May 30, 1954 [Johnny Guitar]
They wouldn't have lasted five minutes in Johnny Guitar.
Nicholas Ray splashes bloody red all over Joan Crawford, who draws herself up like a praying--preying?--mantis--maybe the latter, since prayers don't seem to be in her eyes--but not simple predation, either--no Vamp she, but a true Western hero, standing her ground. Mercedes McCambridge scowls on the other side of the room, grows wild, like the barroom villains of saner Westerns--while the good guys wear black, and the bad guys sleep with the heroine--Crawford's Vienna running her saloon as though it were Tara, a legacy and a dream, hewn from rock and just waiting to be burned to the ground.
The psychology of sex roars along, tragic--like the Greeks, like Freud--because no one quite understands themselves, or each other. Sterling Hayden as Johnny Guitar captures this perfectly, his retired gunslinger embarrassed that he needs to be a good man, so tall he has to duck. But they all wear stiff clothes and masks, and stride as though Sophocles had drawn a map to the Dancin' Kid's secret hideout, where the men hang back while the women shoot it out, ids and egos strewn all over the place.