I’m a Montanan at heart, though, sadly, no longer in residency. My Montana childhood had an Old West flair to it. My family hunted, fished, camped, and went to rodeos. Antelope wandered through our front yard. Elementary school lessons included tips on fending off mountain lions and bears. My favorite exhibit at the local history museum featured a taxidermied, two-headed calf. When a chipmunk stole some of my brother’s food on a camping trip, he trapped and ate it in revenge. I spent a summer frying Rocky Mountain Oysters at the State Fair to earn pocket money. One of my best friends had a pet raccoon.
Montana was so Wild West that it didn’t have a speed limit until 1999.
I loved my thoroughly Western childhood, but have to guiltily admit that Westerns have never really been my thing. I’ve been trying to remedy that, though, beginning with the ultimate “Western for people who don’t like Westerns” – High Noon.
Released in 1952, High Noon stars Gary Cooper as small-town New Mexico Marshal Will Kane. Newly married to devout Quaker Amy, Kane is ready to hang up his badge when word gets out that outlaw Frank Miller has been released from jail and is heading back to Hadleyville. As the townspeople rebuff Kane’s pleas for help and pacifist Amy urges him to run, Kane must choose between his own safety and protecting the town that abandoned him. Cooper would earn an Oscar for his role.
- High Noon was Cooper’s big comeback at the age of 51.
- It was also the breakout role for 21-year-old Grace Kelly, who played Kane’s wife.
- The film has generally been interpreted as an allegory for the cowardice of Hollywood’s response to the Red Scare investigations of Joseph McCarthy and the House of Un-American Activities Committee. During the making of the film, screenwriter Carl Foreman was blacklisted for his previous associations with the Communist party, forcing him to move to Britain.
- John Wayne, a proponent of blacklisting, repeatedly called the film un-American. Nevertheless, he accepted the Academy Award for Best Actor on Gary Cooper’s behalf when Cooper was unable to attend the 1953 ceremony.
- Cooper wore no makeup throughout filming as a way to emphasize his character’s exhaustion and fear.
- The entire narrative takes place between 10:35 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., and the film plays in roughly real time. Clocks act as a major motif throughout the film.
- Gregory Peck turned down the role, thinking it was too similar to some of his other roles. He later called it the greatest regret of his career.
- In 1989 communist Poland launched its first partially free elections. A popular political poster encouraging Solidarity voting featured Will Kaine holding a ballot and the message “High Noon: 4 June 1989.” The Solidarity party went on to soundly defeat the Communists.
Is the film pro-Communist? Anti-Communist? You can decide, but it’s definitely a classic.