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#21 Lawrence

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 01:17 AM

^ I really liked reading that. Bogart and Grahame are both against type somewhat in this film. He's usually blessed with an aura of cool that Dix doesn't have here while she gets a more well-rounded character, someone who's an equal rather than an ornament, than in many of her pictures.

The title can relate to Laurel also, I think. She's found herself at a major crossroads and her relationship with Dix initially seems beneficial to both of them. What happens is nearly as disappointing for her as for him because it signals a potential loss of the brief independence she was enjoying.


Thanks Clyde, I can't bring myself to read through this thread until I have seen a few more of Ray's films, since I don't want to stumble across plot points or spoilers. I'd never seen Grahame in a film before (as far as I know), while Bogart continues to surprise me. He's thought of as playing the same role over and over and yet things turn up all the time where he does anything but. He's someone who I really want to catch up with too.

I agree about Laurel and thought that about the title too, that last couple of shots where we are close on her face, and then cut to the lonely back of Dix walking off into the night really made me consider the films title on the way home from the cinema. Johnny Guitar on Tuesday evening, another notch on my bedpost I'm thinking.

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#22 Izo

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 02:06 PM

Lawrence: I loved Johnny Guitar, and it's wormed its way into my head since I saw it a few months ago. I've found myself thinking about it more than most films.


Clyde: I was actually going to bump this thread because I watched Nightfall last night and found myself inevitably comparing it to On Dangerous Ground. A review of that one will hit the Tourneur thread soon. Anyway, I've now seen four Ray pictures: They Live By Night (I didn't think much of it at the time, but I need to rewatch this as I remember little), On Dangerous Ground, Johnny Guitar and Rebel Without a Cause. The direction of the pictures can't be faulted but thematically, I struggle to link them together. What in your estimation (or anyone else's who is very familiar with Ray's work) are his signature touches in his movies?

#23 clydefro

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Posted 26 February 2011 - 03:12 PM

^ Humanism in approaching doomed or difficult romance. In Ray's films the torment of love is usually a salve to the main characters' problems. Sometimes it's also the source. These men and women are in some way fractured souls who need to find similarly undone counterparts to share their lives, or at least some time, with, and Ray depicts them with extreme delicacy and a refusal to judge.

There's also the "I'm a stranger here myself" theme, where his characters are celebrated as outsiders and individualists who struggle to, and ultimately cannot, conform to society.

#24 Lawrence

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 05:58 AM

Johnny Guitar


As I sit in my kitchen writing this review two days after catching Johnny Guitar at the cinema, I still can't make up my mind about what I thought of it. On the down side I thought it a little overlong and very over dramatic, however I was absolutely shattered and felt like I needed to have a sleep, not watch a film. So not the best conditions to watch a slow burning drama under. The plus side far outweighs the negative though, seeing Crawford rip through everything in sight like a barely restrained pit bull is the sort of thing that would bring me back for more. The same goes for the supporting cast (i.e. everyone else), who are all acting in Crawford's formidable shadow. Special mention in particular to both Mercedes McCambridge who gives as good as she gets and stops the film from becoming lopsided, and Sterling Hayden who gets some juicy lines and as one of the greats is always watchable.

I get the feeling that maybe Nicholas Ray's films are always better on second viewing, after all that was definitely the case with In a Lonely Place for me, so maybe it's the same with this. The thing is I've never been a huge fan of melodramas, and if Johnny Guitar is one thing it's a melodrama. It's also one of the strangest films to ever have a western tag hoisted upon it, all those usual things that one comes to expect from a western are either absent or shoved way into the backround. If anything this is an anti western, or a western turned inside out. For a start the whole film centers around the power struggle between Joan Crawford's Vienna and Mercedes McCambridge's Emma. The men in the film only exist as part of the females stories. Now that's quite odd for a start. Back in the dark ages of the 50's women were homemakers, wives, mothers or sex symbols, very rarely would they be portrayed as anything else, especially in films, where they only really existed as a crutch for the male characters. Well that's all turned on it's head here, along with quite a bit else.

This isn't your gunslinging, set 'em up at the bar, head 'em off at the pass style western. No-sir-ree-Bob. Ray chooses to keep the majority of the action firmly out of the audiences view. The robbing of the stagecoach at the start of the film is shown from way up high, so that you can't really see what is going on. The same goes for the bank robbery in the middle of the film, we cut to two characters talking outside rather than stay with the action inside. The real action in this film comes via the friction between Vienna and those around her. Vienna is as feisty as any female character I can think of. She's saved from a hanging by Sterling Hayden (the Johnny of the title), but within five minutes has returned the favour by hiding them both in a silver mine.

Crawford is wonderful, she has the dramatic poise of a silent era star, for most of the film she is in the dead center of the frame. She also hardly gets any profile shots, almost all of her dialogue is spoken facing the audience. It's kind of weird, but this isn't a film that feels in any way steeped in realism. I don't really know enough about Ray nor feel that I've seen anywhere near enough of his work to be able to pick out themes and suchlike. There seems to be a love of outsiders and stubborn loners though, along with vivid splashes of colour. He's good at starting and ending films too, this one begins with a huge explosion and ends like all the other Ray films I've seen, rather ambiguously. He doesn't seem to deal in absolutes, and it feels as if his films continue long after the credits have rolled.

I was struck by the similarity between this film and Sergio Leone's epic Once Upon a Time in the West. The idea of a new town waiting for the arrival of the railroad so that it can spark into life, and the obvious strong leading lady. I'll probably have more to say after I've watched this for a second time, with a cup of coffee and a bit more of an idea of what awaits me.

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#25 Izo

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 04:29 PM

Party Girl

I will not hesitate to call this film an absolute masterpiece, and far and away my favorite of the Ray films I've seen thus far. It's phenomenal, with flawless performances from top to bottom and some exceptionally strong writing. But that's not all. The movie is pure and simple one of the most stunningly gorgeous films to simply look at that I've ever seen. Several times the film stops dead for dance numbers that really don't belong anywhere within the narrative framework, and yet we don't mind because they are just so beautiful. I particularly liked the bit with the two trumpet players.

One of the best films of the '50s.

If my short rant seems a little less than academic (ha!), I apologize, but my reaction to this film was far too strong for me to be especially critical about anything on my initial viewing. I'm sure I'll have more interesting things to say when I watch it again.

#26 clydefro

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 08:52 PM

^ Not much fodder for commenting on, but great to see your enthusiasm nonetheless. There are things I don't love about Party Girl but the film is so beautifully ingrained in Ray's cinematic world, pretty much for the final time, that I wouldn't hesitate to call it an essential part of his body of work. Also, it's the best film relegated to the Warner Archive.

The key Ray movies that follow the same pattern of doomed love between damaged individuals are: They Live by Night, On Dangerous Ground, In a Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar, and Party Girl. Rebel Without a Cause, The Lusty Men and Bitter Victory all share parts of this same theme, but, to me, feel less primarily concerned with that aspect.

#27 Izo

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 09:12 PM

^ Not much fodder for commenting on...


I apologize. I've always felt that sometimes a movie just hits you the right way and objective analysis becomes impossible, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

I will say this: the musical sequences reminded me of the two songs in Rio Bravo, which feel like they were included for no reason other than the fact that Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson were cast in the parts. I don't mean that as a criticism, though, as that is one of my all-time favorite scenes in one of my all-time favorite movies. What I mean is that Cyd Charisse was just a hell of a dancer. Her performance in this movie was a bit of a revelation for me.

#28 clydefro

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 09:27 PM

Not need to apologize. Trust me, any comment of praise in this thread is greatly appreciated. I almost desperately want people to discover Nick Ray and On Dangerous Ground and Bitter Victory and so on, and tie it all together, and realize how unique of a filmmaker he was. The reason, I think, that Godard was so in love with Ray in the '50s was that he recognized how much of himself Ray was putting into his movies, that he was inserting pretty much the same ideas into all of his pictures but doing so in clever, diverse, and impacting ways. That deep idiosyncrasy of Ray's was lifted by Godard but the difference was that the latter remained cold and unapproachable whereas Ray's humanism was transcendent.

#29 Izo

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Posted 08 April 2011 - 09:42 PM

I almost desperately want people to discover Nick Ray and On Dangerous Ground and Bitter Victory and so on, and tie it all together, and realize how unique of a filmmaker he was.


I understand. Its the same reason I post so much in the Tourneur thread.

On Dangerous Ground is a fascinating film. It really is almost like two films forced to be one, and yet it works all the better for it. The first half is so brutal and claustrophobic that the second is downright jarring by comparison. And on top of all of this Robert Ryan gives one of his absolute best performances and the absolutely breathtaking Ida Lupino does the same. If I preferred the urban first half of the film, it's only because I was so taken aback by the brutality, as I was in Party Girl, really. It's not that there was anything graphic in either film, but references to acid being thrown in a woman's face weren't exactly the norm of the period, were they?

#30 clydefro

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Posted 18 July 2011 - 09:48 PM

Two important book notes. First, Bernard Eisenschitz's absolutely essential Nicholas Ray: An American Journey is back in print and available in paperback now from University of Minnesota Press. Also, a new book on Ray has just been published. Written by Patrick McGilligan, Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director is now out in hardcover. I'll be ordering my copy soon.

#31 clydefro

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Posted 06 August 2011 - 10:30 PM

Today (August 7th) is the 100th anniversary of Nicholas Ray's birth. Little will be made of this day specifically but there are several things of note planned for later in the year. TCM is shining the spotlight on Ray in October, airing many of his films. The reconstructed We Can't Go Home Again is playing at the New York Film Festival before also being shown as part of a special event at Film Forum.

I'll predict that the Warner Archive might release some of its unavailable-in-R1 Ray holdings like Born to Be Bad (which has recently come out in R2 via Odeon), The Lusty Men and Wind Across the Everglades.
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#32 Izo

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Posted 31 August 2011 - 01:44 PM

We Can't Go Home Again will be getting a release from Oscilloscope after the screenings, along with a new documentary about the film directed by Susan Ray called Don't Expect Too Much.

#33 Izo

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 01:37 PM

I watched In a Lonely Place yesterday, and while my favorite remains Party Girl (I'm probably the only one), it's a great film. Bogie's great. Grahame's great. Blah blah blah.

What I find most interesting about Ray's films, and it's really been true of each one that I've seen, is that the movie at first appears to be one thing - in the case of In a Lonely Place, a murder mystery - but the focus will shift to the always-doomed relationship that represents the true core of the film. In On Dangerous Ground, the search for the murder is completely forgotten once Robert Ryan meets Ida Lupino, and a similar situation happens in On Dangerous Ground. In a kind of wonderful way, all of Ray's films are like variations on the same riff.

#34 clydefro

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 01:49 PM

Run for Cover, a Ray-directed western starring James Cagney, is getting released by Olive Films, and on Blu-ray even.

#35 Izo

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 06:49 PM

Nice. Last I heard that was one of the last Rays you hadn't seen. It's been available on Netflix. Have you watched it yet?

#36 clydefro

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 08:49 PM

It and King of Kings are the only two films Ray directed that I've not seen. I've been tempted by the Netfilx stream but am now glad to have waited. It was a VistaVision release and Netflix is using an old 1.33:1 job. It's a tough choice to decide sometimes between seeing a film in its wrong aspect ratio or not at all (and hoping for an opportunity to see it properly) but I usually opt to wait. There's so much else to watch that the thought of compromising bugs me.
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#37 Izo

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 09:19 PM

Agreed. It's one that's been in my queue for a while, but I haven't watched it yet, so I'm glad to know it's in the wrong AR. I kind of got burned by that on China Gate, as well.

#38 Izo

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 09:25 PM

King of Kings is so readily available, I'm surprised you haven't seen it yet!

#39 Izo

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Posted 23 April 2012 - 11:30 PM

Did anyone watch We Can't Go Home Again when it played on TCM a while back?

#40 clydefro

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 09:14 PM

Did anyone watch We Can't Go Home Again when it played on TCM a while back?


I did. Was there something specific you were wondering about it?




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