Monday, April 11, 2011

250. High Noon (1952)

Running Time: 85 minutes
Directed By: Fred Zinnemann
Written By: John W. Cunningham, Carl Foreman, from the story The Tin Star by John W. Cunningham
Main Cast: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Katy Jurado, Lloyd Bridges, Ian MacDonald


Approximately one quarter of the way through the book and in recognizing that achievement, I've decided to watch the 250th entry in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" text, "High Noon". If I had gone from the beginning, without skipping ANY films, this is the film I'd be up to.

Will Kane (Cooper) has just married his Quaker wife, Amy (Kelly) and is ready to turn in his "tin star" and resign as Marshall of Hadleyville. He and his new bride seal the deal with a kiss, Kane turns over his badge, but before the two can board their carriage out of town, Kane is given the news that Frank Miller (MacDonald) has been pardoned and that he's due in on the noon train. Miller is described as a psychopath and we learn that Kane is the man that put him away. Kane receives the news just prior to 11:00am and has just over an hour to round up a posse, so that together they can drive Miller out of Hadleyville for good. Amy wants nothing to do with the mess and urges Kane to just forget the whole mess and come with her, out of town as they had planned. Kane, feeling morally conflicted, feels he owes it to the town and to himself to stay behind and keep Hadleyville safe from the clutches of Miller and his gang. Amy leaves, telling Kane that she won't stay around and be privy to her husband's violence. In the meantime, Kane tries his best to round up a posse, but no one wants anything to do with it. They either have a problem with Kane or just don't want to end up staring down the barrel of Miller's gun. The film is told in real time and the seconds continue to tick away. Will anyone stand beside Will Kane?


I've seen this film once before and I remember liking it a lot more than I did this time around. I had some problems with it, a lot of which I really can't put my finger on, but I'll try my best. For starters, thank God the film has a short running time, because the thing really drags right up until the big showdown. I think that's why it drags too, because we all know that there's going to be this big showdown at the end of the film and we only hear about Frank Miller, but never get a look at the man described as a psycho, until the end of the movie. It's kind of like waiting for Christmas morning, in that you really don't care about the time leading up to it, you just want to get to the meat and potatoes - the big showdown. Also Kane's character, in my view, isn't very well defined. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to admire the guy for sticking around and fighting or dislike the guy, because everyone else in town seemed to. A lot of characters didn't want to fight Miller for their own safety, but there were a lot who seemed to praise Miller and want nothing to do with Kane or his posse. To me, it is never really explained why some of the townspeople like Miller and why some of the townspeople fear him.

The casting was fine, I guess and I sure did like seeing Thomas Mitchell again. Haven't seen him since my days of going in chronological order and I always thought he was a brilliant supporting actor. Grace Kelly really seemed out of place though. When I think of Grace Kelly, I think of her attending balls, wearing beautiful gowns and being her princess-like self. I just really never pictured her in a Western and seeing her in "High Noon" just didn't seem right. I was never a really big Gary Cooper fan either, but I guess he did an okay job here...nothing offensive, nothing outstanding.

Of course, the clock does finally strike noon and Frank Miller and his three goons finally do make their way into the heart of Hadleyville and it's an exciting fifteen or so minutes, as the film becomes dialogue free and we hear only the sounds of firing pistols. We root for Kane, and hope that at the last second SOMEONE will show up, wielding a gun and stand beside Will and help him fend off the threat. But no one, save for his wife, does and Kane pretty much takes care of the boys by himself, saving the day and riding out of town, like any good Western hero. Not a terrible film, but I definitely had issues and like I said I have/had trouble putting my finger on them.

RATING: 6/10 Still hoping the "1001..." book provides me with a really great Western that I can slap a '10' rating on and call my favorite Western.


April 10, 2011 11:54pm

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