon owned by his former lover, Vienna (Joan Crawford)..


Jack   A-
Roger Ebert   --
IMDB    7.5

   If you were expecting to watch a Western, the first time you watched "Johnny Guitar" you were probably disappointed. It's hard to put it into a genre. The characters wear guns and ride horses so I guess it is a Western, but it is much more than that.

   The movie is a thinly veiled examination of McCarthyism. The marshal says, "Either you side with them or with us". "I'm not taking sides with any one Vienna, you can't stay on the fence no longer". Later he says, "You've got a rope around your neck son. You better talk".

   Emma, the McCarthy figure said , "Just tell us she was one of you, Turkey, and you'll go free".

   Vienna said, "They're men with fingers and a coil of rope around their saddle bags, looking for someone to hang and after riding for a few hours they don't care much who they hang. Johnny adds, "A posse feels safe because its big".

   Ward Bond (had something in common with his character in this movie, he cooperated fully with the HUAC. Sterling Hayden also cooperated with the Committee but came to regret it later in life.

Roger Ebert, in a review for his Great Movies series, said, "The dynamic of their investigation and their attempts to force townsfolk to testify against one another form an allegory squarely aimed at the House Un-American Activities Committee, which in 1954 was trying to force alleged communists to "name names" of other alleged communists; the screenplay was ghosted by the blacklisted Ben Maddow. A significant moment comes when Johnny Guitar acknowledges his own name."

   Johnny Guitar certainly isn't your typical Western, but it certainly is a most interesting movie.