Greetings again from the darkness. Thanks to the Cinemark Classic Series, seeing this one on the big screen became a summer highlight. Often rated as one of the all-time best, and easily one of the best from the western genre, the film was written (by Carl Foreman) as an allegory to Hollywood blacklisting brought on by Sen. McCarthy’s red-baiting crusade. The cowardly townspeople represent those who wouldn’t stand up against the wild and often false accusations.
The film won four Oscars, including Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane. The character is often compared to Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Both are shining examples of men doing the right thing in very difficult circumstances. It’s been noted that Gary Cooper’s constant look of pain during the film might not have been excellent acting after all. He reportedly was suffering from a bleeding ulcer and severe back during filming (though he was apparently strong enough to carry on an affair with his beautiful co-star).
Originally filmed in “real” time with the numerous clock shots to prove it, the film was re-edited prior to release, nullifying the effect. The Tex Ritter (John’s father) version of “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)” is heard throughout, and will stick in your head for some time after viewing. This was the first major motion picture for both Grace Kelly and Lee Van Cleef. Ms. Kelly plays Kane’s new bride, who doesn’t understand his need to stay and face Frank Miller. Mr. Van Cleef flashed his beady eyes here and went on to have a long career as a top notch movie villain.
The film was directed by Fred Zinnemann who also directed From Here to Eternity, Oklahoma!, and A Man for All Seasons. Zinnemann lost the Oscar to John Ford, and film lost to The Greatest Story Ever Told. It’s considered one of the greatest Oscar upsets in history. Floyd Crosby was the cinematographer … he is the father of singer David Crosby (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young).
Other supporting work is courtesy of Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy from It’s a Wonderful Life), Katy Jurado (excellent as Helen Ramirez), Lon Chaney, Jr, Harry Morgan (later Col Potter in “MASH“), and Sheb Wooley (later known for singing “The Purple People Eater”), and of course, Lloyd Bridges as Harvey, Kane’s ambitious, and not so loyal, deputy (and father to Beau and Jeff).
Cooper is at his most dominant in this role and it’s difficult to believe that just about every other Hollywood leading man of the time was offered the role prior to him. Cooper’s Will Kane is the epitome of the strong, silent type … and a real stand-up guy.
** watch the opening credits … featuring the opening shot of Lee Van Cleef and Tex Ritter singing the Oscar winning song: