This afternoon I screened High Noon, a film I had never seen before but that I suspected was one of the greatest westerns of all time based on reputation and its high ranking on the AFI list. Boy was I surprised. It’s not a western in the tradition of True Grit, 3:10 to Yuma or Butch Cassidy, but rather it’s a story about one man’s commitment to doing what he thinks is right despite what everyone else thinks and the fact that it takes place in the West is fairly irrelevant. I have to admit that I didn’t really care much for the film, but I was intrigued enough about why it was so critically acclaimed that I had to do some research and I found out some interesting things that changed my opinion — slightly.
To begin, the film was made during the height of the red scare and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the film’s writer, Carl Foreman, was a former Communist and when he was called before HUAC he would not name names and was blacklisted. It is said that High Noon is about standing up for what is right even when everyone else does nothing, which is exactly what happens in the film when nobody in the town is willing to help Marshal Kane (Gary Cooper) even though he was responsible for cleaning up the town in the first place. Kane’s new wife, a quaker, initially leaves her new husband because he wouldn’t run away but then goes against her religion and helps her husband, even killing one of the bad guys. Is this Foreman making a statement about religion? 🙂
What makes the film even more interesting to me is that John Wayne hated it. In fact, he said it was the most un-American film ever made. Considering Wayne was a racist and someone who agreed with what HUAC was doing I guess that makes me a fan of High Noon. Lord knows I love a good liberal cause! Strangely, the film is listed as a favorite by both Bill Clinton and Dwight Eisenhower.
High Noon was nominated for Best Picture but did not win. Cooper won for Best Actor, though in my mind he didn’t really do much so it must have been a bad year for actors!
Next: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington