High Noon (1952) – Fred Zinnemann

 

I have been long overdue to watch this movie, so I was very happy to dive back into the action genre of the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book. This one leads off a number of westerns that I have either never seen or longing to rewatch. This one, however, was well worth the wait alone,  – Gary Cooper, the lovely Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges, and Lee Van Cleef, Lon Chaney Jr. and Harry Morgan, couldn’t wait to settle in and watch this one!

Cooper plays Will Kane, and he’s retiring as town marshal because his new bride, Amy Fowler Kane (Kelly) is a Quaker and abhors violence and wants the same for him. He’s quite happy to leave the tin star behind and live his life with her. But they should have left town one day earlier.

Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) just got released from prison, and is heading back to town to claim revenge on the man who sent him away in the first place, Kane. Waiting at the train stop for him, as the film progresses, are his men, including Van Cleef’s Jack Colby.

When Kane turns back and heads back into town to prepare to confront Miller, Amy is furious, and prepares to leave refusing to be a new bride and a widow on the same day.

No one in the town will help him for a variety of reasons, his deputy, Harvey (Bridges) refuses to help because Kane didn’t endorse him for the marshal position now that he left it.

Many of the townsfolk are supportive of Miller, despite the way he treated them, and the way crime ran rampant in the streets, and some just won’t stand up to Miller.

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So Kane prepares to face Miller and his men on his own, when the train arrives, at High Noon.

Tightly paced, filled with solid performances, I was a little upset with myself that I hadn’t watched this one before. It was great (though the song, repeated ad nauseum tended to wear a little), tense and well-crafted.

It wasn’t all white hats and bad hats, it was a man doing what was right by him and the town, no matter the cost. And it speaks to the love he shares with Amy as the climax plays out.

This was a great film, and honestly, only my third or fourth Cooper film ever, and Kelly of course lights up the screen whenever she’s on it, there isn’t a miscast person in the entire film.

Bridges plays his character right on the nose, a firebrand who thinks he’s the best man for the job despite everyone around him telling him he has growing up to do. He tries too hard to follow in Kane’s footsteps, even romancing a woman Kane was involved with before Amy came along. It’s an almost understated performance, that captivated me.

But it’s Cooper’s film, and he is fantastic in the role, taking home the Oscar for Best Actor that year.

I cannot wait to see what western I get to take on next!

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