Movie Reviews - Featured Films » Epic Films - Western

High Noon Movie Review

cooper awards gary miller

1952 – Fred Zinnemann –

The 1950s brought a new aspect to the western. Previously, many westerns consisted of simplistic tales and glamorous characters in outdoor settings. Critical respectability emerged with the increase of psychological intensity of both character and plot. No longer the mere confrontation of good guys and bad guys, westerns now began to reveal greater moral ambiguities. No better example of this can been seen than High Noon.

Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is the marshal who had years before cleaned up the small town of Hadleyville, New Mexico, much to the gratitude and respect of its citizens. However, on his last day of the job, his wedding day, the aging lawman is confronted by Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), a killer Will sent to prison. Miller, now released by the courts up north, has vowed to kill the man responsible for his conviction. The townspeople, including his new bride, Amy (Grace Kelly), encourage Will to run. Within this morality play, Will is driven by his conscience to face his evil tormentors alone. He will not abandon his duty or the town though its people have abandoned him. High Noon rejects scenic color for the stark black-and-whites of this claustrophobic town. Hadleyville is shown to be as isolated and bleak as most of its inhabitants

High Noon premiered at the time of the Communist witch hunts of the McCarthy era. Writer and co-producer Carl Foreman used the script as an allegory for his own views. By making Hadleyville an analogy for Hollywood, Foreman equated the townspeople's psychological confusion, ambivalent loyalties, and love of safety and conformity with the complacent attitudes that permitted the blacklisting and betrayal of his own day. (Foreman was later blacklisted himself and needed a front for his work on The Bridge on the River Kwai.)

This is in many way an editor's film, on which the talents of Elmo Williams helped assure its classic status. After an unsuccessful preview, a subplot involving the new marshal trying to get to Hadleyville and being delayed was dropped entirely (including all the scenes with actor James Brown). Now the film—with some additional tightening—concentrated its story as if it were actually happening minute by minute in real time. Another stoke of editing genius was to eliminate much of the footage of the inexperienced Grace Kelly while still retaining her unique screen presence. The introduction of the narrative ballad of the theme song sung by Tex Ritter also adds much to the tension and emotion.

Shot in only twenty-eight days, High Noon marked the return of Gary Cooper from a string of mediocre films undeserving of his talents. Though notably older and weathered and ill with a bleeding ulcer and an injured hip, Cooper was able to draw on these very factors to aid his portrayal of the anguished and time-worn Will Kane and earn his second Academy Award for Best Actor.

Cast: Gary Cooper (Will Kane), Grace Kelly (Amy Fowler Kane), Lloyd Bridges (Harvey Pell), Lon Chaney, Jr. (Martin Howe), Thomas Mitchell (Jonas Henderson), Otto Kruger (Judge Percy Mettrick), Katy Jurado (Helen Ramirez), Lee Van Cleef (Jack Colby), Henry Morgan (William Fuller), Ian MacDonald (Frank Miller), Sheb Wooley (Ben Miller), Robert Wilke (James Pierce), William Phillips (Barber), Harry Shannon (Cooper), Eve McVeagh (Mildred Fuller) Screenwriter: Carl Foreman Cinematographer: Floyd Crosby Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin Producer: Stanley Kramer Running Time: 85 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1952: Actor (Gary Cooper), Editing, Song, Score; Nominations: Director (Fred Zinnemann), Picture, Screenplay; Golden Globe Awards, 1953: Actor-Drama (Gary Cooper), Supporting Actress (Katy Jurado), Score; National Board of Review Awards, 1952: 10 Best Films of the Year; New York Film Critics Awards, 1952: Director (Fred Zinnemann), Film Budget: $730,000 Box Office: $3.4M.

How the West Was Won Movie Review [next] [back] Giant Movie Review

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or