There are various things that make this such an incredible film, such as Peggy Lee‘s song, the complex and refreshingly central female characters in a Country and Western film, the fact that Francois Truffaut declared it one of his favourite films… I could go on.
But what I want to talk about is Joan Crawford‘s wardrobe design in the film. Seeing Joan in her high waisted trousers and buttoned up cowboy shirts has made me suspect that I may finally be an adult. When I was 7, one of my deepest desires was for Calamity Jane to discard her leathers and fully embrace a buttercup yellow frilly dress. Tonight I gazed at Joan and applauded her (wardrobe designer’s) fine taste in tailoring and block colour. I would like to think this indicates a certain maturity of spirit.
Joan’s co-star in Johnny Guitar, Mercedes McCambridge, did describe her as “a mean, tipsy, powerful, rotten-egg lady”, but does it really matter? Film stars aren’t meant to be nice, they’re meant to be spectacular.