|Directed by||Fred Zinnemann|
|Produced by||Stanley Kramer (uncredited)
Carl Foreman (uncredited)
|Written by||John W. Cunningham (story)
Carl Foreman (screenplay)
|Music by||Dimitri Tiomkin|
|Cinematography||Floyd Crosby, ASC|
|Editing by||Elmo Williams
Harry W. Gerstad
|Studio||Stanley Kramer Productions|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Release date(s)||July 24, 1952 (New York)
July 30, 1952 (wide release)
August 13, 1952 (Los Angeles)
|Running time||85 mins.|
|Budget||$750,000 USD (est.)|
High Noon is an American 1952 western film directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. The film tells in real time the story of a town marshal forced to face a gang of killers by himself. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman, based on John W. Cunningham's pulp short story, "The Tin Star."
In 1989, High Noon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", entering the registry during the latter's first year of existence. The film is #27 on the American Film Institute's 2007 list of great films.
Will Kane (Gary Cooper), the longtime marshal of Hadleyville, New Mexico Territory, has just married pacifist Quaker Amy (Grace Kelly) and turned in his badge. He prepares to move away to become a storekeeper. Then the town learns that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), a criminal Kane brought to justice, is due to arrive on the noon train. Miller had been sentenced to hang, but was pardoned for reasons never stated. In court, he had vowed to get revenge on Kane and anyone who got in his way. His three gang members wait for him at the station. The worried townspeople encourage Kane to leave, hoping to defuse the situation.
Kane and his wife leave town, but fearing that the gang will hunt him down, Kane turns back. He reclaims his badge and scours the town for deputies—even interrupting Sunday church services—but while many townspeople profess to admire Kane, only a fourteen-year-old boy is willing to lend a hand. His deputy, Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges), resigns. His former lover, Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado), supports him, but there is little she can do to help. Disgusted, she sells her business and prepares to leave town. Kane's wife threatens to leave on the noon train with or without him, but he stubbornly refuses to give in.
In the end, Kane faces the four gunmen alone. He guns down two of Miller's men, though he himself is wounded in the arm. Helen Ramirez and Amy both board the train, but Amy gets off when she hears the sound of gunfire. Amy chooses her husband's life over her religious beliefs and kills the third gunman by shooting him in the back. Miller then takes her hostage and offers to trade her for Kane. Kane agrees, coming out into the open. Amy, however, claws Miller's face, causing him to release her. Kane then shoots and kills him. As the townspeople emerge, Kane contemptuously throws his marshal's star in the dirt and leaves town with his wife.
There was some controversy over the casting of Cooper in the lead role: at 50, nearly 30 years older than co-star Kelly, he was considered too old for the role.
Zinnemann was highly influenced by the books of Karl May, which he had read as a child.
Some scenes were filmed on various locations in California:
According to the 2002 documentary Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents, written, produced, and directed by Lionel Chetwynd, Foreman's role in the creation and production of High Noon has over the years been unfairly downplayed in favor of Foreman's former partner and producer, Stanley Kramer. The documentary was prompted by and based in part on a single-spaced 11-page letter that Foreman wrote to film critic Bosley Crowther in April 1952. In the letter, Foreman asserts that the film began as a four-page plot outline about "aggression in a western background" and "telling a motion picture story in the exact time required for the events of the story itself" (a device used in High Noon). An associate of Foreman pointed out similarities between Foreman's outline and the short story "The Tin Star" by John W. Cunningham, which led Foreman to purchase the rights to Cunningham's story and proceed with the original outline. By the time the documentary aired, most of those immediately involved were dead, including Kramer, Foreman, Fred Zinnemann, and Gary Cooper. Kramer's widow refutes Foreman's contentions; Victor Navasky, author of Naming Names and familiar with some of the circumstances surrounding High Noon because of interviews with Kramer's widow among others, said the documentary seemed "one-sided, and the problem is it makes a villain out of Stanley Kramer, when it was more complicated than that."
MODA Entertainment’s new documentary, Inside High Noon, which appears on the Lionsgate Ultimate Collectors DVD released in 2008, also explores the natural personality behind the production. Written, directed and produced by filmmaker John Mulholland, the documentary includes interview subjects, including the sons of director Fred Zinnemann (who says the production design was based on the photographs of Civil War photographer Mathew Brady) and Carl Foreman. It also includes an interview with President Bill Clinton who provides a political commentary on the film. One noteworthy fact about this documentary: four minutes were taken out of the final cut, presumably at the insistence of Lionsgate. This crucial chunk is about John Wayne’s dislike for the film, ending with a kicker that shows The Duke’s critical opinion of the film.
The film's production and release also intersected with the second Red Scare and the Korean War. Writer, producer and partner Carl Foreman was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) while he was writing the film. Foreman had not been in the Communist Party for almost ten years, but declined to name names and was considered an "un-cooperative witness" by the HUAC. When Stanley Kramer found out some of this, he forced Foreman to sell his part of their company, and tried to get him kicked off the making of the picture. Fred Zinnemann, Gary Cooper, and Bruce Church intervened. There was also a problem with the Bank of America loan, as Foreman had not yet signed certain papers. Thus Foreman remained on the production, but moved to England before it was released nationally, as he knew he would never be allowed to work in America.
Kramer claimed he had not stood up for Foreman partly because Foreman was threatening to dishonestly name Kramer as a Communist. Foreman said that Kramer was afraid of what would happen to him and his career if Kramer did not cooperate with the Committee. Kramer wanted Foreman to name names and not plead for his Fifth Amendment rights. Foreman was eventually blacklisted by the Hollywood companies. There had also been pressure against Foreman by, among others, Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures (Kramer's brand new boss at the time), John Wayne of the MPA and Hedda Hopper of the Los Angeles Times. Cast and crew members were also affected. Howland Chamberlin was blacklisted, while Floyd Crosby and Lloyd Bridges were "gray listed."
Upon its release, the film was criticized by many filmgoers, as it did not contain such expected western archetypes as chases, violence, action, and picture postcard scenery. Rather, it presented emotional and moralistic dialogue throughout most of the film. Only in the last few minutes were there action scenes.
John Wayne strongly despised the film because he felt it was an allegory for blacklisting, which he and his good friends Ward Bond and Howard Hawks actively supported. In his Playboy interview from May 1971, Wayne stated he considered High Noon "the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life" and went on to say he would never regret having helped blacklist liberal screenwriter Carl Foreman from Hollywood. In 1959 he teamed up with director Howard Hawks to make Rio Bravo as a conservative response. Ironically, Cooper himself had conservative political views, and was a "friendly witness" to the HUAC several years earlier, although he did not "name names" and later strongly opposed blacklisting, and Wayne also accepted Cooper's Academy Award for the role as Cooper was unable to attend the presentation.
In the Soviet Union the film was criticized as "a glorification of the individual." The American Left appreciated the film for what they believed was an allegory of people (Hollywood people, particular) that were afraid to stand up to HUAC. However, the film eventually gained the respect of people with conservative/anti-communist views. Ronald Reagan, a conservative and fervent anti-communist, said he appreciated the film because the main character had a strong dedication to duty, law, and the well being of the town, despite the refusal of the townspeople to help. Eisenhower loved the film and frequently screened it in the White House, as did many other American presidents. Bill Clinton cited High Noon as his favorite film, and screened it a record 17 times at the White House.
The movie won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Cooper), Best Film Editing (Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad), Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Dimitri Tiomkin), and Best Music, Song (Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'", sung by Tex Ritter). It was nominated for Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing, Screenplay. Its loss in the Best Picture category to The Greatest Show on Earth, by Cecil B. DeMille, is usually seen as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Academy Awards. This loss is often cited as an effort to satisfy Senator Joseph McCarthy, who pursued communists at the time, and DeMille was one of his supporters. Producer Carl Foreman would later be blacklisted from Hollywood. Ironically, despite severely despising the film, it was John Wayne who picked up Gary Cooper's Academy Award.
Mexican actress Katy Jurado won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Helen Ramirez, becoming the first Mexican actress ever to receive the award.
American Film Institute recognition
High Noon, often described as an "existential Western", is generally praised, although it was somewhat controversial upon its release in 1952. Cooper's character is betrayed by all the "good" men in town who won't take up arms for a just cause. Carl Foreman stated the film was intended as an allegory of the contemporary failure of intellectuals to combat the rise of McCarthyism, as well as how people in Hollywood had remained silent while their peers were blacklisted. The film has also been embraced by those who, like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, admire its emphasis on duty and courage.
High Noon portrays events as they transpire, in the 85 minutes from 10.35 am until the showdown at noon. Unusually, it therefore takes place in real-time, in contrast to traditional westerns such as The Searchers. In another departure from the norm, there is little action until the final 10 minutes. The only exception is a fistfight between Kane and his former deputy, Harvey Pell. The film's tension derives mainly from Kane’s desperation, aided by skillful editing and strong character portrayal. The frequent shots of various clocks with the hands approaching noon and still shots of those involved, heighten the tension.
Another effective technique is the crane shot, just before the final gunfight. The shot backs up and rises, and we see Will totally alone and isolated on the street. The entire town has deserted him.
The director intended to capture the atmosphere of old Civil War photographs, with an austere gray sky as a backdrop. (This effect results from the fact that early film emulsions were most sensitive to blue and ultraviolet light; Zinneman's attempts to reproduce this effect in the film were one of the reasons he strongly opposed its proposed colorization.) Despite the constraints of a limited budget ($750,000) and only 32 days to film, he was able to obtain this.
In 1989, twenty-two-year-old Polish graphic designer Tomasz Sarnecki transformed Marian Stachurski's 1959 Polish variant of the High Noon poster into a Solidarity election poster for the first partially-free elections in communist Poland. The poster which was displayed all over Poland shows Cooper armed with a folded ballot saying "Wybory" (i.e. election) in his right hand while the Solidarity logo is pinned to his vest above the sheriff's badge. The message at the bottom of the poster reads "W samo południe: 4 czerwca 1989" which translates to "High Noon: 4 June 1989."
|“||Under the headline "At High Noon" runs the red Solidarity banner and the date—June 4, 1989—of the poll. It was a simple but effective gimmick that, at the time, was misunderstood by the Communists. They, in fact, tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the "Wild" West, especially the U.S. But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys in Western clothes had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom, both physical and spiritual. Solidarity trounced the Communists in that election, paving the way for a democratic government in Poland. It is always so touching when people bring this poster up to me to autograph it. They have cherished it for so many years and it has become the emblem of the battle that we all fought together.||”|