MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs: High Noon, 60th Anniversary Edition

HIGH NOON (60th Anniversary Edition) (Four stars)
U. S.; Fred Zinnemann, (1952) (Olive/Paramount)

85 Minutes Until High Noon.

On his wedding day, retiring western marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper, in his archetypal performance) faces a deadly countdown. As clock after clock keeps ticking away, he awaits the noon train arrival of Frank Miller (Ian McDonald), the man sworn to kill him, while a town full of “friends” keeps vanishing away and refusing to help him.

Cooper won the best actor Oscar for playing Kane, and it’s the role he’s probably best remembered for. A sturdy, upright, brave and highly competent lawman with a strong social conscience, Kane has always helped and protected his neighbors and friends  (and employers), and now he expects a little help in his own hour, his high noon, of need. But Frank Miller, a killer foolishly pardoned by the state, is a terrifying outlaw, and the townspeople are eager to avoid trouble. One by one, Kane’s potential allies are stripped away, while the clocks tick away, until, in another famous archetypal shot, the Marshal is left alone at high noon, on a deserted street, with the camera rising up and up to emphasize his isolation, and with four killers waiting to gun him down in a town that has abandoned him.

Cooper’s rugged but gentle and incredibly handsome face, and his tall physique, and the way he wears his lawman’s outfit (his hat is uncharacteristically black) are perfect for this role. He’d been playing brave Westerners since The Winning of Barbara Worth in 1926, and, as an actor, he carried instant rectitude and automatic heroism. But he also seems more vulnerable than, say, a John Wayne or a Clint Eastwood; there’s an icy twinge of fear and doubt beneath Kane’s stoic face that’s part of what makes the movie work so well. Cooper’s age in 1952 — he was 51 — adds to that vulnerability. And the drama is heightened because “Coop” was a famously taciturn chap (“Yup“), whose few words were his bonds, in a townful of gabbers — a conservative icon caught in a liberal nightmare.

The producer of High Noon was the archetypal Hollywood ’50s leftist moviemaker Stanley Kramer and the screenplay was by blacklist victim Carl Foreman, a guy who would later know what it meant to be run out of town. Dimitri Tiomkin wrote the archetypal music (a task he also performed for Red River and Rio Bravo), and Tex Ritter sang the archetypal song, “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling.” The starkly beautiful cinematography is by Floyd Crosby (who shot Murnau’s Tabu). Fred Zinnemann, who had  tended to specialize up to then in noirs (Act of Violence) and social dramas (The Men), and would go on to win Oscars for From Here to Eternity and A Man for All Seasons, directed. It was, I think, the best job in his distinguished career.

Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling. Stay, Stay…

High Noon became one of the most influential of all movie Westerns, exerting lasting effects even on films and filmmakers you wouldn’t expect it to, like Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (four men, like the Miller gang,  walking alone at the end, instead of one), Clint Eastwood‘s hip, dark High Plains Drifter (which might have been the last vengeful nightmare of a dying Will Kane) and Sergio Leone‘s operatic Once Upon a Time in the West. In High Noon, the outlaw trio waiting for Frank Miller at the train station, a group that includes Leone favorite Lee Van Cleef, is an obvious inspiration for the trio waiting at Leone’s huge “West” station, including Jack Elam (and his fly) and Woody Strode (and his water).. And that’s just one of the Zinnemann film’s much-copied scenes and archetypal moments.

The movie’s stature has grown. Cecil B. DeMille’s corny circus melodrama The Greatest Show on Earth was awarded the best picture Oscar in 1952, but if the vote were held today, High Noon, I think, would win — despite even stronger competition from other now recognized classics like Singin’ in the Rain, The Quiet Man and Viva Zapata! (all of which I personally prefer).  These days, High Noon also often tops or finishes near the top of critics’ lists of great westerns.

But it has its detractors, including one famous one. Western master Howard Hawks (Red River) so disliked this movie’s premise — a lawmqan continually asking for help and being continually refused — that he made the tougher, funnier Rio Bravo in reply.  (There, Sheriff John Wayne keeps refusing help, even though he ultimately needs it.)

I love Rio Bravo. But High Noon is still a classic: a suspense western that makes you think and that ties you in knots. It also has a superb cast: Cooper, Grace Kelly (archetypally beautiful as Will’s Quaker bride Amy, the darling who may forsake him), Lloyd Bridges (as the ambitious, faithless deputy), Katy Jurado (as the dame with a heart), Thomas Mitchell (as the glib voice of the establishment), Otto Kruger (as the runaway judge), Lon Chaney, Jr. (as the tired old lawman), Harry Morgan (as a  townsman) and many others — all but one of whom let good citizen Kane down, or can‘t cut it.

High Noon was attacked for decades, by some, as a “Western for people who don’t like Westerns,” though, even if that were true, it should be obviosu by now tht it’s also a western for people who do like Westerns.  A masterpiece of mounting clockwork tension and a quintessential ‘50s social fable,  it’s Bill Clinton’s favorite movie, so he says — and a great Western, whatever we Hawks fans may once have thought. Archetypally, of course.

Extras: The Making of High Noon, hosted by Leonard Maltin, including interviews with Zinnemann, Kramer, Bridges, John Ritter and David Crosby; Theatrical trailer. (Note: There are more extras in the 50th Anniversary edition from Republic/Artisan.)

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon