High Noon (1952) Poster

(1952)

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10/10
Remarkably well-organised western in which not one single second is wasted and the tension is built up admirably.
Jonathon Dabell16 April 2006
John Wayne was totally wrong to call this movie un-American. Courage and cowardice are universal emotions, and the attitudes of the characters in High Noon are, I think, incredibly truthful and telling. I know that if I lived in the Wild West, had a job and family, and was asked to stand up and fight against a gang of gun-toting psychos I would probably not be able to do it. That's why Gary Cooper's Will Kane is such a remarkable character in terms of self-respect, morality and inner strength. It's the way he MUST uphold the law even though it will perhaps cost him his wife and his life. It is the various townfolk with whom most of us will identify, even if it makes us feel shame or unworthiness to admit it. No matter how bravely we act, nor how much we want to think heroically of ourselves, 90% of us would cower in the shadows when the time came to do what Will Kane does in this movie.

On his wedding day, dependable lawman Will Kane (Gary Cooper) has just handed in his badge and is preparing to leave town with his bride Amy (Grace Kelly) when he receives devastating news. An old adversary, Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), has been pardoned for crimes that he should have hanged for and is on his way to Kane's town of Hadleyville to get revenge. He is due on the noon train, leaving Kane one hour to either run for his life or make preparations to fight. Kane and Amy set off at full gallop, hoping to put some miles between themselves and danger, but Kane doesn't get far before he feels compelled to turn back. With the new sheriff not due for a day, he just can't let go of the extraordinary sense of duty and responsibility he feels towards his town. However when he gets back to town he gets quite a shock - for no-one has the guts (nor, in some instances, the inclination) to fight alongside him against the Miller gang. As time ticks unstoppably towards noon, Kane gradually realises that if he's going to stop Miller and his boys, he's going to have to do it alone!

Cooper's performance is extremely powerful and he received a thoroughly deserved Oscar for it. Kelly is good as his bride, although many viewers will find her character hard to like. Lloyd Bridges has a brilliant early role as Kane's deputy, while the very best of the supporting pack is Katy Jurado as a Latino woman whose "history" with most of the men in town puts her in an unenviable position when the shooting starts. Fred Zinnemann directs the film outstandingly, making each scene fit into the grander scheme of things with literate precision. Any aspiring young film-maker wanting to learn how to pace a film correctly should watch High Noon with a close eye, for it is unparallelled as the most perfectly paced film of all-time. The music by Dmitri Tomkin - plus that incredible ballad "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling" by Tex Ritter - is just one more element that makes High Noon one of the great masterpieces. There's nothing else to say - if you haven't already, go out and see this film NOW!
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10/10
superlative 50s western
didi-522 March 2004
Gary Cooper's greatest role, at 50, as the newly-married sheriff, Will Kane, left to fend for himself against his returning enemies, abandoned by the town he remains loyal to, and played out in real time through its 90 minute running time.

Ably supported by Grace Kelly as his pacifist Quaker wife, who discovers love and right triumphs over long-held preconceptions; Katy Jurado as Kane's former mistress, a fiery Latino type; and Lloyd Bridges as the feisty deputy; Cooper runs away with the acting honours. The theme tune by Tex Ritter is also worthy of note.

‘High Noon' works because of its tightly written script, its cracking pace and crackling tension. I've seen the film many times and always see something different to notice and admire; still, I'd love to see it again for the first time and not know the twists and turns, not know how it ends. A fabulous film – one of the best.
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"I've Got To. That's The Whole Thing."
stryker-515 July 2000
The sombre ballad, the beleaguered marshall, the cold wife who deserts her man within an hour of marrying him ... "High Noon" is part of everyone's consciousness.

Will Kane is the veteran lawman of Hadleyville, a small Kansas town that used to be the playground of bad men, notorious among them one Frank Miller. "This is just a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere," but Kane cleaned it up. Five years ago he had Frank Miller committed to a distant federal court on a murder charge. Today, as Kane weds his quaker bride, news arrives that Miller is free and heading for Hadleyville. His henchmen gather at the depot, and it becomes clear that Frank will arrive on the midday train, looking to settle scores with the marshall who arrested him. Should Kane leave town with his bride, thus avoiding trouble for himself and for Hadleyville? Or should he stay and face the Miller gang? Will the citizens rally round their marshall?

John Wayne famously criticised the film for being 'unAmerican', in that (in his view) a frontier community would not desert its lawman so abjectly. Implicit in Wayne's malediction is the notion that mainstream movies should promote wholesome patriotic values - a notion that led in Wayne's case to the debacle of "The Green Berets". Zinneman's acclaimed film probes the ugly side of human nature, "sifting out the hearts of men".

Zinneman and Director of Photography Floyd Crosby devoted a lot of care to the look of the film, effort that paid off handsomely. From our first view of Lee Van Cleef as an ominous shadow on the horizon to the climactic cuts which seem to accelerate the arrival of the fateful train, this is a movie which speaks through images. The arid, flat expanses of Kansas mirror the impassive sky, and the town's rickety structures seem puny against the bleak magnificence of nature. Human wishes are vain in the face of Fate. Rail tracks extend with cruel exactitude into the distance, converging in perspective upon the vanishing point, the symbolic spot whence Frank Miller will materialise. Lurking in the depot's shade, the dark presence which is the Miller Gang bristles with malice.

Zinneman is not afraid of extreme close-ups, which he uses to reinforce moments of emotional power (Kane realising that he has no support, Helen refusing to beg). He shoots Kane predominantly from below waist height, stressing his tall, erect stance as a symbol of moral authority. Compositions are tight and attractive throughout.

Gary Cooper was fifty-one years old and quite ill when "High Noon" was shot. He is, in truth, too old for the part. Gregory Peck had turned it down, and it is fascinating to imagine Peck as Kane. There is no rapport whatsoever between Cooper and Grace Kelly, and they make unconvincing newly-weds. "I won't be there when it's over," says the blushing bride, and though the script tries valiantly to give Amy a motivation (she became a quaker after seeing her menfolk gunned down), the abiding impression is of Kelly's prissy coldness.

"High Noon" is, for an action western, surprisingly strong on character. The judge (Otto Kruger) is clear-headed about running away from the Millers, and argues his position powerfully, yet his authority is punctured by his actions as he speaks - lowering the Old Glory, and concealing the scales of justice. Lloyd Bridges is excellent as Harvey, the deputy whose moral vision is clouded by lust for Helen and immature resentment of Kane. Katy Jurado never looked lovelier than here, playing the fallen woman Helen Ramirez who loved and lost Kane - and loves him still. A young Harry Morgan is Sam Fuller, the self-important coward who cannot face Kane. Marshall Howe (Lon Chaney Jr.) is the retired lawman who is now embittered and counsels Kane against throwing his life away for the sake of these undeserving citizens - "They just don't care!" In a cameo of pivotal importance that must have been great fun to play, Howland Chamberlain is the bitchy hotel desk clerk who hits Amy with a few home truths. James Millican is Herb, the dependable deputy who vacillates when the chips are down, and Jack Elam makes a fleeting appearance as the town drunk who sleeps through the entire drama.

One interesting plot development is the strange alliance which forms between Kane's two women. They meet in Helen's hotel room and decide to leave town together. Significantly, as they ride past Kane in the buggy, it is Helen who looks back, not Amy.

It has been suggested that "High Noon" obeys Aristotle's three unities, especially that of time, the depicted events being capable of fitting into the film's ninety-minute span. Clocks are everywhere in Hadleyville, and the passing of the minutes is constantly emphasised. My only observation is, it remains ten minutes to twelve for an unconscionably long time.

"The day cometh that shall burn like an oven," we are informed, and I for one found the film's climax rather disappointing after the intense build-up. "It's our problem because this is our town," declares a local worthy, but neither he nor anyone does anything about it. Zinneman's great crane shot, about halfway through the film, speaks more eloquently than the hollow words, zooming back to show a silent, friendless street, and one upright man, utterly alone.
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10/10
A Man Who Won't Run Away
SnorriGodhi29 May 2006
For me, Will Kane embodies the American ideal of a hero: a man who stands up for what is right, even when nobody else does, even when the temptation is strong to stick the head in the sand.

Will Kane explains his outlook at the outset: there is no point in running away if that means spending the rest of your life watching your back. His best chance is to face his enemies on his home ground. At this point, he still thinks that honest folk will stand by him. The rest of the movie is a study in character: will he stand his ground when his entire world crumbles around him?

It is puzzling that Howard Hawks, John Wayne, and others thought of High Noon as un-American. I am not sure if this is because of the allegory of the McCarthy era; or the people of an American town collectively sticking their heads in the sand; or the Marshal throwing his badge to the ground in the last scene.

Clearly, the movie does not criticize McCarthyism itself. (It has nothing to say about communism, either.) It appears to criticize the people who did not stand up to McCarthy and the HUAAC, but it can equally well be seen as a comment on the appeasers who did not stand up to fascism or communism.

In any case, not too much must be made of the anti-appeasement angle, because the townsfolk is not the primary focus of the movie: the focus is on Will Kane. When the townsfolk behave like cowards, that gives Will Kane a chance to prove that he is a hero. If the town had stood by the Marshal, we would have seen, at best, an excellent Western like Rio Bravo, but not a masterpiece like High Noon. For Will Kane to be a hero, it is necessary that he stands alone.

No statement can convey the dramatic impact of Will Kane throwing his badge away, but it is worth discussing what this gesture means. For me, it means that the town and the badge were not worth fighting for. Will Kane fought for principle: he fought because he does not run away.
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High Noon assessment
MFK8019 September 2004
High Noon is for me one of the two finest Westerns ever made (the other is Shane). It is an elemental commentary on the best and worst of America, the best and worst of mankind. It is Greek tragedy and Shakespeare brought to the Old West in a grandly simple form. Gary Cooper is superb and the supporting cast is outstanding as well (although I wish Grace Kelley would have spoken without the artificial sounding school-girl accent, something which marred so many of her otherwise fine performances). I do not read into the film a commentary on events of the 1950s, specifically the ongoing investigations by Congress of left-wing activities. High Noon transcends such specifics as this. I know John Wayne called the film un-American but I must disagree. I have great respect for the Duke but think he got this one wrong. Weak, timid people are everywhere and the strong are often few and far between. Goodness and right often prevail because a small minority insure that they do. All benefit from the courage of the lonely hero whether they realize it or not. Hign Noon is a testimony to this truth.
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10/10
Tense and Suspenseful Western
Claudio Carvalho18 March 2018
On the day of his wedding with Amy (Grace Kelly) and simultaneous retirement of the position of Marshal, Will Kane (Gary Cooper) receives a telegram advising that the criminal Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) had been released from the prison. Now he is coming to the town in the noon train to kill Kane, as he promised in the judgment. Kane arrested Frank five years ago and he was sent to North to be hanged. However he was sentenced to life and for some unexplained reason, Frank was pardoned and released. Three other gunmen are in the station waiting for Frank. Having less one hour and half to organize his defense, Kane tries to organize a posse but sees every citizen turns back to him, in a cowardly way and he stands alone against the killers.

"High Noon" is a low-budget western with a tense and suspenseful storyline. The tension is built in real time and Gary Cooper has an outstanding performance in the role of a Marshal moved by his duty to protect the town that does not deserve him. It is sad to see his former friends finding excuses to turn down his request for helping. The performances are top notch and the viewer gets tense while the clocks show the fatidic noon coming. Grace Kelly is astonishing beautiful and finds redemption in the conclusion when she saves Kane. The final scene when Kane drops his badge on the dirty floor is memorable. "High Noon" is certainly one of the most credible westerns of the cinema history and might be one of the best. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): 'Matar ou Morrer' ('To Kill or To Die')
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The definitive western movie
Bill-30831 January 1999
This is the definitive Western. There are other excellent Westerns of course ("The Unforgiven," "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," "The Searchers," "My Darling Clementine," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" come immediately to mind), but none tops this one. Even though the difference in age between Gary Cooper and Grace Kelley makes the thought of their marriage seem a little kinky, it's easy to buy into the story. Katy Jurado is sexy, Lloyd Bridges is callow, and the townspeople mean well, but when push comes to shove, they reveal their cowardice. (If you remember the scene in "Blazing Saddles" in which Van Johnson says, "Howard Johnson is right," you'll almost certainly laugh at an inappropriate moment in "High Noon." ) "High Noon" is a textbook example of the storyteller's art. The drama begins with the opening credits and doesn't let up until everyone's true character has been laid bare. This one is suspenseful and thrilling, and I find more to admire with every viewing.
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10/10
A Classic Western and More
21561127 October 2003
Warning: Spoilers
HIGH NOON is a movie that can be taken down from the DVD or Tape shelf and played again and again. Gary Cooper fans will find this to be one of the best, if not THE best, Cooper performance. The plot, the performances, the brutal series of events leading up to the final show down gun fights all contribute to a feeling one has that it truly is noon day with a relentless sun beating down. This is a Western which almost makes one smell the dust of the town streets. The sheer masculinity of Marshall Kane is beautifully balanced with superb feminine grace and strength found in Grace Kelly and Katy Jurado. Ian MacDonald's Frank Miller comes across as a villain par excellence. This is a perfect presentation for black and white. Color would have diminished the sense of impending death that builds relentlessly with each coward's refusal to help Marshal Kane. The film emphasizes that triumph often comes with a price. In the end, Kane removes his lawman's badge and throws it down into the dust, and he rides off with his Quaker bride who must forever live with the fact that she took a human life in violation of her religious convictions. Courage and valor do not come easily.
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10/10
Timeless
sjlanca13 November 2004
I just watched this movie again. I have no idea how many times I have seen this movie over the span of my 52 years (yes I was born the same year the movie was released). Each time I have seen it, of late, I continue to develop a greater appreciation for it. I normally liked to be lightly entertained by a movie. This movie provides a glimps at so many varied characters, showing such a variety of emotions and complex personal issues. This is no-nonsense, un-contrived, straight forward story telling, at its best. I truly enjoy the restrained use of dialogue. It is amazing how much story is told with so few words, in a limited running time. WOW, I love it.
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10/10
"Oh, To Be Torn Twixt Love And Duty"
bkoganbing22 April 2006
On Marshal Gary Cooper's wedding day to Grace Kelly, Lee Van Cleef, Sheb Woolley, and Robert J. Wilkie wait at the train station for the noon arriving train. It will be carrying their former gang leader, Ian McDonald who Cooper sent to prison and who's vowing vengeance.

From the gitgo it's made abundantly clear that these are four nasty dudes who the town ought to deal with expeditiously. But the good elements of the town have grown fat and lazy and content to throw the responsibility of law and order on Cooper's shoulders. And he's quitting anyway, going on his honeymoon with his Quaker bride. A new marshal is going to arrive the next day. Why get involved. They want Cooper to just take his problem elsewhere. That view is probably best expressed by Thomas Mitchell in the scene at the church.

Speaking of the scene in the church my favorite business in High Noon is when preacher Morgan Farley tells Cooper how dare he come into the church because a few hours earlier he didn't see fit to get married in that church. What a set of priorities.

Grace Kelly had her breakthrough role in High Noon. She's a Quaker with deeply held pacifist principles. She's marrying a lawman, but one who's quitting that life. Her best scene in the film is with Katy Jurado who is Cooper's former gal pal. Katy explains the facts of life to Grace about marriage and the duty of standing by your man, long before Tammy Wynette ever sung about it. When the time comes, Grace does the right thing.

Like his rival in western films, John Wayne, Gary Cooper had one of the great faces for movie closeups. Back in the day it used to be a running joke about how Cooper's dialog used to be just "yep" and "nope." It was a good deal more than that. But High Noon's plot is carried quite a bit by the many closeup shots of Cooper. His face tells more than ten pages of speech and it keeps the tension of the film going. Man did not win two Academy Awards for nothing.

Of course the theme of High Noon is also expressed in Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington's Academy Award winning song, sung at times during the film by Tex Ritter. However the big hit record of the film was from Frankie Laine. I doubt there has ever been a movie theme song that expressed everything you needed to know about the motivation of the central character in the film. I don't think High Noon would have attained the classic status it has without that song.

Another great performance in the film is Lon Chaney, Jr. as the former town marshal, old and cynical, who'd like to help Cooper out, but at his age and health realizes he'd be more of a hindrance. He's the only one that Cooper understands and forgives.

The final gun battle is choreographed like a ballet, it's that good. Maybe the best ever filmed. Can't describe it, you got to see it.

The interaction of the town's responsibilities for maintaining law and order and Cooper's personal pride and integrity have been dealt with in various ways in other films. I'd check out Rio Bravo, Warlock, Death of a Gunfighter, Welcome to Hard Times, all of these take a different slant on the same themes.

But personally I've always liked what the townspeople did in a Frank Sinatra film, Johnny Concho. That's what the people of Hadleyville should have done right at the start.
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10/10
I don't get it
gatsby061 July 2007
I am puzzled; how can anyone rate this as less than a 10? Can anyone find a single flaw in this movie? Any way it could have been better? This is the gold standard by which Westerns should be measured, not to mention any drama. It simply doesn't get any better than this.

As film, High Noon does an exceptional job of giving depth to characters quickly. The situation defines their character. Katy Jurado' role is one of the exceptions, where there is more talking, but we see unfold an exceptionally interesting person.

How many movies can you watch repeatedly over the years as you grow up and grow old that continue to move you and continue to reveal new depth and meaning? That is the measure of art.

This movie is timeless, and has a lesson for humanity of all eras and all nationalities. It will be watched a hundred years from now, a thousand years from now, if civilization survives that long. The message of this film is that this is not at all certain. It is up to us.

I suspect the reason some people down-rate High Noon is not for the quality of the film, but the message. Like John Wayne, they just don't like what it says about America.

Well I've got bad news for you, John, the Frank Millers have killed the sheriff and now run this country. The gang has gotten elected president and vice president. And the townspeople and ministers acquiesced like sheep or even actively supported it as "good for business."
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9/10
Citizen Kane
jotix10029 August 2004
High Noon is one of the most loved films of all times thanks to the elements that came together to make it the classic that it is. The movie owes a lot to Fred Zinnemann for his tight account of this story by Carl Foreman. The film benefits from Dimitri Tiomkin's great score and the great cinematography by Floyd Crosby.

This is a film that packs a lot of symbolism because of the times when it was done. Those were the days of the communist hysteria where many people in the industry were accused, tried and lost jobs because when they faced the HUAC and Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Gary Cooper plays a man who is decent enough to return to the town where he just has gotten married and has finished his tour of duty. His conscience doesn't let him leave his post as he delays his plans and goes back to defend the town from the bandit who's been freed by Northern judges, and is coming back to seek revenge from Marshal Kane and the town.

Gary Cooper embodied the all Amercian hero. He was an actor who could do no wrong, as he proves in his take of Marshal Kane. We see him as the clock is ticking away toward noon time when the train will arrive in Hadleyville. We see him perspire as he goes around trying to get people help him deal with the problem, to no avail; he will have to do it himself. In the process, he clearly disappoints his new bride, who is horrified at the prospect of losing the man she clearly loves.

Grace Kelly was such an elegant figure that it's hard to imagine she would be in Hadleyville at all! Katy Jurado was also excellent as the jaded Helen Ramirez, the woman who owned a lot of businesses in town. Also effective, Thomas Mitchell, as the mayor of the town and Lloyd Bridges, as Harvey.

This is a film to treasure.
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9/10
"A person is smart but people are dumb panicky animals and you know it"...
calvinnme23 August 2016
...a quote from Men in Black that applies here if it ever applied anywhere.

Gary Cooper plays marshal Will Kaine, who turns in his star immediately after he marries Amy, a Quaker girl (Grace Kelly). Upsetting the celebration is the news that killer Frank Miller is due on the noon train and his first order of business is to kill Kaine, a man who Kaine helped send to prison five years ago and swore blood vengeance at the time. The three members of his gang are waiting at the depot. Miller escaped hanging, got a long sentence, and some knuckleheads on the parole board have turned him loose. At first Kaine is with the popular sentiment - Run!. But then he realizes that Miller will lay waste to the town if he isn't there - the new marshal isn't due in until the next day - plus Miller will hunt him down wherever he is - Kaine will always be looking over his shoulder.

He goes around looking for deputies to help him make his stand. Oh, everybody talks about what a good job Kaine did, but nobody stands up for him. They have all kinds of excuses. That a shootout will cause investors from the east and north to think their town is just another shoot em up town, that if Will isn't there Miller will just leave etc. In the end the result is NOBODY stood by him in his hour of need, in spite of the fact that many in the town owed their lives and fortunes to Kaine cleaning up the town.

The best device in this movie - added after a preview called the film dull - is the constant showing of the clock, ticking away the precious minutes Kaine has. And he is a human hero - because you can tell dying is on his mind, running is on his mind, but in the end he stays to face his enemies. The scene towards the end, with him standing in the middle of a dusty abandoned main street as the camera pulls back just to show how alone Kaine is in this battle is iconic.

Where is his wife you might ask? With a ticket in hand to get on the next train out. At least Grace Kelly's character has a reason for her pacifism - her newly found Quaker faith. What she fails to realize is that unless you are willing to be a slave you have to be strong enough that you can afford pacifism.

There are some great performances here. There is Lon Chaney as the old sheriff who Will goes to for help. The old sheriff has the best excuse of all - he is just too old for this. Will would be looking after him instead of himself. Then there is Lloyd Bridges as one of the most unlikeable characters in film history. He's Kane's ex-deputy Harvey Pell and he is a weasel without the cuteness factor. He is tired of living in Kaine's shadow, just a little jealous that Kaine had Harvey's girl before he had her, very resentful that Kaine would not recommend him to be the new marshal. But here is his chance - if Kaine runs, Kaine is no better than he is. That is why he beats Will up trying to put him on a horse towards the end of the film. He doesn't want Will to live, he wants him to run, to somehow prove he is a coward.

And you have to love the townspeople thinking that this will just "all go away" if everybody hides. The first act of the foursome of gunslingers when they hit town is not to kill Kaine, but to smash a store window and take a woman's bonnet that one of the killers fancies - an act of theft. They'll be stealing more than stuff by nightfall if nobody stops them.

Highly recommended.
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7/10
Venting about High Noon (spoilers)
donaldgilbert28 March 2011
I don't expect that my two cents will alter the critical acclaim for High Noon but I just want to get this off my chest: for all of the suspense building up to the big shootout, the shootout itself is a disappointment. I'm rooting for Coop, of course, but the bad guys either had terrible aim or terrible judgment. Instead of showing just how justified the fear was for 75 minutes in the final ten, these so-called dangerous men strolled in without any caution, missed shots from 10-20 feet away, and let Will Kane draw and shoot first every time. On top of that, Coop took 'em down easy for the most part.

I understand that it was more about the first 75 mins and less about the last 10, but the last 10 has to support the previous 75. That's how I feel, anyway. But no matter- I suppose folks back in 1952 had less expectations for a good film.
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9/10
Sure I know how you feel, but you're doing it just the same
Maddyclassicfilms14 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
High Noon is directed by Fred Zinnemann, has a screenplay by Carl Foreman and stars Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Ian MacDonald, Katy Jurado, Lee Van Cleef and Lon Chaney Jr.

High Noon skilfully makes us think about how much we can really rely on our friends to stand with us no matter what.Gary Cooper took home the Oscar for Best Actor for his work here as the abandoned town Marshall Will Kane and audiences couldn't get enough of Tex Ritter's theme song "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling".Floyd Crosby provides the brilliant black and white photography.

In the pleasant town of Hadleyville respected town Marshall Will Kane(Gary Cooper)is marrying beautiful young Quaker Amy Fowler(Grace Kelly)when he learns that an ex con he helped put behind bars is free and will be arriving to kill him on the Noon train. Said convict is Frank Miller(Ian MacDonald)who used to run the town and make life hell for the inhabitants.

Will and Amy at first get ready to run away,but the Marshall decides against it and remains to fight trying to get other townsfolk to stand with him.No one helps him and with time running short Kane must arm himself and hope for a miracle.

The performances are superb with Cooper perfectly playing a decent man succumbing to desperation and anxiety as one by one the people he thought he could count on leave him alone.MacDonald is chilling as the Gunslinger out for revenge,and future Western bad guy Lee Van Cleef makes his debut as one of Miller's henchman who never says a word.Katy Jurado is perfectly cast as the wealthy Mrs Ramirez a former girlfriend of both Kane and Miller who will not stick around to watch the Marshall possibly get gunned down.

The off screen drama was as exciting as the on,with Cooper and Kelly having a passionate affair and Cooper suffering from a bleeding ulcer yet refusing a stunt double for various fight scenes.Impressive and thought provoking,High Noon is a story that could fit easily into any genre not just the Western and remains as meaningful today as it was on it's release.
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8/10
A wonderful tract on cowardice; not quite so good when showing bravery
Daniel R. Baker12 November 1999
Life was going well for Will Kane, Hadleyville's town marshal. He'd cleaned up the city and made it safe. He'd sent the badmen packing or to prison. He'd just hung up his star and married beautiful young Amy Fowler, surrounded by his loving and loyal friends, and he looked forward to a peaceful life with her as a storekeeper. And Then It Happened.

A telegram reaches him to let him know that Frank Miller, an outlaw killer whom Kane thought was to be hanged, has been pardoned and will arrive at the Hadleyville train station at high noon. Three of his old time bandit companions are waiting for Miller there, and they will surely come to kill Kane when Miller arrives.

At first, Kane prepares to run. But he realizes that the killers will come after him and Amy; they have to be faced, and it might as well be here and now with a posse at his back. So Kane pins his badge back on and goes to his friends and neighbors for help in facing the badmen, but most of them turn their backs on Kane.

This movie gives a brilliant examination of the cowardice of Kane's fellow townspeople. The person who remains most mysterious is Kane himself. Courage, as I understand it, is the ability to ignore one's fear in order to do what must be done. Kane is afraid, and he is able to ignore his fear, but why does he think that he must fight? Does he feel a duty to protect Hadleyville, even though it has spurned him? Is he convinced that, no matter where he runs, he will still have to fight the four killers alone? Does he believe that running from any situation, no matter how impossible, is unmanly and dishonorable? Would he have fought ten men? A hundred? A million? Kane himself doesn't seem to be entirely sure. He clearly has very strong morals, but lacks the ability to explain them. Even when a man asks him to cheat the new sheriff out of a job, Kane refuses, but can't explain why, merely saying, "If you don't know, there's no use in me telling you." When someone asks him why he says "I've got to" fight the killers now, he frankly admits that he doesn't know.

Lloyd Bridges is excellent as Harvey Pell, Kane's former deputy and the first man Kane approaches for help. When Pell cravenly abandons Kane to his fate, Bridges is wonderful at showing his guilt. One of the best parts of the movie is where Pell tries to allay his guilt by trying to get Kane to run away; if Kane won't fight, Pell thinks his own cowardice will feel more excusable.

Grace Kelly, in her first major role, is quite good as a woman whose Quaker religion compels her to pacifism, and cannot understand her husband's need to meet violence with violence. Even better is Katy Jurado as the beautiful, tempestuous Helen Ramirez, who understands Kane far better than Amy does. Harry Morgan portrays Sam Fuller, a deputy so gutless that he not only won't face Frank Miller, but won't even face Kane to tell him so. And Thomas Mitchell is great as the town leader who subordinates Kane's life to the economic future of the town.

As an allegory for the Hollywood blacklist, HIGH NOON is pretty weak. Kane is not falsely accused of subverting the town's welfare; the whole emotional power of the plot is based on the fact that the townsmen refuse to help him even though everybody recognizes that he has done nothing but good for Hadleyville. The killers, on the other hand, are openly lawless and evil, not poseurs pretending to protect the townsmen by their persecution of others. Still, whatever its flaws as an allegory, HIGH NOON is one heck of a great western and a great story.

Fred Zinneman did a very good job on directing the movie, with one exception. Throwing out the usual Western orchestra for Dimitri Tiomkin's lonely guitar music was a good idea, but it is used far too much. It doesn't take long to get tired of Tex Ritter's sing-song drawl. But the use of clocks for suspense, particularly in the climactic montage, is a masterstroke.

HIGH NOON ranks as one of the top ten westerns I have ever seen. It is worthwhile renting for just about anyone, regardless of whether they are fans of the genre.

Rating: *** out of ****
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10/10
A Western of rare achievement!
Nazi_Fighter_David8 January 2000
Warning: Spoilers
For many, Gary Cooper was the Westerner par excellence—cool, taciturn, courageous and just; skilled with a gun but slow to use it; gentlemanly, generous and shy, appealing to men as much as to women... This image reached its culmination in "High Noon" with his characterization of Marshal Will Kane, the brave and stubborn ex-marshal standing alone against the forces of evil, and the prototype for countless Western heroes ever since...

Highly-stylized, carefully and beautifully shot, "High Noon" possibly owes its great popularity to a combination of three things—It's a suspense film in the real sense; the dearly beloved set-piece climax of the gun duel never got better or more thoughtful treatment; it has a theme tune that persistently whines its way into the subconscious... Most people first remember the Dimitri Tiomkin theme tune, then Gary Cooper stalking down the lonely street… The bits and pieces gather from there… The film also ties a small town of do-nothings showing their cowardice by turning their backs on trouble, integrity, and an elected representative...

"High Noon" is also distinguished by many fine images from the incidental (the brief close-up of the wagon wheel revolving against the town's facades as Cooper and Kelly leave the community); to the poignant ( Zinneman's camera drawing back from Cooper's face to show him standing vulnerable and alone in the dust of a deserted main street); to the deliberately melodramatic (Cooper bitterly grinding his marshal's badge in the dirt before riding away for good ).

By means of rapid cross-cutting, Fred Zinnemann gives shots—repeatedly—of the pendulum of the clock, of the empty railroad tracks, and in rapid succession, shots of tense faces—taken at close range—of the townsfolk in the church, in the local saloon, then of the worried face of the marshal, his wife, and of the three criminals ready for the approaching train...

"High Noon" is the simple and forceful tale of an aging lawman on his day of retirement and also on his wedding day...

Will Kane, on a blazing June morning in 1875, has just married a pretty young Quaker girl... The bride feels doubly blessed... She's got her man, and this is the day he will hang his guns... She has firm Quaker convictions and never did imagine herself as a lawman's wife...

But, while it's all being celebrated a badly shaken stationmaster (Ted Stanhope) bursts in with quite the wrong kind of wedding telegram... It states that an outlaw Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) whom Kane had put behind bars six years ago for terrorizing the town has been released... The stationmaster adds that three members of his old gang are already awaiting his arrival at the depot—their object a reunion with the pardoned man who will get off the train at noon, and presumably settle the score with Kane...

The marshal, like a sensible man, does, in fact, put his wife in the buggy, but then like a man of honor but also a sensible man (for the gang will surely hunt them down wherever they go) changes his mind and heads the horses back to town…

A bride, especially a Quaker bride, can't quite see it this way on her wedding day so she hands him her own ultimatum—if he won't go away with her she'll go alone by train—the one that leaves at twelve...

Everything on this torrid, dusty morning therefore hinges on midday—therefore Kramer's insistence on his clocks. From this point onwards High Noon, although it remains completely classic in Western terms, faithful to period and concerned with an indicative historical situation, takes on wide and profound implications…

It's about group cowardice and short-term interest—particularly the treachery of so-called 'good' people… 'Law abiding,' you feel, doesn't mean what it should mean… When a group of people decide that they must passively refuse to support the law for reasons of personal preservation, who, in fact, are the outlaws?

Thus the marshal's predicament… He is an embarrassment to everyone, from Judge (Otto Kruger)—he's leaving town—to the humblest citizen of Hadleyville… Only one is ready to give assistance and he melts away when he finds there'll be no other volunteers… The marshal's immature deputy (Lloyd Bridges) is willing to take over his job—again, provided Cooper leaves town… But this is absolute ambition at work…

The build-up of tension as the lawman prepares to meet the four thugs and makes fruitless attempts to recruit help from the cowardly citizens has never been handled better, and it is sustained right up to and through the climactic gunfight as the lawman's bride finds herself trapped in the crossfire...

Filmed in Black and White, "High Noon" is among the ten Best Westerns ever made... The film achieved the shape of a democratic allegory which reached people in much the same way and for the same reasons that "The Best Years of Our Lives" had done... Its cutting suspense was the hallmark of Zinneman's mastery of the movie medium...

Gary Cooper's performance, as the very vulnerable, worried man, won him the year's Oscar...
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6/10
Predictable, with the depth of a mediocre TV Western teleplay
zetes7 May 2002
Three criminals wander into a Western town to wait for the 12:00 noon train to arrive. Their leader, Frank Miller, will arrive on it and together they will get revenge for Miller's jail time (he was supposed to be hanged). The man who put him in jail is Will Kane (Gary Cooper). He has just been married (to Grace Kelly) and is about to leave town, but he figures he can't while those criminals are there to start trouble. He goes back to raise a posse to take the outlaws before they can do anything. No can do, though. Everyone else is out for him/herself, and they all either refuse or ignore Kane when he asks them to be deputees.

High Noon telegraphs its every move ten minutes in advance. There's nothing special about it, and its themes are rather trite. It would be passable if any of the performers were good. It's actually kind of depressing, considering how good some of them are elsewhere. I loved Gary Cooper in Meet John Doe, but he seems really uncomfortable in High Noon. We never really learn anything much about Kane, and Cooper only helps us know less. Grace Kelly is particularly bad. To tell the truth, she was never a great actress. One year later, in John Ford's Mogambo, she gave an equally neurotic and unbelievable performance. Only in Hitchcock's films, in particular Rear Window, did she shed that nervous quality. Lloyd Bridges - well, maybe it's just me, but I can never find him effective in a drama. He was so much better when he got older and started to do comedy like Airplane. Perhaps the only one on par with the rest of his career is Thomas "Doc Washburn" Mitchell.

The villains are particularly pathetic in High Noon. I know, the "real villains" are those who refuse to fight, but the film would have been infinitely stronger if Frank Miller and the other three thugs had some personality. When a movie talks about a villain for 3/4 of its run, and then he appears without any bells or whistles, it's sure to disappoint. When the obligatory gunfight arrives, it's nothing if not boring. I longed for the dramatic effectiveness of the shootout in My Darling Clementine.

High Noon is a film made with some skill. The cinematography is good. For some reason, it always got really good when they would cut over to the three outlaws waiting for Frank Miller. Those three actors always seemed to be standing in some clever composition. The only thing about High Noon that I would rate as exceptional would be the music. It's quite good, if a bit overused (especially during the gunfight sequence; again, I think back to the beautiful and harrowing silence of My Darling Clementine). Overall, I don't hate High Noon, but just feel it is weak and definitely overrated. 6/10.
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7/10
Film Editing 101
evanston_dad28 June 2006
"High Noon" is a text book on how to edit a film brilliantly, but it's awfully cold and impersonal as a movie. It creates a tremendous amount of suspense, but the whole movie is gimmick, and the suspense is empty. As most people know, it takes place in "real time," so there are lots of cut aways to clocks underscored with thumping music, and montages of reaction shots of all the principal characters looking pensive. But stripped of its novelty after a first viewing and the fact that its gimmicks have been ransacked countless times by other movies over the years, there isn't much to revisit.

I suspect Gary Cooper's acclaim in this role came from people who were tickled to see an iconic movie actor playing an iconic movie type, rather than because he created a flesh-and-blood human being that anybody really cared about. He's not required to do much but look resigned and stoic, which to his credit he does well. But I don't know how much of a PERFORMANCE it is.

It's cool to like "High Noon" because it's been interpreted as an attack on McCarthyism, but that's not enough to make the film relevant today. It's certainly not a bad movie, and I get why it's viewed as an important one. Movies like "High Noon" are necessary, because they introduce new ways of doing things and add new phrases to film language. It's just that, with some historical perspective, it's obvious that it wears its schematics on its sleeve.

Grade: B
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4/10
Overrated Western
doug-balch25 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Like "Shane", "High Noon" is another Western that has ridden to film critic heaven on the back of Oscar victories. It's up to me to point out that the emperor has no clothes. I'm not saying it's a bad movie, just that it is overrated.

Let me start with the positives:

  • The movie is well paced. There is good tension. Most characters are well developed. It is well acted.


  • Katy Kurtado, who has the only quality supporting role as a Mexican store owner/slut, has a great line where she tells Lloyd Bridges that Gary Cooper is better than him because "Hees a mehn!" Loved that.


  • OK, I'm done with positives now.


Here are the negatives:

  • The basic plot doesn't make sense. This movie is often referred to as an example of an individual's steely resolve to stand up against wrong, even though abandoned by friends and society. But Kane runs like a rabbit as soon as he finds out the Millers are coming. It's only when he gets a couple of miles out of town that he realizes that he only has an hour head start on them. He tells his wife that they have no choice but to go back to town. "They'll just catch us alone out in the open prairie," he says to Grace Kelly. "My only chance is to stay in town and get help".


So, Kane did not stay out of principle. He stayed only because he had no other choice.

Yet for the rest of the movie, Kane doesn't make that argument to the townspeople. In the final church scene, there are seven or eight men who are strongly inclined to support Kane. However, town elder Thomas Mitchell wants to avoid bad publicity and tells Kane the solution is for him to run.. Why doesn't he reply to Mitchell, "You're telling me to commit suicide, it's too late to run. I need help now and you guys owe it to me". Surely if he made that simple, compelling argument, his supporters would have come to his aid. Instead, he just glares at everyone and storms out.

  • The Grace Kelly character makes absolutely no sense. How can she abandon her husband five minutes after she marries him because four guys want to kill him? He already told her that to leave town was virtual suicide.


  • The age difference between Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper is disturbing and distracting. She looks like she's fifteen, he looks like her grandfather. Cooper was only 50 when they made this, but sadly, he was not a well man at this stage of this life. He looks closer to 60 in this movie.


  • Kane's the hero of the story, but he's hard to admire. He seems too afraid of the bad guys. Also, he only prevails after his Quaker wife dry gulches Ben Miller. Critics wax poetic about this aspect of the movie, telling us that "High Noon" was the first "anti-Western", where the hero isn't brave.


Fair enough, but I don't like anti-Westerns. I'm a Western fan. If I was anti-Western, I would watch musicals or romantic comedies, not "High Noon".

  • The principal heavy is almost completely uncharacterized and is off screen for most of the movie. When he finally shows up, he looks like an accountant on vacation at a five star dude ranch. Only "Butch Cassidy" has a more poorly developed bad guy.


  • What's so interesting about this movie being a metaphor for the HUAC investigation of communists in Hollywood? Who cares?


  • And while we are on that subject, if this is movie such a liberal metaphor, what's with the tirades against weak courts releasing murderers? Isn't that a right wing rant? My head was spinning through this whole movie. "Hounding Communists is bad and so is trial by jury."


  • This is a strictly back lot "town" Western. While movies with similar story lines obviously have few opportunities to film scenic backdrops, may directors find ways around this (George Stevens in "Shane", for example). This movie feels less like a real Western and more like a intellectual Broadway stage play with cowboy hats and spurs for props.


  • There is not an iota of comic relief. I mean nada, niente, nothing. I read that Jack Elam's drunk had a comic scene deleted. Was this to keep the movie to its gimmicky "real time" length? If so, it wasn't worth it.


  • Another plot hole. Mrs. Ramirez is so afraid of Frank Miller's vengeance upon her that she fire sales her business and skips town. She then proceeds to deliberately catch Miller's eye at the train station. He hardly seems to recognize her, much less attempt to punish her for her sins against him. Maybe Kane should have bought a train ticket too. It seems to provide full protection against ex-con gunslingers bent on revenge.


And while we're on that subject, why would the Miller gang let Kane's wife waltz out of town on the train? Their many friends in town would surely point her out to them. Another reason Kane can't run. He has to stay to protect her, even though she's abandoned him for.....well, for staying to protect her? Like I said, the plot is irrational.

  • The ending was much too abrupt. Another time saving measure?


  • Finally, I'd like to know how the burning barn mysteriously extinguished itself. At the end all the townsfolk are crowding around the dead bodies, when they should have been scrambling to keep their homes from burning down.
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10/10
High point of a genre
tomsview20 May 2018
A recent book about the making of "High Noon" had me rummaging in a box of DVDs in my garage for the movie.

The book was "High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic" By Glenn Frankel. I bought it after reading his "The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend". Both bring their respective films to life with background on the personalities involved and the times in which they were made.

"High Noon" opens as Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is about to leave town after marrying Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), his young Quaker bride, and retiring as town marshal. However an old enemy is due on the noonday train to join three mean-looking dudes waiting at the station. Will won't cut and run. He tries to organise a posse, but he finds everyone is busy all of a sudden. He will have to face the four gunslingers alone. Shakespeare couldn't have created a more classic scenario.

It seems producer Stanley Kramer didn't really appreciate Cooper's naturalistic acting. Not many would agree. If any role suited Coop's style it was this one - despite being old enough to be Grace Kelly's father. Grace in her first big role showed that a tight bodice with matching bonnet could be as sexy as Victoria's Secret.

Claims that a drastic edit saved the movie hurt director Fred Zinnemann who felt such claims diminished his role in the film's success. Many things made the film work, not least the music.

For any film music buff, Dimitri Tiomkin's film scores loom large. Here, Tiomkin's music combined with lyrics by Ned Washington and vocals by Tex Ritter act like a minstrel accompanying Kane, celebrating him in song as he confronts his enemies and his demons.

Frankel's book presented surprising layers of information. His research and insights into the pressure the HUAC investigations applied to Carl Foreman and Stanley Kramer put everything into context. However, for me, the most interesting aspect was the creative process behind the making of the film. "High Noon" had a tight budget, but you wouldn't know it, it's a class act all the way. Its quality shines through seven decades after it was made.
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10/10
One of the super-best!
JohnHowardReid11 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A production of the Stanley Kramer Company. Copyright 30 August 1952 by Stanley Kramer Productions, Inc. Released through United Artists. New York opening at the Mayfair: 24 July 1952. U.S. release: 30 July 1952. U.K. release: 9 June 1952 (sic). Australian release: 3 October 1952. Sydney opening at the Plaza. 84 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: Four gunslingers travel by the noon train to a small western town where they plan to shoot down the sheriff who sent their leader to prison.

NOTES: High Noon won four Academy Awards, including Best Actor (Gary Cooper), Best Film Editing, Best Music Scoring of a Drama or Comedy, and Best Song. The film was also nominated for Best Picture (won by The Greatest Show On Earth), Best Directing (won by John Ford for The Quiet Man), and Best Screenplay (won by Charles Schnee for The Bad and the Beautiful).

Other awards include two from The New York Film Critics (Best Motion Picture of 1952 and Best Direction for 1952) and the number one spot (Best Film of 1952) in The Film Daily's annual poll of around six hundred film critics in the USA and Canada. The National Board of Review rated High Noon second to The Quiet Man as Best American Film of 1952. Gary Cooper came in second to Martin and Lewis as America's top money-making star of 1952. High Noon became United Artists' top boxoffice attraction for 1952 in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia. Indeed in Australa, the picture was the second highest coin-spinner of the year. Only MGM's road-shown (at advanced prices) Quo Vadis took more money.

Locations in Sonora and at the Columbia Studio ranch. Interiors filmed at the Motion Picture Centre.

COMMENT: Definitely one of the greatest movies of all time, High Noon is surely the ultimate in cinema suspense. Foreman's taut script is dramatically reinforced by a number of key technicians, including director Zinnemann, cinematographer Crosby, and film editor Williams. If ever an actor deserved his Award, Gary Cooper comes through with full honors for his brilliant study of the loner-worn out, weary, deserted, let down-who is forced to put his own life and everything he holds dear on the line. Coop gets great support from the entire cast, particularly Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado and Lon Chaney in principal roles, whilst small-part players contribute many memorable cameos (for example, Howland Chamberlin as the sneering hotel clerk). The four gunmen are menacingly yet individualistically portayed by Ian MacDonald, Lee Van Cleef, Robert J. Wilke and Sheb Wooley.
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Quite atypical for a western
Anssi Vartiainen25 December 2017
Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) has just gotten married and is about to resign from his post. But then he learns that a notorious outlaw he imprisoned many years ago has just been set loose and is heading his way, revenge and the return of his power in mind. And he's only a bit over an hour away.

What makes this such an unusual western is the story. Sure, the setting is pure western as is the confrontation at high noon. But the majority of the film is simply Kane going around, trying to gather allies and to rally people to stand up against their one-time tyrant. It's more of a social study then it is a western.

And for what it is, it's really good. Events are shown in real time. As minutes pass for the viewer, so does the train approach. All the townsfolk are interesting and each have their own personal reasons to stand with Kane or not. Even the final confrontation, which most closely resembles the supposed genre of the film, has some good twists and things you don't see in these films so often.

An easy film to recommend.
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9/10
Watching High Noon at High Noon
ironhorse_iv4 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
High Noon is the movie that John Wayne didn't like. 'This is the most Un-American movie ever made!' He quoted about the film. He later teamed up with director Howard Hawks to make the great Rio Bravo (1959) as a counter-response. Neither Hawks nor John Wayne liked that Western, which was embraced by film critics. Both director and star felt that the film's defeatist spirit severely deviated from their idea of what the Real West was all about. The biggest complains that Wayne had, was the Marshall putting the United States marshal's badge under his foot and stepping on it. Walking away from his job, as the Marshall did, was inconceivable to Wayne's commitment to responsibility and public office. In my opinion, it's a great western direct by Fred Zinnemann, starring Gary Cooper as Marshall Will Cane. John Wayne was a fool. I never liked his over-acting, and he played up the big "military man" persona even though he dodged the draft. Props to him for popularizing the Western genre, but he was wrong with this. Still, I agree with some things he says about the film. I believe that the good, honest American people should had stand by and shouldn't left Will Cane go out alone to face the gunmen that were not only threatening him but the peacefulness of the town itself. Wayne thought an American town would stand up with Cooper against the bad guys. I agree. The pacifism that the film was mistaken as Communists message as the communist were promoting pacifism in the U.S at the time. I really doubt that. The movie contains highest praise of free society, free speech, hence of all iron and noble American values in the first place! It's a story of heroism. Released at an unfortunate time, got falsely misinterpreted as anti-McCarthy propaganda, which it never was meant to. Honestly, I don't see how the movie is anti-blacklisting and communist baiting. The movie has nothing to do with it, or anything similar to those courts. While I hate McCarthy trials, I just can't see this movie being an allegory for the McCarthy hearings. John Wayne, on the other hand, was a supporter of the Hollywood blacklisting and the hunt for communists. There's nothing left-wing or anti-American about it. The film is in nearly real time, the film tells the story of a town marshal forced to face a gang of killers by himself based on John W. Cunningham's pulp short story, "The Tin Star". This movie was cool because it was an hour and a half long movie and the time in the movie was also about an hour and a half. Movie starts when it's a little before 11am and ends a little after noon. The background tempo and the music beat takes the place of the clock ticking with each 4 counts of the beat, sounds like a countdown was amazing. Will has just married pacifist Quaker Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly) and turned in his badge. He intends to become a storekeeper elsewhere. Suddenly, the town learns that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), a criminal Kane brought to justice is due to arrive on the noon train and leaves Marshall to deal with him. The acting in the film is great. It's hard to think that Gary Cooper had a bleeding ulcer at the time of filming because you can't tell. Very powerful. Each character even the baddies are given their moment. The Lon Cheney JR character seems the most tragic. Also this marks the debut of Lee Van Cleef in film and in Western. Lee Van Cleef's face looks so tough he could dull a Gillette razor just by staring at it. Grace Kelly also gives the film, her own spin. The age different between Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly was alarming and bit disturbing if you think about it. It's still a love story as well. What Amy Fowler does in the end moved me more deeply than any other moment in film. She had to go against her beliefs. She stands by him because he is her husband, and she is his wife. The movie in a way, is a celebration of the institution of marriage. The theme song of High Noon, 'Do not forsake me, My Darling" written by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Ned Washington and sung by Tex Ritter, is awesome. This movie is how I first became aware of Tex Ritter. It's an unforgettable song. I seem to hear an honesty in Tex Ritter's voice that is unequaled. The movie also has an excellent and highly suggestive play with imagery. In one scene, the camera focus on a certain chair. It's the chair in which the villain Frank Miller sat in when he was sentenced to jail and now he's coming back. The movie center theme has endured for years because its essential truth endures: we can never really know for sure who's got our back. Sooner or later most of us find ourselves in a position, to one degree or another, where we realize that everybody else has troubles too, and we're just going to have to figure things out for ourselves alone.
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10/10
Not a Single Wasted Note
James Hitchcock26 June 2017
To celebrate my 1700th review for IMDb, I turn to another of my favourite films. Will Kane is the Marshal of the small Western town of Hadleyville. The action takes place on what should have been the happiest day of his life. He is newly married to Amy, a beautiful, much younger woman, and is preparing to retire when he receives two pieces of news. Firstly, his successor as Marshal has been delayed on his way to the town, meaning that Kane will have to remain in office for a day longer. Secondly, Frank Miller, a dangerous outlaw whom Kane once arrested, has been released from jail and is on his way back to Hadleyville, swearing revenge. He is due to arrive at the station, where the rest of his gang are already waiting for him, on the noon train- hence the title.

Amy, who is a Quaker and a pacifist, begs Kane to flee before Miller arrives, but he refuses; he has never run away from his duty and does not intend to start now. In any case, if he flees the gang will only come after him. He attempts to recruit a posse, only to find that the townspeople are unwilling to help him. Most are too afraid; others worry that a gunfight might harm the town's reputation or its commerce. Kane's deputy Harvey, resentful that Kane will not support him for promotion, resigns his office. Kane only receives two offers of help, both of which he declines, one from a one-eyed old man, the other from a teenage boy.

Upon its release in 1952 the film was highly controversial. Given that it came out when the Korean War was being fought, its political meaning seems clear. Kane represents America as the "world's policeman". Miller represents Stalin, and the rest of his gang are Mao, Kim Il-sung and other Communist leaders. The townspeople represent peaceniks and others in the West who are too cowardly to stand up for democracy. The film is therefore an allegory of the need for a strong stand against international Communism.

Well, actually, I don't suppose that screenwriter Carl Foreman, a well-known Hollywood Marxist, had that particular interpretation in mind, but it seems to me to fit rather better than the one many people, both on the Left and on the Right, have tried to give it, both at the time and later, namely that it is an allegory of McCarthyism. (There is a certain breed of film historian for whom every film from the fifties was secretly about McCarthyism, every film from the sixties and seventies about Vietnam and every film from the eighties and nineties about AIDS).

The McCarthy allegory never works for me because the situation in the film is the precise opposite of the one which confronted America in the fifties. McCarthyism was all about an abuse of state power; the film is all about an unlawful challenge to legitimate state authority, and it is Kane, the upholder of that authority, who is its hero. If Foreman really did intend an anti-McCarthyite message, it seems to have been well hidden- so well hidden, in fact, that it even eluded the film's politically conservative star, Gary Cooper, who always denied it was a propaganda piece.

The real reason for this film's greatness lies not in its supposed political message but in the power of Cooper's acting and Fred Zinnemann's direction, with special mention going to Dimitri Tiomkin's musical score, based around his song "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling". Cooper is now so firmly identified with this film that it is strange to think that he was not the first choice for Kane- that was John Wayne, who indignantly refused because he despised Foreman's politics. Nor was he second choice- that was Gregory Peck, who declined (something he later regretted) because he did not want to get typecast after playing a similar role in "The Gunfighter" the previous year. Nor was Cooper even third choice- Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and Charlton Heston also turned it down. We cannot, of course, know how any of those actors might have played the role, but Cooper makes it his own, playing Kane as the embodiment of courage and integrity.

It has been said that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony does not contain a single wasted note, and I have similar views about Foreman's script and Zinnemann's direction. There is not a single wasted line of dialogue, not a single wasted shot. Everything seems to contribute to a perfect whole and to a sense of unbearable tension as time inexorably ticks away, leading to the inevitable shoot-out between Kane and the outlaws. The tension is increased by depicting events in real time, with frequent shots of clock faces emphasising the passing of time between 10.40 am, when Kane first learns of Miller's impending return, and noon.

"High Noon" was nominated for seven Oscars and won four, including "Best Actor" for Cooper and two ("Best Score" and "Best Song") for Tiomkin, but lost out on "Best Director", "Best Screenplay" and "Best Picture", something which has been blamed on the political controversy surrounding it, although it may also have had something to do with the Academy's traditional snobbery about Westerns. (DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth", which did win "Best Picture", is a decent enough movie but not in the class of "High Noon"). Although the likes of Wayne and Howard Hawks (who were later to make "Rio Bravo" as their reply to it) attacked the film, not all political conservatives disliked it- President Eisenhower showed it at the White House and Ronald Reagan ranked it among his favourites. Sixty-five years on we can see just how right Ike and Ronnie were and that Wayne and Hawks, for all their talents, on this occasion made themselves look foolish. 10/10
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