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Director:           Fred Zinnemann

Stars:              Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Leef Van Cleef

Running time: 85 mins

Ratings:           IMDB                      8.0      (IMDB score is weighted average of audience scores out of 10)

             Rotten Tomatoes    96%    (Rotten Tomatoes score is % of professional critic reviews that are

                                                                     positive)

Awards:          Oscars (4 wins, 3 nominations), Golden Globes (4 wins, 3 nominations)

 

 Movie Trailer:

 

 

 Reviews:

High Noon (1952) is possibly the all-time best Western film ever made - a successful box-office production by Stanley Kramer and director Fred Zinnemann (who also directedFrom Here to Eternity (1953) and A Man For All Seasons (1966)). The Western genre was employed to tell an uncharacteristic social problem tale about civic responsibility, without much of the typical frontier violence, panoramic landscapes, or tribes of marauding Indians.

The film's screenplay by Carl Foreman [this was his last Hollywood film before blacklist exile to London, soon after his work on Home of the Brave (1949)Champion (1949), and The Men (1950)], written during a politically-oppressive atmosphere in the early 1950s when McCarthyism and political persecution were rampant, was loosely adapted from a Collier's Magazine story The Tin Star (by John W. Cunningham) published in December 1947. In fact, the film's story has often been interpreted as a morality play or parable, or as a metaphor for the threatened Hollywood blacklisted artists (one of whom was screenwriter Foreman) who faced political persecution from the HUAC during the McCarthy era due to actual or imagined connections to the Communist Party, and made life-altering decisions to stand their ground and defend moral principles according to their consciences.

It also has been interpreted as an allegory of the Cold War and US foreign policy during the Korean War. This taut, tightly-scripted, minimalist film tells the tale of a solitary, stoic, honor-bound marshal/hero, past his prime and already retired, who was left desolate and abandoned by the Hadleyville townspeople he had faithfully protected for many years (symbolically - during the World War II years). Due to the townspeople's cowardice (representing cooperative witnesses before the HUAC), physical inability, self-interest, expediency, and indecisiveness, he is refused help at every turn against a revenge-seeking killer and his gang. Fearful but duty-bound, he eventually vanquishes the enemy, thereby sparing the civilized (democratic) town the encroachment of barbaristic frontier justice brought by the deadly four-man group of outlaws (symbolic of the aggressive threat in the Korean War, or the HUAC itself). Embittered by film's end, he tosses his tin star into the dirt of the dishonorable frontier town.

One of the film posters described the theme of the deserted, lone marshal who stubbornly insisted on delaying his newly-married life with a pacifist Quaker wife (symbolic of US isolationists) in order to stay and confront his former nemesis and paroled murderer - Frank Miller:

The story of a man who was too proud to run!

Another slogan claimed: "...when the hands point up - the excitement starts!" [Director Howard Hawks and actor John Wayne both responded to the liberal preachiness of this 'un-American' film (and its cowardly townspeople) by creating a no-nonsense, right-wing rebuttal in Rio Bravo (1959). In the film, self-reliant Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) refused the well-meaning assistance of Pat Wheeler's (Ward Bond) men -- "some well-meaning amateurs, most of 'em worried about their wives and kids," although all he had to help him keep a murderer from making a jailbreak was "a lame-legged old man and a drunk."]

The dramatic, tightly-compressed, austere black and white film with high-contrast images was shot in a spare 31 days, and the physically-pained, ravaged look etched on 51 year old Gary Cooper's gaunt face was due to actual illness (a recurring hip problem, bleeding stomach ulcers, and lower back pain), and emotional stress due to his recent breakup with actress Patricia Neal after a three-year, well-publicized affair while separated from his wife. The time span of the film (about 105 minutes) approximates the actual screen length of the film - 85 minutes - accentuated by frequent images of the clock as time rapidly dissipates before the final showdown. Cameraman Floyd Crosby's years of filming New Deal documentaries is evident in the film's sparseness, static compositions, and authentic feel.

TIM DIRKS

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