High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)
A marshall, personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, finds that his own town refuses to help him.
Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is on his way to retire from his duties and get married to the love of his life Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), but he learns that his worst enemy is returning on the noon train. The soon to be married couple has to wait to leave and Kane must stay and face his enemy Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald). The Marshall goes out and asks for help from his fellow citizens but got no help at all. He must go against Miller and his gang alone.
Fred Zinnemann’s film is a beautiful black and white Western that launched the revisionist Westerns with a more social oriented approach than the traditional paternal Westerns of John Wayne. High Noon also fuelled a debate about how a man of courage, a marshall in this case, should take care of his duties like a professional and not ask help from non-professionals. The nay-sayers of High Noon were John Wayne and Howard Hawks who hated the film and even remade it with their own interpretation of the story with great success with Rio Bravo.
Despite the controversy from the right-wing of Hollywood of the 1950’s, the pace and the action of High Noon are well handled and there is no low moment in the film. The storytelling is pretty classic and the technique of Zinnemann has never been so good. It is no surprise that it got seven Oscar nominations and won four most notably for Gary Cooper as the Best Actor in a Leading Performance.
As a matter of fact, High Noon written by Carl Foreman (screenplay) is a metaphor on the current blacklist and “witch hunt” of Senator McCarthy. Foreman was a blacklisted screenwriter and the tale of the marshall of asks for assistance to the people is how the American people were ready to give away any mark men in the 1950’s just to not get involved with people completely innocent. This also might be one of the main reasons why Wayne and Hawks were strongly disapproving the films’ themes.
However, this is one of the Westerns that proved to pass the test of time with great brio. The pacing, the cinematography, and the presence of Gary Cooper justifies my rating of five stars. Every Western enthusiast should discover this wonderful masterpiece.