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High Noon

film poster
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Produced by Stanley Kramer (uncredited)
Carl Foreman (uncredited)
Written by John W. Cunningham (story)
Carl Foreman (screenplay)
Starring Gary Cooper
Thomas Mitchell
Lloyd Bridges
Katy Jurado
Grace Kelly
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.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $750,000 USD (est.)[1]

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.[citation needed]

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.[2] 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.[2] 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).[2] 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.[2] 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."[2]

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.

HUAC, the Red Scare, and the Korean War

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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

Kramer claimed he had not stood up for Foreman partly because Foreman was threatening to dishonestly name Kramer as a Communist.[6] 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.[7] 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[8]. Cast and crew members were also affected. Howland Chamberlin was blacklisted, while Floyd Crosby and Lloyd Bridges were "gray listed."[9]


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.[10]

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"[11] 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,[12] 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."[9] 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.[13] Bill Clinton cited High Noon as his favorite film, and screened it a record 17 times at the White House.[14]

Awards and honors

The movie won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Cooper), Best Film Editing (Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad),[15] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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[citation needed] 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,[1] he was able to obtain this.

Cultural influence

At High Noon, June 4, 1989 - political poster featuring Gary Cooper to encourage votes for the Solidarity party in the 1989 elections.

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."

In 2004 former Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa wrote:[16]

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.

According to an English professor at Yeshiva University,[11] High Noon is the film most requested for viewing by U.S. presidents and is cited as being Bill Clinton's favorite film.[17]

Remakes and sequel

  • A made-for-TV sequel, High Noon Part II: The Return Of Will Kane (produced in 1980, 28 years after the original movie was released), featured Lee Majors in the Cooper role.
  • The 1980 science fiction film Outland borrowed from the story of High Noon for its plot. The movie starred Sean Connery.
  • In 2000, High Noon was entirely re-worked for cable television with Tom Skerritt in the lead role.
  • In 2002, The Simpson's 13th Season Finale "Papa's Got a Brand New Badge" draws inspiration from both High Noon and The Sopranos, when Homer, in charge of Spring Shield Security, has to face by himself the revenge of Fat Tony, whose operations Homer had disrupted.
  • In 1966, Four-Star produced a "High Noon" TV pilot. The 30-minute pilot was called "The Clock Strikes Noon Again" and was set 20 years after the original movie. Peter Fonda plays Will Kane Jr., who goes to Hadleyville after Frank Miller's son kills his father (the Gary Cooper character). His mother (the Grace Kelly character) died shortly after from grief. In Hadleyville, Will Kane Jr. meets Helen Ramirez, once again played by Katy Jurado (she played this same character in the original movie). Helen returned to town and was now running a hotel/restaurant. No series came from this unsold TV pilot.[18]


  1. ^ a b "High Noon - Box office / business." IMDb. 15 Mar 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e High Noon, High Dudgeon, an April 2002 article from The New York Times.
  3. ^ Byman, pg 73, 76, and all of Chapter 5
  4. ^ Byman, pg 9, 80
  5. ^ Byman, pg 80, 90
  6. ^ Byman, pg 86.
  7. ^ Byman, pg 76, 80. See also all of Chapters 1 and 5
  8. ^ Byman, p 83, 86, 87
  9. ^ a b Byman, pg 9
  10. ^ The Making of High Noon, hosted by Leonard Maltin, 1992. Available on the Region 1 DVD from Artisan Entertainment.
  11. ^ a b Manfred Weidhorn. "High Noon." Bright Lights Film Journal. February 2005. Accessed 12 February 2008.
  12. ^ Meyer, Jeffrey Gary Cooper: American Hero (1998)
  13. ^ Byman, pg 26, 94
  14. ^ Review © 2004 Branislav L. Slantchev
  15. ^ Elmo Williams has said that Gerstad's editing was nominal, and he apparently protested Gerstad's inclusion on the Academy Award at the time. See Williams, Elmo (2006), Elmo Williams: A Hollywood Memoir (McFarland), p. 86. ISBN 0786426217.
  16. ^ Lech Walesa. "In Solidarity." The Wall Street Journal. 11 June 2004. Accessed 15 March 2007.
  17. ^ Clinton, Bill (June 22, 2004). My Life. Knopf. pp. 21. 
  18. ^ IMDb: Katy Jurado (The Clock Strikes Noon Again)


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

High Noon is a 1952 film about a marshall, personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, who finds that his own town refuses to help him.

Directed by Fred Zinnemann. Written by Carl Foreman, based on a story by John W. Cunningham.
The story of a man who was too proud to run. taglines


Helen Ramirez

  • [to Harvey] You're a good looking boy, you have big broad shoulders, but he is a man. It takes more than big broad shoulders to make a man, Harvey, and you have a long way to go. You know something? I don't think you will ever make it.


Kane: I sent a man up five years ago for murder. He was supposed to hang. But up North, they commuted it to life and now he's free. I don't know how. Anyway, it looks like he's coming back.
Amy: I still don't understand.
Kane: He was always wild and kind of crazy. He'll probably make trouble.
Amy: But that's no concern of yours, not anymore.
Kane: I'm the one who sent him up.
Amy: Well, that was part of your job. That's finished now. They've got a new marshal.
Kane: He won't be here until tomorrow. Seems to me I've got to stay. Anyway, I'm the same man with or without this. [He pins his badge on his vest]
Amy: Oh, that isn't so.
Kane: I expect he'll come lookin' for me. Three of his old bunch are waiting at the depot.
Amy: That's exactly why we ought to go.
Kane: They'll just come after us, four of 'em, and we'd be all alone on the prairie.
Amy: We've got an hour.
Kane: What's an hour?...What's a hundred miles? We'd never be able to keep that store, Amy. They'd come after us and we'd have to run again, as long as we live.
Amy: No we wouldn't, not if they didn't know where to find us. Oh Will! Will, I'm begging you, please let's go.
Kane: I can't.
Amy: Don't try to be a hero. You don't have to be a hero, not for me.
Kane: I'm not trying to be a hero. If you think I like this, you're crazy.

Mettrick: This is just a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere. Nothing that happens here is really important. Now get out.
Kane: There isn't time.

Helen: What are you looking at? You think I have changed? Well, what do you want? Do you want me to help you? Do you want me to ask Frank to let you go? Do you want me to beg for you? Well, I would not do it. I would not lift a finger for you.
Kane: I came to tell ya he was comin'. I should have figured you'd know about it.
Helen: I know about it.
Kane: I think you ought to get out of town. I might not be able to, well...anything can happen.
Helen: I'm not afraid of him.
Kane: I know you're not, but you, you know how he is.
Helen: I know how he is. Maybe he doesn't know.
Kane: He's probably got letters.
Helen: Probably. Nothing in life is free. I'm getting out. I'm packing.
Kane: That's good.
Helen: Un año sin verte. ("One year without seeing you.")
Kane: Si, lo sé. ("Yes, I know it.")
Kane: Goodbye, Helen.
Helen: Kane, if you're smart, you will get out too.
Kane: I can't.
Helen: I know.

Amy: That man downstairs, the clerk, he said things about you and Will. I've been trying to understand why he wouldn't go with me, and now all I can think of is that it's got to be because of you...Let him go, he still has a chance. Let him go.
Helen: He isn't staying for me. I haven't spoken to him for a year - until today. I am leaving on the same train you are...What kind of woman are you? How can you leave him like this? Does the sound of guns frighten you that much?
Amy: I've heard guns. My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side but that didn't help them any when the shooting started. My brother was nineteen. I watched him die. That's when I became a Quaker. I don't care who's right or who's wrong. There's got to be some better way for people to live. Will knows how I feel about it.
Helen: I hate this town. I always hated it - to be a Mexican woman in a town like this.
Amy: I understand.
Helen: You do? That's good. I don't understand you. No matter what you say. If Kane was my man, I'd never leave him like this. I'd get a gun. I'd fight.
Amy: Why don't you?
Helen: He is not my man. He's yours.

Harvey: Ya scared?
Kane: I guess so.
Harvey: Sure, it stands to reason. [Harvey saddles a horse]
Kane: Seems like all everybody and his brother wants is to get me out of town.
Harvey: Nobody wants to see you get killed. [Kane turns to leave] Hold it, where are you going?
Kane: I don't know. Back to the office, I guess.
Harvey: Oh no. You're gettin' on that horse and you're gettin' out. [He grabs Kane] What's the matter with you? You were ready to do it yourself. You said so.
Kane: Look, Harv. I thought about it because I was tired. You think about a lot of things when you're tired. But I can't do it.
Harvey: Why?
Kane: I don't know.
Harvey: Get on that horse, Will!
Kane: Why is it so important to you? You don't care if I live or die.
Harvey: Come on.
Kane: Don't shove me, Harv, I'm tired of being shoved.

Herb: Time's gettin' pretty short.
Kane: It sure is.
Herb: When are the other boys gonna get here? We gotta make plans.
Kane: The other boys? There aren't any other boys, Herb. It's just you and me.
Herb: [nervously smiles and chuckles] You're jokin'.
Kane: No, I couldn't get anybody.
Herb: I don't believe it. This town ain't that low.
Kane: I couldn't get anybody.
Herb: Then it's just you and me.
Kane: I guess so.
Herb: You and me against Miller and all the rest of them?
Kane: That's right. Do you want out, Herb?
Herb: Well, it isn't that I want out, no. You see. Look, I'll tell ya the truth. I didn't figure on anything like this, Will.
Kane: Neither did I.
Herb: I volunteered. You know I did. You didn't have to come to me. I was ready. Sure, I'm ready now - but this is different, Will. This ain't like what you said it was gonna be. This is just plain committing suicide and for what? Why me? I'm no lawman. I just live here. I got nothin' personal against nobody. I got no stake in this.
Kane: I guess not.
Herb: There's a limit how much you can ask a man. I got a wife and kids. What about my kids?
Kane: Go on home to your kids, Herb.


  • The story of a man who was too proud to run.
  • When these hands point straight up...the excitement starts!
  • Simple. Powerful. Unforgettable.


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