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“Johnny Guitar”: National Film Registry #20

Joan Crawford, once the queen of the MGM lot,  had one of her very best late-career roles in the film “Johnny Guitar” which was added to the National Registry in 2008.

“Johnny” is a unique and one-of-a-kind Western which Michael Schlesinger attempts to get a handle on by saying:

“There are very few films—especially from Hollywood studios—that truly deserve to be called sui generis. But ‘Johnny Guitar’ is surely one of them. Even its log line—’a Joan Crawford western’—sounds faintly ludicrous, like ‘an Ernest Borgnine musical.’ But from its humble beginning as a critically-dismissed vanity production, it has grown in stature over the decades, boosted by the likes of Martin Scorsese and Francois Truffaut (who said anyone who didn’t like it should never be permitted inside a cinema again, a severe if well-intentioned endorsement), serving as an inspiration for other films, and even being adapted into an award-winning off-Broadway musical in 2004, until it now stands as a unique combination of disparate — and none too friendly — talents managing to pull a golden egg out of a very odd duck and creating a masterwork that can still leave first-time viewers gobsmacked some six decades later. After all, name another western that has a massive following among gay people.”

Read the rest of this “Johnny Guitar” (PDF) essay.


Title:  “Johnny Guitar”

Year of Release:  1954

Year Added to the National Film Registry:  2008  (See all films added to the Registry in 2008.)

Trivia:  “Guitar” co-star Mercedes McCambridge later provided the voice of the demon in another Film Registry title:  “The Exorcist.”

This blog post is number 20 in our “30 Years of the National Film Registry” series which was launched to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Registry.  The National Film Registry selects 25 films each year showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation.  The 30th National Film Registry selections will be announced on December 12, 2018.

One Comment

  1. Reita Anderson
    December 2, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Saw this on the late fiftys, Like it then.

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