Home > Uncategorized > Sunday Screening #4: High Noon

Sunday Screening #4: High Noon

The people have spoken and our next screening will be High Noon!  Make arrangements to get your copy by Sunday to join in the fun.

I put together a video for this week’s write-up.  It’s pretty low-rent, but it’s the first time I’ve ever made one, so I’m pretty happy with the first effort.  Hopefully, we can improve on this effort and make the videos a bit more ambitious.  For now, here is High Noon.  The trailer is attached at the end of my portion.  Enjoy!

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  1. johnwm1
    December 3, 2009 at 9:59 PM

    To you it may be low-rent, but I have no idea how you put that video together, so I am in awe. Nicely done commentary and accompanying visuals.

    Can’t wait for the High Noon discussion.

  2. December 4, 2009 at 2:46 AM

    Thanks. Maybe next time I’ll make sure I have a little more time to make it a bit more elegant. I feel like my voice sounds very Angry Video Game Nerd-esque.

    • johnwm1
      December 6, 2009 at 9:54 PM

      Just minus all the swearing.

  3. December 6, 2009 at 4:54 PM

    I think it’s safe to say that the standout element of High Noon is Gary Cooper’s beaten down performance. Aside from possibly the worst restrained slap in cinema history, he owns the screen. Many seem to attribute his performance to his health at the time, what with an ulcer and back problems, and who am I to argue that that’s the case? All I know is that the pained look works perfectly for the role. Will Kane is such an interesting character (with a great name). Just because he gives up the badge doesn’t mean he can give up his responsibility to the town even though few in the town want him around. It’s a great source of conflict for the film and, really, when is the “man stands alone” plot not rewarding? Don’t answer that. I love the way Kane throws his tin star down and leaves town with his wife without a word to anyone. It’s the perfect ending for an audience who has essentially been living Kane’s disillusionment with him. I can’t help but think that Dirty Harry’s ending was stolen from High Noon (and subsequently negated by all of the sequels).

    The sense of time is palpable, and a lot of films could learn a thing or two about elegantly dealing with a countdown from High Noon. However, I can see it as a negative if the viewer is bored by High Noon, since they’ll be constantly reminded how much time has passed. Fortunately, I don’t fall under that category. The editing/score/shot composition right before the train finally arrives is brilliantly done.

    The build-up to Frank Miller’s arrival reminded me of The Third Man quite a bit, however the payoff is somewhat lacking. We hear so much about how crazy Miller is, but he doesn’t have much more personality than his cohorts.

    High Noon does a great job of setting up conflict, motives, and conundrums, all of which play out in the church scene, which may be my favorite in the film. Something about the Western trope of some kind of town hall-ish meeting where everyone is shouting their opinions really appeals to me. Although, I still don’t understand why those in support of Kane didn’t step up to help.

    As for the controversy, it seems remarkable to me that anyone got so upset about it, but then again, that’s because I find the whole Red Scare thing to be completely ludicrous. If anything, though, the film is more of an attack on those who opposed the HUAC hearings, but remained quiet than on the “true patriotic Americans.”

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the theme song. At first, it kind of annoys me (much like the song breaks in all of the old Westerns), but the song grew on me quite a bit, to the point that I started singing along.

    Anyway, I look forward to hearing what you ahve to say about High Noon.

    • December 10, 2009 at 11:02 AM

      The build up and the way Zinnemann used the clock to build tension was pretty amazing. I didn’t pay too much attention to it, but on a subsequent viewing it would be fun to see if they actually pay attention to that little detail and keep the movie time in-sync with real time.

      I fail to see how anyone cannot be drawn into the tension that is built by the impending arrival of Miller/the Train.

      I think this movie hits all of the standard “rungs” of the Western film, but does so in a way that is different from the norm.

      • December 10, 2009 at 12:33 PM

        I believe that the for a certain running time, the film does play in real time, but overall, High Noon has a longer running time than the events of the film. I think they had a cut that played out in real time, but for one reason or another re-cut it.

        • December 10, 2009 at 1:34 PM

          That would be a pretty amazing cut to see. This was after Hitchcocks Rope, so the experimentation with real-time films had been something people had done. I’d like to suggest Running Time to everyone. I think Running Time does a great job with being a “one-take” real-time film.

  4. johnwm1
    December 6, 2009 at 9:49 PM

    What in High Noon resonates with me is Will Kane’s plight. I didn’t know that Gary Cooper was suffering from various maladies at the time. It may very well have benefited the performance, as the pain he feels from being rejected by his townsfolk is very real. You instantly sympathize with his conflict: he’s deserved his retirement, but also feels strongly about his principles. The theme is echoed nicely with Grace Kelly’s pacifist character.

    This is a movie about characters faced with moral choices, which, in my opinion, is the most fertile ground for compelling storytelling. The script and direction handles this jumping-off point expertly, methodically building the tension and sense of time that Nate mentioned until the climactic showdown. And I completely agree that the montage before the climax is brilliant; it still gives me goosebumps when I watch it.

    I was less interested in the backstory involving Katy Jurado and Lloyd Bridges’ characters than other parts of the film, but it’s important for the sake of fleshing out the story. I agree with Nate that Frank Miller is a bit of a disappointment; he certainly wasn’t as badass as he was set up to be. In fact, I think Lee Van Cleef’s character is the most menacing one. Maybe because it’s Lee Van Cleef.

    “Do Not Forsake Me” is great (won best song at the 1952 Oscars). Fits the movie perfectly, and has none other than Dimitri Tiomkin as the composer (lyrics by Ned Washington and sung by Tex Ritter). A great example of using a song to set the tone for a film perfectly.

    Also, there are some movies where you can easily pick your favorite shot, and for High Noon, it is the famous crane shot showing, literally, how alone Kane is in his own town. Really a masterful choice on the part of director Fred Zinneman.

    • johnwm1
      December 6, 2009 at 9:53 PM

      Darn it! Misspelled Fred Zinnemann’s name. Sorry to just post on that, but I dislike making typos.

    • December 7, 2009 at 3:21 PM

      John, apparently we are running these comments now. The pressure to perform just ratcheted up.

      It’s a particularly interesting moment when Kelly’s pacifist, Amy, comes back and eventually shoots a man in the back. Of all the things I know about the Western genre, one of the most important is that shooting someone in the back is a major faux pas. Of course, Amy just wants her husband to live and couldn’t care less about proper conduct. I just like that not only must she betray her beliefs, but does so in the least respectable way.

      I agree with the Jurado-Bridges plot being kind of dull. It doesn’t really add much to Kane’s development and only serves to give Bridges’ Pell one more reason to dislike Kane, which isn’t really necessary. Making things worse is that I find Jurado pretty intolerable in the role of Helen Ramirez. I’m not Jurado aficionado, so I can’t say she’s a bad actress in general, but she’s awful in High Noon.

      I really like the fight between Kane and Pell because the scene starts out kind of friendly and escalates to Pell trying to help Kane leave and then to all of their anger at each other being physically unburdened onto one another. Another good moment of violence is when Kane punches the man in the saloon and the punchee says something like “a man of the law has no occasion to react that way” (I’m too lazy to find the exact quote).

      Apparently, “Do Not Foresake Me” was the first Best Song winner not from a musical.

      And Lee Van Cleef is definitely the most intimidating. Maybe it’s because he never talks.

      What does everyone think of the controversy around High Noon? It’s kind of understandable about the Conservative position, but apparently, the opposing point of view didn’t like the image of one authority standing against many (they viewed it as dictatorial or fascist, I guess). It’s true that few in town wanted him there, so he definitely didn’t have the support to remain.

      • johnwm1
        December 7, 2009 at 9:14 PM

        I’ll do my best keeping bouts of performance anxiety at bay.

        Great point about Amy shooting the guy in the back — talk about going from one extreme to another. Jurado didn’t strike me as bad in High Noon, but her character can be a bit irritating.

        I can understand that the film might easily arouse controversy in a politically charged atmosphere like the McCarthy era. In retrospect, though, it’s definitely overblown (especially the fascist reading). Plus, confining the film’s meaning in a solely political context undercuts its power. High Noon makes statements about human nature that transcend any kind of ideology.

        • December 7, 2009 at 9:33 PM

          You bring up something that I’ve long thought about, which is how much does the time of the telling matter in a film (or for any storytelling medium). Certainly, there is still stuff to learn from the film about the time in which it was made, but that matters less and less the more removed from the time we get until the film essentially stands for itself. Unless you do research about the film, you really don’t view the film in the same way as when it was released.

          I think about this particularly in light of the classics because cultural relevance is taken into account when lists like the AFI Top 100 do their thing. Anyway, that may be ramble-y, but it’s what I got for now.

          • December 10, 2009 at 11:13 AM

            I haven’t done much reading into the possible backstory regarding McCarthyism or HUAC and the connection of either to the film, but I didn’t feel that the film was being preachy towards (what I perceive) the connection might be. (easier said, I agree with Nate about this point, the further you are away from the events in the real world the film might be commenting upon, the less likely you are to understand that part of the meaning of the film).

    • December 10, 2009 at 11:08 AM

      I think if this movie joins the long list of classic movies that are remade, the Ramirez/Pell romance is one of the things that doesn’t make the cut. It really was a big chunk of unnecessary screen time spent on something that didn’t really matter. I guess you could argue that Ramirez convinces Mrs. Kane to understand the reason that Kane is sticking around to finish what started 5 years prior, but I don’t really think that is so.

      I’d have like to see more of Lee Van Cleef…but I can just thrown in The Good, Bad and Ugly to fulfill that desire.

      That crane shot was amazing. The whole movie was very competently shot and edited. I also thought the film, and it’s story, held up well to the test of time. I felt like it is still a movie that can reach an audience and keep them interested in the goings on of the characters through the ending.

  5. December 10, 2009 at 9:53 AM

    I didn’t post anything yet, because, for the most part I really don’t have any comments on High Noon.

    I liked the movie, quite a bit actually. It was an interesting divergence from the standard Western fare. Gary Cooper was amazing in the leading role. The story was not that of the fearless Marshall, but of a man who was scared of what the Noon train would bring. It allowed the main character to have fear in the face of danger, which for it’s time was different then the direction most Westerns would take.

    The theme song was interesting, but I did start to get a bit annoyed that they used it as diagetic sound, but you never saw the source. It felt like there was a band playing it in one of the saloons or somewhere else in the town, but they never showed up in the film…and they seemed to only know one song and play it a over and over again.

    I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of the Western, but at the same time I feel I have spent more times with this genre then I have with Musicals, and I felt this movie jumps up my list as one of my favourite westerns.

  6. chilidog
    December 10, 2009 at 4:29 PM

    Just got finished watching this and I gotta say, I really liked it! I felt the real-time and frequent clock-checks added to the story. Each time the camera fell on a clock I was reminded that much more time had passed, and still no extra help for the Marshall. It also kept in my mind “I may not know what’s going to happen next story-wise, but I’m guaranteed something big is going down in exactly _ _ minutes”.

    Will Kane really was such a great character.. Here you have this man who served his town, and while there are some who don’t like him there are just as many who readily admit that he is the reason their town is as safe as it is. He cleaned it up and kept it that way. But when he finds out the big baddie he sent away all those years ago has been let out, AFTER he just retired literally minutes ago, he still feels his duty to go back. He knows whether he’s there or not Frank Miller is surely going to cause trouble in town, and he just can’t have that. But who’s willing to help when he gets back? One guy. And not even his deputy. There are a few in the church willing to help, but ultimately what do they decide? “Yeah, maybe it would be best if you just left…”. People saw three guys ride into town, they know one guy is getting off the train at noon, that’s 4 bad guys. There should be plenty of people in town to hold off and run off 4 bad guys, but they all “turn yella”. If you were Kane, how would you feel? I think Gary Cooper did a great job with this role.

    I agree, the Ramirez/Pell romance was unnecessary. As was the mention that she was once with Miller for that matter (boy, she really got around didn’t she?). I did think it was important that she had been with Kane previously as it’s her talking so passionately about him that gets Amy to change her point of view in the end. And personally, when Amy helps out her man by taking out one of the baddies, that was one of my favorite parts of the movie! Even though as Nate points out, that was quite bad form. Eh, but what does she know, she’s a quaker. 😉

    The pre-shootout montage was well done, I especially liked that it ended with the chair that Miller had sat in when pledging to come back to town.

    But then as y’all say, Miller himself was a little disappointing. We hear the entire movie about this guy who’s supposed to be just plain crazy, but when he steps off that train in his nice clean suit, he just seems plain. John and Nate, y’all pegged it, Lee Van Cleef was the true crazy one, it’s always the quiet ones. 😉

    For the first minute or two after the end of the film I wasn’t sure if I liked the ending. At first I was thinking “That’s it?!” I mean I loved that he throws the star on the ground and rides out of town, but I really kind of wish he’d have yelled “To hell with all of ya!” on the way out or something. Of course that’d be out of character, and ultimately it was best that he left that town of chickens without a word, but you know how it is when you wish someone had done something you would have wanted to do…

    • johnwm1
      December 10, 2009 at 9:31 PM

      High Noon may very well be the quintessential example of the built-in narrative arc, where all the characters are expecting something to happen, so the audience does, too.

      Completely agree with chilidog that Kane’s predicament immediately puts the question “How would you feel/what would you do?” in your mind. He’s faced with choices, and the ones he makes reveal his character to the audience. That this is done so well is a big reason why as Paul mentioned the film still resonates with audiences today.

      I think the fact that the film enables us to relate to and understand Kane so well shows when we want him to vent our own rage at the town. We’re totally in the world of the story; that’s powerful and effective filmmaking. And I agree that the silent star-tossing was definitely the way to go for the character. It’s exactly what Kane would have done, and all that he needed to say to make his point.

      • December 11, 2009 at 2:42 PM

        I think it’s a fantastic bit of storytelling that he comes back to help the town out of his sense of duty, the town refuses to help him (essentially betrays him), but he still feels that he has a responsibility to end things there. Once the town bails on him, he really has no obligation to hang around, but he does. He really is a remarkable character.

        And I’m glad you came around to the ending, chilidog. It might be my favorite moment in the film. Kane is a man of few words. He doesn’t try to force anyone to do anything and he keeps his anger to himself. There was nothing he could do but go off, contempt on his face, without a word. It’s perfect.

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