Gary Cooper (Will Kane)

Grace Kelly (Amy Kane)

Lloyd Bridges (Harvey Pell)

Director- Fred Zinnemann

Producer- Stanley Kramer

Screenplay- Carl Foreman

Time- 85 min.

high noon poster

Hadleyville, June 1865, a just married, and retiring Marshall (Cooper) stands alone in the fight of his life against four killers looking for revenge, who are coming in on the noon train. A very simple story of how a town betrays the man who has been their backbone for many years, and how he decides to stay and fight with or without his new bride (Kelly), and regardless of an almost certain suicidal circumstance.

The timing of this movie and its story is remarkable. During the early 1950s the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was in full stride and Hollywood was the main focus. Many people were blacklisted from the industry during these HUAC hearings, including High Noon's screenwriter Carl Foreman for not revealing names of the so-called Communist sympathizers. Ironically Foreman's script is in actuality a symbolic gesture of what he was all about: A man has to do what a man has to do, even if he is all alone in his fight for what is right.

Aside from the controversy, this classic western is similar to most others as it has that same good vs. bad storyline. However it has that something that keeps us watching the movie over and over again after all these years. Yes, the acting is first rate, especially Cooper in his Oscar winning performance. The western feeling is definitely there, with the haunting score by Dmitri Tiomkim, as well as the brilliant editing by Elmo Williiams. But one thing stands out above all the rest: it's simplicity. This movie has captured something that brings us into the picture and onto the dirt roads and grimy saloon of Hadleyville. Firstly, the running time at approximately 85 minutes is in exact correspondence to the actual story time. This gives us a sense of realism that can't be beaten. We experience the tension Will Kane feels as 12:00 noon appoaches. Secondly, the call of duty aspect may seem ridiculous for today's times, however if our hero didn't stay it would have eaten him alive, and inevitably he would have returned some day. And finally, the ending is justified as each person in the film including all the residents of Hadley ville get what they deserve, and especially the viewer, as we are witness to a simple yet extremely satisfying piece of motion picture art.

There are great American Westerns in cinematic history… however, High Noon, even with its simplicity, stands alone on top as the greatest.

Last modified on Sunday, 07 June 2015 15:49


0 #1 Darryl Tahirali 2013-02-16 22:16
An iconic American film, not just a western, to be sure. The real-time aspect to High Noon was very effective and influential; the "ticking-clo ck" idea showed up a little later in the fine western 3:10 to Yuma, for example.

Good mention of how Carl Foreman's travails with the House Un-American Activities Committee (no "of" in its name, by the way) is mirrored in his script as the man standing alone for his ideals.

However, you missed another, perhaps greater irony: Gary Cooper had also testified before HUAC early in its existence--a s a "friendly" witness. Cooper was a political conservative and a staunch anti-communi st who spoke out early about "communistic influences" in Hollywood even during World War Two, when the Soviet Union was ostensibly allied with the West, and Hollywood had been indeed making pro-Soviet films (for example, The North Star and Mission to Moscow) for the war effort.

Cooper had claimed that he had turned down numerous scripts because of their alleged communist ideas or sympathies, and thus High Noon has been embraced across the political spectrum as symbolic of whatever ideal you hold to be true or right. Cooper also played architect Howard Roark in the film adaptation of The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand's novel about another "rugged, idealistic individual," with Rand the current darling of the political right in the United States (and, rock fans note, a primary influence on Rush drummer and songwriter Neal Peart).

Finally, I don't know that High Noon is the greatest American western. I'd pick The Searchers first because its story is more nuanced and intriguing that the straightforw ard simplicity of High Noon even if its narrative does tend to wander. High Noon is one of the top westerns, though; its director, Fred Zinnemann, went on to direct one of my favorite films, The Day of the Jackal, which, come to think of it, also has a "ticking-clo ck" premise to it.

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