Retiring Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) insists on defending his town from a gang of hooligans who are due on the noon train — but he faces the task alone as the cowardly townspeople flee like rats from a sinking ship. Director Fred Zinnemann creates an incredibly tense Western (rightly considered one of the true genre classics) that unfurls in real time — as the clocks on the wall constantly remind us. Grace Kelly and Lloyd Bridges co-star.
Victor – 9 out of 10
High Noon, released in 1952 and directed by Fred Zinneman, is a western about a man that against all odds decides to face his destiny. Gary Cooper brilliantly plays a retiring Sheriff named Will Kane. He is newly married to his Quaker wife, Amy. His wedding is a double celebration as he is getting married and retiring at the same time. All of his deputies and friends urge him to leave for his honeymoon right away. Then news of the release of a convict named Frank Miller reaches the town and things get a bit hairy. While Will and Amy are pushed out of town 3 other bad guys (one of the Lee Van Cleef) await the arrival of Miller at the town’s train station. The train with Miller is due high noon the next day.
Kane, against the wishes of this wife, doubles back with his horse and carriage into town. He feels that he is still responsible for the safety of the town and it’s people. Lloyd Bridges plays the young, eager and hot headed Marshall that was left behind and he has a bone to pick with Kane. Bridges and Cooper are amazing to watch. There is tension in spades between them and they have a great chemistry. But suffice it to say Bridges doesn’t back up Kane. The scenes of Kane trying to get the townspeople to help him and back him up are heart wrenching to watch. Cooper becomes afraid and desperate but never loses his cool head and bravery. No one comes to his aid and they flee or turn away.
This is the quintessential western. It is about good and bad guys. Pretty black and white. No gray areas. It is about a man alone facing insurmountable odds. This script is tight and the gorgeous black and whit photography is iconic as the town is framed with nice open wide shots but then gets more menacing as the film goes along. Shadows, angles and editing are all great to behold in this outstanding western. Characters are well fleshed out and Grace Kelly and Katy Jurado have a great scene together. Lon Chaney Jr is fantastic as Kane’s mentor. His character being tragic and benevolent. Others supporting actors are Harry Morgan, Otto Kruger and Thomas Mitchell. The eventual showdown is classic and the template that all other showdowns are made from. There is also a fantastic fight scene between Cooper and Bridges.
Enjoy this lean, tight, fast and direct western, you won’t be disappointed. A classic on many levels.