Spoiler Warning


Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

High Noon

WHat Happens?

High Noon opens to its theme song, Do Not Forsake Me (The Ballad of High Noon) performed by Tex Ritter. The theme song does a great job of setting up the movie as its lyrics give us the essence of the plot.

Do not forsake me O my darlin’
On this our wedding day.
Do not forsake me O my darlin’
Wait, wait along.
The noonday train will bring Frank Miller.
If I’m a man I must be brave
And I must face that deadly killer
Or lie a coward, a craven coward,
Or lie a coward in my grave.
O to be torn ‘twixt love and duty!
S’posin’ I lose my fair-haired beauty!
Look at that big hand move along
Nearin’ high noon.

He made a vow while in State’s Prison,
Vow’d it would be my life or his and
I’m not afraid of death, but O,
What will I do if you leave me?


Do not forsake me O my darlin’
You made that promise when we wed.
Do not forsake me O my darlin’
Although you’re grievin’, I can’t be leavin’
Until I shoot Frank Miller dead.
Wait along, wait along
Wait along
Wait along

We see the villain, Frank Miller's gang assembling, including Jack Colby (Lee Van Cleef,) Ben Miller (Sheb Wooley,) and Pierce (Robert J. Wilke) Frank has been released from prison and his gang starts riding to meet Frank at the train station in the town of Hadleyville.  They arrive in town, causing serious discomort, as the church bells chime and town people enter church. Ben Miller's horse rears up on approaching a sign that reads "MARSHAL." The gang passes the window of the Justice of the Peace, where Judge Percy Mettrick (Otto Kruger) is performing the marriage ceremony for Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) and his Quaker bride, Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly) The clock in the Justice of the Peace office displays 10:35. The gang passes by the Barbershop next and the barber (with a clock on the wall behind him reading 10:33) is surprised to see Ben Miller as he is supposed to be in Texas. The gang approaches the train station. Pierce asks the station master "Noon train on time?" The station master (who also has a clock on the wall behind him sowing 10:35) says that it is, although he's very flustered by a telegram he received and then recognizing the Miller gang. The Miller gang sits outside the train station and watches the tracks while the station master sneaks out and into town with the telegram.

Inside the JP's office, Will and Amy both say "I do." and exchange rings to the excitement of the townspeople. Will escorts Amy outside for a few private words and tells her "I'll do my best." and she assures him that she will too. They kiss before they're interrupted by Mayor Henderson (Thomas Mitchell) leading the crowd into the room. Judge Mettrick says "One more ceremony and Will's a free man. Marshal, turn in your badge." Will says "To tell you the truth, I kind of hate to do this without your new marshal being here." The Mayor points to the "entire board of selectmen" (himself along with Sam Fuller (Harry Morgan) and Martin Howe (Lon Chaney Jr.)) for agreement,  and assures him that "this town will be safe until tomorrow." Will replies "You win, but don't ever marry a Quaker. She'll have you running a store." Fuller says "I can't picture you doing that, Will." But Amy says "I can." and Howe adds, "So can I, and a good thing too." to Amy's delight. Will remarks " You didn't talk that way when you were wearing a star." Will finally pins his star to his gun and holster, to the audience's applause.

The station master shows up immediately afterwards and presents Will with the distressing telegram, remarking to the Mayor as Will opens it, "It's terrible. It's shocking." Frank reads it and announces "They've pardoned Frank Miller." Amy asks "What is it?" The Mayor says "I don't believe it. And a week ago, too. Nice of them to let you know."  The station master adds "And that ain't all. Ben Miller's down at the depot now with Jim Pierce and Jack Colby. They asked about the noon train." Will asks "The noon train?" and looks at the clock on the wall, which now shows 10:40. Mayor Henderson tells Will to get out of town, "this very minute." Amy asks what the fuss is all about as the townspeople rush Will and Amy to their horse and carriage. Fuller assures Will they'll take care of everything. Will argues "I think I ought to stay." but Henderson tells him "Are you crazy? Think of Amy." Will nods and grabs the reins and heads away.

Deputy Marshal Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges) looking out from a hotel room window, sees them speeding out of town and remarks "That's funny." to Helen Ramirez, (Katy Jurado) the woman he's with.
Helen: What?
Pell: Kane and his new wife just took off in a big hurry.
Helen: What's so funny?
Pell: I mean a big hurry. Hey, you don't suppose Kane's scared of those three gunnies?
Helen laughs at that idea, but Pell adds "You didn't see him. I never saw him whip a horse that way." Helen looks more serious and leaves the room. She knocks on the door across the hall and alerts her older neighbor Sam (Tom London) that Ben Miller is in town and "two of the old bunch" are with him. Sam says he'll take a look around.

Will and Amy ride on, but Will looks uncertain, until he finally stops the horses. Amy asks why and he says "This is no good, Amy. I've got to go back."
Amy: Why?
Will: This is crazy. I haven't even got any guns.
 Amy: Then, let's go on. Hurry.
Will: No. That's what I've been thinking. They're making me run. I've never run from anybody before.
Amy: Why, I don't understand any of this.
Will: Well, I haven't got time to tell you.
Amy: Then, don't go back, Will.
Will: I've got to. That's the whole thing.
Will turns the coach around and heads back towards town.

We see the gang at the train depot, and then Will and Amy arriving. Pell and Helen see the from their window. Helen smiles at Pell. like she knew it all along, although Pell looks troubled. Will stops at the Marshal's office and word spreads that he's come back. In the Barbershop we see the time is 10:50. The Barber asks how many coffins they have, figuring they'll need two more as they have two on hand.

In the Marshal's office, Amy pleads with Will to tell her what's going on. They have a conversation with the clock coming in and out of focus behind them. Will tells her "I sent a man up five years ago for murder. He was supposed to hang. But up north they commuted it to life. Now, he's free. i don't know how. Anyway, it looks like he's coming back.
Amy: I still don't understand.
Will: He's, well, he was always wild, kind of crazy. He'll probably make trouble.
Amy: But that's no concern of yours, not anymore.
Will: I'm the one who sent him up.
Amy: Well, that was part of your job. That's finished now. They've got a new marshal.
Will: Won't be here until tomorrow. Seems to me I've got to stay. Anyway, I'm the same man, with or without this. [holds up his star]
Amy: Well, that isn't so.
Will: I expect he'll come looking for me. Three of his old bunch are waiting at the depot.
Amy: That's exactly why we ought to go.
Will: They'll just come after us. Four of them and we'd be all alone on the prairie.
Amy: We've got an hour.
Will: What's 100 miles? We'd never be able to keep that store, Amy. They'd come after us and we'd have to run again, as long as we live.
Amy: No we wouldn't. Not if they didn't know where to find us.
Holster back on, Will starts for the door but Amy gets in front of him. She begs him to leave.
Will: I can't.
Amy: Don't try to be a hero. You don't have to be a hero. Not for me.
Will: I'm not trying to be a hero. If you think I like this, you're crazy. Look, Amy, this is my town. I've got friends here. I'll swear in special deputies. With a posse behind me, maybe there won't be any trouble.
Amy: You know there'll be trouble.
Will: Then, it's better to have it here.
Kane: Then, it's better to have it here. I'm sorry, honey, I know how you feel about it.
Amy: Do you?
Kane: Of course I do. I know it's against your religion and all. Sure I know how you feel.
Amy: But you're doing it just the same. Oh Will, we were married just a few minutes ago. We've got our whole lives ahead of us. Doesn't that mean anything to you?
Kane: You know I've only got an hour and I've got lots to do. Stay at the hotel until it's over.
Amy: No, I won't be here when it's over. You're asking me to wait an hour to find out if I'm going to be a wife or a widow. I say it's too long to wait. I won't do it...I mean it. If you won't go with me now, I'll be on that train when it leaves here.
Kane: I've got to stay.

Amy gets on their coach and leaves. Will comes out afterwards as the Judge arrives. Will says "Glad you got here, Parson." The judge says, "Yeah? Have you forgotten that I'm the man that passed sentence on Frank Miller? You shouldn't have come back Will. It was stupid." The Judge is collecting his things. Will replies "I figured I had to stay."
Judge: You figured wrong.
Will: I can deputize a posse, 10-12 guns is all I need.
Judge: My intuition tells me otherwise.
Will: Why?
Judge: No time for a lesson in civics, my boy. In the fifth century, B.C., the citizens of Athens, having suffered grievously under a tyrant managed to depose and banish him. However when he returned some years later, with an army of mercenaries, those same citizens not only opened the gates for him, but stood by while he executed members of the legal government. A similar thing happened about eight years ago in a town called Indian Falls. I escaped death only through the intercession of a lady of somewhat dubious reputation, and the cost of a very handsome ring which once belonged to my mother. Unfortunately, I have no more rings.
Will: But, you're a judge.
Judge: I've been a judge many times in many towns and I hope to live to be a judge again.
Will: I can't tell you what to do.
Judge: Why must you be so stupid, Will? Have you forgotten what he is? Have you forgotten what he's done to people, that he's crazy? Don't you remember when he sat in that same chair and said "You'll never hang me, I'll come back. I'll kill you, Will Kane."

At the depot we find Amy buying a ticket to St. Louis, while Miller's gang breaks bottles while they wait. The Station master advises her to wait elsewhere. As she leaves, Ben remarks "That wasn't here five years ago." We then find Helen and Pell eating in their room, where a small clock shows us it's 10:53. Helen tells Pell that Kane is probably looking for him now. Pell doesn't care much. Helen remarks "You're really sore at him."
Pell: Wouldn't you be, if you were me?
Helen: I suppose, if I were you.
Pell gets an idea and announces "be back in a little while." before rushing away from the table. He attempts to kiss Helen but she turns away. Sam is sitting outside his room and notices Pell leaving, as does the hotel clerk, although neither says hello to him.

Will and the Judge say goodbye. The Judge tells Will "You think I'm letting you down don't you? Look, this is just a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere. Nothing that happens here is really important. Now, get out.
Will: There isn't time.
Judge: What a waste. Good luck.
He rides off. Will notices a kid hanging out close by. He asks him why he isn't in church. When the kid asks why Will isn't in church, he instructs the kid to find Henderson, Howe and Fuller and have them meet him at the Marshal's office, and as an afterthought, to find Harv Pell. Pell shows up at that moment and tells him "You don't have to do that. here I am." Will asks "Where you been?" Pell replies, "Busy."
Will: You know what's doing?
Pell: Sure.
Will: Well, come on. We've got lots to do.
Pell: Now, hold up a second. This ain't really your job, you know.
Will: That's what everybody keeps telling me.
Pell: It means something. Listen a second.
Will: Alright, I'm listening.
Pell: Well, this is the way I see it. If you're gone, with a new marshal not due until tomorrow, I'd be in charge, right?
Will: Right.
Pell: Well, tell me this then. If I'm good enough to hold down the job when there's trouble, why didn't they trust me with it permanent?
Will: I don't know.
Pell: Don't you?
Will: No.
Pell: That's funny. I figured you carried a lot of weight.
Will: Maybe they didn't ask me. Maybe they figured you were too young.
Pell: You think I'm too young?
Will: You sure act like it sometimes. Come on.
Will goes into the office and checks the rifles. Pell follows and continues "It's very simple, Will. All you got to do is tell the old boys I'm the new marshal, and tomorrow they can tell the other fella they're sorry but the job's filled."
Will: You really mean it, don't you?
Pell: Sure.
Will: Well, I can't do it.
Pell: Why not?
Will: If you don't know, it's no use me telling you.
Pell: You mean you won't do it?
Will: Have it your way.
Pell: Alright, the truth is you probably talked against me from the start. You been sore about me and Helen Ramirez right along, ain't you?
Will: You and Helen Ramirez? It so happens, I didn't know and it doesn't mean anything to me one way or the other.
Pell: You've been washed up for more than a year. You go out and get yourself married, only you can't stand anybody taking your place, especially me.
Will starts to respond and ten looks at the clock, which now shows 11:03. He says "Haven't got time, Harv." Pell responds "Ok, then let's get down to business. You want me to stick, you put the word in for me like I said. Will responds "I want you to stick, but I'm not buying it. It's gotta be up to you."  Pell takes off his star and holster and leaves them with Will.


A the depot, the Miller gang bickers mildly. Pell returns to Helen, who laughs at him. He asks "What's so funny?" Helen says " Did you really think you could put that over on Kane?"
Pell: Why not?
Helen: When are you going to grow up?
Pell: I'm getting tired of that kind of talk.
Helen: Then, grow up!
Pell tells Helen, "He's just sore about you and me."
Helen: Is he?
Pell: Sure.
Helen: You told him?
Pell: Sure.
Helen: You're a fool.
Pell: Why? Didn't you want him to know? Hey...who did the walking out, anyway, you or him?
Helen opens the door of the room and says "Get out, Harvey."
Pell: I might just do that.
Helen: Then, do it.
Pell: You don't mean that.
Helen: Try me.
Pell: You're gonna talk different when Frank Miller gets here. You might want somebody around when you try to explain about Kane.
Helen: I can take care of myself.
Pell: Sure, from what I've heard, you might not be so pretty when he gets through with you. I won't be back.
Helen: Good.
Pell leaves and Helen looks at her clock, which shows 11:05. Sam knocks on Helen's door and asks if everything is alright. Helen tell him she needs to talk to Mr. Weaver. Sam asks "You're getting out?" and she says she is. Sam asks "You want me to give Kane a hand?" Helen considers for a moment and says "No."

Amy Kane arrives at the hotel and asks if she can wait n the lobby. The hotel clerk points out, sinisterly, that it's interesting that she's leaving when Will isn't. He adds that the business at the station will be "a sight to see."

We move to a church service where Mr. Weaver (Cliff Clark) is singing with the rest of the choir. He excuses himself when he sees Sam in the doorway. We then go to the Marshal's office, where the clock says 11:07.  Will watches out his window for anyone to arrive. Finally a town person, Herb Baker (James Millican) shows up and tells Will "You can count on me. The way you cleaned this town up, you made it fit for women and kids to live in. Miller, nor nobody else will ever drag it down again."
Will: I was hoping people would feel that way.
Herb: What other way is there? How many men you got lined up?
Will: None yet.
Herb: Well, you better get going man. I'll be back in ten minutes in order to prepare.

Sam returns to Helen and tells her Mr. Weaver is coming in the back to meet them. She tells Weaver she's leaving town and wants him to buy her out. They strike a deal and Weaver thanks Helen for being his silent partner and wishes her good luck.

Will spots Amy at the hotel and assumes she's changed her mind. She assumes he's changed his, but they both realize that neither has. Will tells the creepy clerk that he needs to see Helen Ramirez. He asks Will sarcastically "You think you can find it alright?" which gets Will a strange look from Amy. In her room, Helen greets Will angrily, telling Will she won't beg Frank to let him go and won't lift a finger to help. Will explains that he just wanted to tell her Frank was coming, but should have figured she knew. Helen explains that she's leaving. Will says "That's good."  In a nod to their old relationship, Helen speaks to him in Spanish, saying   "Un año sin verte." Will responds, "Si, lo sé" He backs away and says "Goodbye, Helen." She says "Kane, if you're smart, you'll get out too.
Will: I can't.
Helen: I know.
Will leaves passing the clerk, who is adjusting the clock to 11:15, and Amy on the way out. Amy asks the clerk about Mrs. Ramirez. H eagerly tells her "She used to be a friend of your husband's awhile back." adding "and before that, she was a friend of Frank Miller's."
Amy: You don't like my husband, do you?
Clerk: No.
Amy: Why?
Clerk: Lots of reasons. This place was always busy when Frank Miller was around. I'm not the only one. There's plenty of people around here think he's got a comeuppance coming. You asked me ma'am, so I'm telling you.

The Miller gang sits at the depot, Colby playing the High Noon theme. Ben announces that he's going to get some liquor. Pierce gives him a hard time, asking "Do you have to have it?" He reminds Ben to stay away from Kane.Pell enters the saloon and starts drinking. h tells the bartender he turned in his tin star. The bartender tells him "Smart move." Ben Miller arrives shortly afterwards. and many of the patrons greet him enthusiastically.

The clock in the Marshal's office shows 11:18 when Will returns to find no one else there. He runs out again and passing the saloon runs into Ben Miller leaving. Ben just keeps walking. Will enters the saloon and hears the bartender betting that he'll be dead five minutes after Frank gets off the train. Will grabs him and punches him in the face, knocking him over. The injured bartender tells him "You carry a badge and a gun. You had no call to do that." Will says "You're right." and offers to help him up. Will makes a speech telling the bar patrons he needs deputies and he'll take all he can get. He reminds them that some were deputies when they busted Frank originally. One of the patrons reminds Will that he had six top guns back then already, and now he doesn't have any. They ask why Pell quit, but Will says "That's between the two of us." They all smirk at him, not one of them joining and laugh as he leaves.

Will then heads to Fuller's house. Fuller sees him from the window and tells his wife to say he isn't home. She reminds him that Will is his friend but Fuller insists that she stick to his plan. When Will asks where he is, she tells him that he went to church. Fuller asks his wife when Will leaves "Well what do you want? Do you want to be a widow?"

Leaving Fuller's house, Will is stopped by Jimmy, (William Newell) an older man with an eye patch who was in the bar and offers to help. Jimmy tells him he used to be good, but Will tells him "I'll call you if I need you."

Pell returns to Helen's room and finds her packing. He assures her that he'll keep her safe and he isn't afraid of Miller. He asks her if she'd "cutting out with Kane." Helen tells him it isn't Kane, despite his insistence. She tells him "It isn't Kane. But I'm going to tell you something about you and Kane. You're a good looking boy, you have big broad shoulders, but he is a man. It takes more than big broad shoulders to make a man, Harvey, and you have a long way to go. You know something? I don't think you will ever make it." Pell grabs her and says "You're not going anywhere. You're staying with me. It's gonna be just like it was before." He tries to kiss her but she doesn't participate. She then says "You want to know why I'm leaving? Then listen, Kane will be a dead man in half an hour and nobody's gonna do anything about it. And when he dies, this town dies too. I can feel it. I am all alone in the world. I have to make a living. So I'm going someplace else. That's all."

At the depot, Pierce asks the station master for an update, he says it's still on time as far as he knows.

Will next heads to the church and interrupts the services to ask for deputies. The minister chides him for not attending church and not getting married there. Will explains that he needs help and the minister apologizes and tells him to say his piece. Will presents the scenario and asks for deputies. Several men get up to help him but Cooper (Harry Shannon), interrupts. saying, "Before we go rushing out into something that ain't gonna be so pleasant, let's be sure we know what this is all about. What I want to know is this. Ain't it true that Kane ain't no longer Marshal? And ain't it true there's personal trouble between him and Miller?" This starts an argument with the men who got up to offer assistance. The Mayor tells them to quiet down, ans says "If there's a difference of opinion let everybody have a say. let's do it like grown up people, and let's get all the kids out of the building." The mayor pats Will on the shoulder and smiles. Several church members bring up their opinions. One man angrily says it isn't their job to help. One man blames the north for setting Miller free. Another man defends Will and scolds the rest of them, saying

"I can't believe I've heard some of the things that have been said here. You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Sure, we paid this man and he was the best marshal this town ever had. It ain't his trouble, it's ours. I tell ya, if we don't do what's right, we're gonna have plenty more trouble. So there ain't but one thing to do now, and you all know what that is."

Another man criticizes Will for not arresting the three gang members at the depot, but Will explains that they've done nothing illegal. One of the women reminds them that the town wasn't safe before Will cleaned it up. The minister weighs in and says,

"The commandments say, Thou shalt not kill, but we hire men to go out and do it for us. The right and the wrong seem pretty clear here. But if you're asking me to tell my people to go out and kill and maybe get themselves killed, I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. I'm sorry."

Henderson takes over the conversation, remarking on time getting short and looking at his pocket watch. He says,

What this town owes Will Kane here, it can never pay with money and don't ever forget it. He's the best marshal we ever had, maybe the best marshal we'll ever have. So if Miller comes back here today, it's our problem, not his. It's our problem, because this is our town. We made it with our own hands out of nothing. And if we want to keep it decent, keep it growing, we've got to think mighty clear here today. And we've gotta have the courage to do what we think is right, no matter how hard it is. All right. There's gonna be fighting when Kane and Miller meet and somebody's gonna get hurt, that's for sure. Now, people up North are thinking about this town, thinking mighty hard. Thinking about sending money down here to put up stores and to build factories. It'll mean a lot to this town, an awful lot. But if they're gonna read about shooting and killing in the streets, what are they gonna think then? I'll tell ya. They're gonna think this is just another wide open town and everything we worked for will be wiped out. In one day, this town will be set back five years. And I don't think we can let that happen. Mind you, you all know how I fell about this man. he's a mighty brave man, a good man. He didn't have to come back here today and for his sake and the sake of this town, I wish he hadn't. Because, if he's not here when Miller comes, my hunch is, there won't be any trouble, not one bit. Tomorrow, we'll have a new marshal and if we can all agree here to offer him our services, I think we can handle anything that comes along, to me that makes sense. TO me that's the only way out of this. Will, you'd better go, while there's still time. It's better for you, and it's better for us. Will looks hurt, and says "Thanks." before leaving with no help.

The Miller Gang bickers over the harmonica playing at the depot. Will walks by kids who are playing with toy guns, acting out his meeting with Miller. One of them says "You're dead, Kane." Will stops at his old friend Matt Howe's house. He mentions that he sent a kid to come get him. Matt says "Yeah, he was here." Kane remarks that it was Howe that got him the job and that he's always looked up to him. Howe tells him:
It's a great life. You risk your skin catchin' killers and the juries turn 'em loose so they can come back and shoot at ya again. If you're honest, you're poor your whole life, and in the end you wind up dyin' all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothin'. For a tin star."
Will explains his trouble getting help and Matt replies "It figures. It's all happened too sudden. People gotta talk themselves into law and order before they do anything about it. Maybe because down deep they don't care. They just don't care."
Will: What'll I do, Martin?
Howe: I was hoping you wouldn't come back.
Will: You know why I came back.
Howe: Not to commit suicide.
Will: Sometimes prison changes a man...
Howe: Not him. This is all planned. That's why they're all here. Get out, Will.
Will gets up to leave and asks Howe point blank "Will you come down to that depot with me?"
Howe: No. You know how I feel about you, but I ain't going with you. Seems like a man with busted knuckles didn't need arthritis, too, don't it? No, I couldn't do nothing for you. You'd be worried about me. You'd get yourself killed worrying about me. It's too one-sided like it is." Will says "So long." and leaves. When he's gone, Howe says "It's all for nothing, Will." He looks at his clock which shows 11:43.

We move to Amy in the hotel lobby. She gets Helen's room number from the clerk and confronts Helen. She introduces herself and Helen tells her she can come in. She explains her problem and adds,
"That man downstairs, the clerk, he said things about you and Will. I've been trying to understand why he wouldn't go with me, and now all I can think of is that it's got to be because of you...Let him go, he still has a chance. Let him go."
Helen: He isn't staying for me. I haven't spoken to him for a year. until today. I am leaving on the same train you are.
Amy: Then, what is it? Why is he staying?
Helen: If you don't know, I can't explain it to you.
Amy: Thank you, anyway. You've been very kind.
Helen: What kind of woman are you? How can you leave him like this? Does the sound of guns frighten you that much?
Amy: No, Mrs. Ramirez. I've heard guns. My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side, but that didn't help them when the shooting started. My brother was 19. I watched him die. That's when I became a Quaker. I don't care who's right or who's wrong. There's got to be some better way for people to live. Will knows how I feel about it.
Helen: Just a minute. Are you going to wait for the train downstairs?
Amy: Yes.
Helen: Why don't you wait here?

Will walks the street finding no help. In the bar, the bartender remarks "I got no use for Kane, but I'll say this, he's got guts." Pell hears this as he's drinking nearby. The bartender approaches Pell and says "How about you, Harv? I always figured you for guts, but I never gave you any credit for brains til now.
Pell: What's that mean?
Bartender: Nothing, only it takes a smart man to know when to back away.
Pell: If I can't pick my company when I drink in here, I ain't coming in here anymore.
Bartender: [getting up] Ok, the boy with the tin star. Alright if that's the way you want it.
Pell sees Will walking past and gets up from his table.

Will stops at the livery stable to check on his horse. Pell confronts him and asks him if he was planning to get away. Pell throws a saddle on the horse and tells Will to get out. When Will tells him he's going back to his office, Pell gets agitated and tries to force him to go.
Will asks, "Why's it so important to you? You don't care if I live or die.
Pell shoves him and Will says "Don't shove me Harv, I'm tired of being shoved." He shoves Harv back and Harv sucker punches him. The two exchange blows for awhile until Will knocks Pell out.
He dumps some water on Pell and leaves, looking more ragged.

Helen tells Amy that she hates being a Mexican woman in this town. She tells Amy she would never leave Kane if he was her man. Will stops at the barber shop, where we see it's 11:53. Kane lies back for a shave, and hears coffins in the background being nailed. The barber assures him it's nothing and tells his assistant to hold off. Kane leaves all cleaned up, while the Miller Gang continues to wait.

Will gets back to his office and finds Herb waiting. Herb asks where the others are, but Will explains "I couldn't get anybody." Herb reminds Will that he volunteered but complains about the risk. After awhile Will tells him "Go on home, Herb." which he does. The kid that Will sent to get people earlier shows up and asks to fight with him. Will tells him he can't, as he's a kid. Will loads his pistol and writes out his Last Will and Testament.

At the depot, the Miller Gang check their guns and walk by the tracks. We see everyone sitting quietly in church and at the bar. We revisit everyone that turned Will down and the clock shows Noon. We hear the train whistle and everyone looks up. Will puts his Will in an envelope and marks it to be read in the event of hi death. He opens the jail cell and releases Charlie, who was drunk. Sam says goodbye to Helen and Amy who are headed for the train. Will leaves the office and sees them passing by. The train approaches and the Gang waits.

Helen and Amy walk up to the train and the Miller gang walks up to it as it stops, and greet Frank (Ian McDonald) Frank asks Is everything ready?" and they assure him that it is and give him his gun. We get our first look at Frank's face as he notices Helen getting on the train. He and his men start walking toward town, where Will is standing alone in the completely deserted street. He starts walking toward the depot at the same time as the four men approach. Ben breaks a window alerting Will that they're just around the corner from him. Will gets just out of sight in a doorway and watches them approach. He darts out and says "Miller." prompting them to fire a shot. Amy hears this and leaves the train. She sees a body in the street, and getting closer sees that it's not Will but Ben. Will and the remaining three chase each other around the shops. Will climbs to the loft in the stables and shoots at them from cover. Colby rushes in and Will picks him off. Miller lights a lantern and throws it into the barn to start a fire. He waves Pierce to cover Will from another direction and Pierce throws another lantern right into the hay, spooking the horses. Will climbs down and frees the horses, riding one out of the barn past Miller and Pierce. Amy hears the noise from the Marshal's office where she is staying out of the way. Will is shot of the horse and fires back from the ground in the middle of the street. He ducks into a store and Amy looks out the office window. Will reloads but has difficulty getting a shot out through the broken window of the store as Pierce and Miller have him in a crossfire. Pierce runs out of bullets and reloads his gun when we see him fall, shot in the back. We then see Amy in the window just behind him. Miller rushes into the Marshal's office and grabs Amy. Will sees them exiting the office and Miller demands he come out or he'll kill her. Will agrees to come out if he lets her go. Miller says he will the second Will comes out the door. Will walks out the door and Amy struggles a bit, messing up Miller's aim. He knocks her aside, but Will shoots him dead.

He finds that Amy is ok, and the entire town seems to come out of hiding and into the street. Will looks around at them and then throws his tin star to the ground and rides off with Amy.

What About It?

High Noon is most definitely a Western, but a western of a different kind. Some conventions of the genre are used, such as building up to a final showdown, but it does so without gunplay, only talking any the Marshal seeking help. Using a close approximation of real time, with frequent looks at the clocks throughout town, as well as flashes to the train tracks and the waiting gang, the High Noon confrontation takes on the feeling of approaching doom. The tension created amplifies as the minutes tick by and the townspeople take their time in turning Will down. We're given a real sense of the Marshal's frustration and the pressure he carries.

Zinneman crafts a beautiful film, using stark black and white to their best effect and focusing on the inside of Hadleyville. This is quite a contrast to the other westerns out at the time which were filmed in bright color and usually made use of the scenery. Cooper won a best actor for his performance here, and it's well deserved, as he shows us the marshal's journey in the lines on his face as much as any line of dialogue. Katy Jurado is also fantastic here, her portrayal of Helen, giving us a woman with unusual complexity for the time and genre. Grace Kelly also hold her role very well been difficult, as it's her first feature. The rest of the cast is talented as well, and they all give us characters unlikeable for their own reasons. Both Amy and Helen were not typical roles, neither serving as passive arm candy, both being perfectly willing to defy Will Kane for their own reasons. The film is full of wonderful unique touches. The recurring clocks, and the train tracks, and the recurring theme song played in pieces throughout the film. Also notable is the choice to dress Will Kane in all black, making him stand out sharply, as well is is not a western, where the characters are defined by their clothes.

Westerns very often work as morality plays, and High Noon certainly accomplishes this. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman a writer feeling the weight of the House Un-American Activities Committee on himself and throughout Hollywood. He was blacklisted just after the film came out and moved to England. It's often mentioned as an indictment of Hollywood, and the failure to stand up to HUAC. While that may well have been the intention of the screenplay, it's strength is that it isn't limited to its times. I could as easily be applied to any situation where the majority fails to act due to fear, selfishness or even apathy. It could as easily be read as a pro McCarthy film, it all depends on the viewer's sympathies.  The townspeople give Will every reason imaginable for failing to help him, and nobody mentions communism.

His new wife Amy threatens to leave him due to her religious beliefs against violence. In my opinion this is the most disturbing betrayal, although Grace Kelly portrays Amy very well as a conflicted character. Her opinion gets fleshed out through the course of the film and becomes more understandable. Having lost her father and brother to violence, even though they were on the "right side." she doesn't think of gun fights as good guy vs. bad guy. She simply sees them as a good way to lose people that you love as she mentions to Helen, she simply wishes for "a better way." Helen's question "What kind of woman are you?" is one I think the audience means to ask and its fitting that she gives Helen the answers. Although Amy has lost a lot due to violence, she is a bit naive. Helen understands the kind of man that Will is very well. Their brief association informs Amy a great deal, although it doesn't change her mind. Of course, Amy is not as cold as she attempts to be, and hearing the first gunshot of the showdown, she runs back into town, and does manage to help her husband, putting her religion aside in light of the fact that her husband could die if one helps him.

This provides an interesting answer to the Minister's dilemma, when he stated "The commandments say, Thou shalt not kill, but we hire men to go out and do it for us. The right and the wrong seem pretty clear here. But if you're asking me to tell my people to go out and kill and maybe get themselves killed, I'm sorry. I don't know what to say. I'm sorry." Likewise, Amy will not find any religious justification for her actions, but in choosing between her moral code and the life of the man she loves, she chooses her husband. She can certainly attempt to reconcile her faith afterwards, but she has little more than a moment, if she's to help Will. It's telling that Will left Helen, a woman who understands him very well, for Amy, a woman who seems to understand him very little. The implication, I think is that Will Kane wants to believe in Amy's "better way." Their relationship which was to result in becoming a store owner rather than a marshal signifies this desire. Will wants to grow and live another way, and Helen signifies the way he's always lived before.

Helen refuses to help, because she feels spurned by him. Her position is the most understandable to me. Helen is not only Will's ex lover, but she is implied to be Frank Miller's ex lover before that, and she knows more about the conflict than anyone else in town, having possibly been a large part of the original quarrel. Despite her hurt feelings, she knows exactly who Will Kane is, and although she tells him he should leave, when he says he can't, she replies "I know." Her respect for Will Kane as a man seems undiminished, despite the circumstances of their break up. When her new lover, Pell can't get over his imagined idea that she's leaving him for Kane, she tells him  "I'm going to tell you something about you and Kane. You're a good looking boy, you have big broad shoulders, but he is a man. It takes more than big broad shoulders to make a man, Harvey, and you have a long way to go. You know something? I don't think you will ever make it." She also tells Amy that if Kane was hers she would never let him go, but as he isn't hers, she has no choice. She refuses to help Kane, because she is looking at the bigger picture and feels its time to close this chapter in her life. Helen emembers what the town was like before Kane cleaned it up, and to her he is the symbol of everything that is good in Hadleyville. As she tells Pell, "Kane will be a dead man in half an hour and nobody's gonna do anything about it. And when he dies, this town dies too. I can feel it. I am all alone in the world. I have to make a living. So I'm going someplace else. That's all."

Harvey Pell's betrayal is perhaps the most distasteful. Pell refuses to help for a number of reasons, and he is more contemptible than most because in not helping, he is the only one actually refusing to do his job. Lloyd Bridge's gives us a shortsighted and selfish character, resentful of anyone he perceives as "better" than him. He doesn't understand the idea that Will Kane, would turn down his extortion attempt purely out of principle, no matter the personal cost. Pell feels entitled to the Marshal's position, simply because he's there. He can't accept the idea that he wouldn't be a good marshal, and has no interest in working for it. He is envious of Kane, although he can't see it. He spins his bitterness into a conspiracy against himself. He arguably does try to help Kane more than most, by trying to force him out of town. His attempt is not useful, but it does keep Pell from being completely hopeless. He at least does come to realize that whether he gets the marshal position or not, he'd rather not see Kane dead. Pell is blinded by self interest, but he's not entirely cold to Will's fate.

The other pivotal and personal betrayals are from the "entire board of selectmen" Mayor Henderson (Thomas Mitchell,) Sam Fuller (Harry Morgan) and Martin Howe (Lon Chaney Jr.) These men are the "architects" of the current state of Hadleyville. And it was the three of them who called for Will Kane, to help clean it up. Of course all three of them profess to think the world of Will, yet not one of them comes through, or even dignifies his request to meet them at the Marshal's office. Of them, Fuller is the least important, he fails simply through cowardice. He can't even bring himself to face Kane, and resorts to asking his wife to lie about him being at home. Henderson is simply a politician. He's far more concerned with the image of the town, than what Will feels he needs to do. Henderson not only refuses Kane but convinces  impulse to help him, that they should also stay out of it. The church scene, which Henderson commands, is one of the most crucial in the film. While some in the church would side with him, no one is willing to go against the majority. Many reasonable sounding explanations are given to justify this.

Howe's betrayal however, is the most cutting. Howe was Will's hero and a former lawman himself. While part of his refusal is certainly due to his physical condition, we see that the bulk of his reason is his bitterness and his conviction that the "tin star" is little thanks for all that a lawman risks and endures. Will is shaken by this, but as he is his own man at this point, he simply lets it go, resolved to face the showdown himself. Of everyone he speaks with, Howe is the only one he asks outright after being turned down.

The bar scene is not a surprising one, and simply represents those who don't agree with Will at all and perceive his moral position as sanctimonious rather than of sevice to them. Many of them, along with the hotel clerk, are on Frank Miller's side, although some could have been swayed if Will already had some help, as they do want to be on the side that wins. Many of them were deputies before, when Will had more gunmen. They are at least honest in their reasoning, unlike the church goers who want to appear helpful, yet decline after having found a justification that allays their conscience. The bar patrons are not interested in Will or what he represents. They're waiting for his "comeuppance" as the hotel clerk says.

Will Kane is completely alone, and while it can be said that he's facing Frank Miller for the good of the town, it's true that he is facing Miller, also for his own reasons, both practical and moral. Frank Miller is not returning simply to cause chaos in Hadleyville, he is returning because he promised to kill Will Kane. Kane knows Miller very well, and as he explains to Amy, Miller will look for him in the next town and keep looking until he finds him. While he could perhaps find a town where they feel safer, if he runs he will always be aware that Miller is out there looking for him. Perhaps just as importantly, Will would have to live with the fact that Miller made him run, which he mentions to Amy, saying "I've never run from anybody before." It's a point of honor for him to stand his ground, yet the failure on anyone to help him is the ultimate test of his resolve. Will Kane confirms that standing his ground is more important than even his life when he seals up his last will and testament and leaves it in the office before going to meet the train. This is a question of his own self worth and nothing will sway him from his position. To Will, this is something a man must do, live or die.

Some might argue that the town isn't worth saving, but to Kane, such thinking would simply be an excuse like those given in the church. Saving the town is simply his job. He is not unshakable as we see when Pell finds him looking at his horse, wondering how far he could go in the time he has left. He tells Pell "I'm tired." and we see that he is tired. Kane is tired and frustrated and disheartened, but he what he has to do. He breaks down several times, but always does so in private, keeping his public face determined. Whether or not the town is worth saving, he has no other choice. Miller is evil and crazy and dangerous and should not be out of prison. Will is certainly afraid,  he is well aware that facing Miller and his three friends is pretty hopeless. Still, the same conviction that requires him to not run from Miller, requires him to face the gang on legal terms. He refuses to arrest Miller's gang at the depot, because they've done nothing wrong. It's likely this strict adherence to principles that has made him enemies in town. It's easy to paint him as impossibly moral, yet we see that Will is no Puritan, as suggested by his former relationship with Helen. Kane is not naive and he is not terribly surprised by betrayals. He is not aiming to be heroic, merely to make the choice he can live with. When Amy accuses him of trying to be a hero, he tells her "You're crazy if you think I like this." It's easy to believe this, as Gary Cooper shows the frustration and weariness in his face. He's not happy about this and would be glad to get out of it, but he can't escape his own code. Without it, his life would be meaningless.

At the end, Kane fulfills his code, and having lived up to his own standard, he returns the "tin star." This is the only fitting response to the whole town revealing that they watched the whole spectacle, by coming out in droves, moments after the danger has passed. Kane doesn't say a word, just drops the star and leaves without a goodbye. He's done his job, but can't pretend he wasn't hurt by their betrayals. He leaves them with a token of his contempt, but you have to wonder how they'll tell the story later. They can't celebrate his victory without revisiting their own failure.

 John Wayne (a HUAC supporter) called the movie Un-American for it's portrayal of the townspeople and Will Kane's seeking help and throwing the badge in the dirt. He teamed with Howard Hawks (who called Will Kane "unprofessional") to make Rio Bravo as a response to the film. In Rio Bravo, Wayne plays a Sheriff who with the help of a only a drunk, a kid, and a crippled man, have to prevent a gang from breaking one of their members out of jail. Wayne's larger than life enthusiasm, is certainly a sharp contrast to Cooper's haunted Marshal. Though both films are worth viewing, I find it difficult to side with Wayne's optimism, although it is a pleasant diversion. Certainly to this day we have arguments about HUAC, but the beauty of western morality plays and film in general is that a good story can transcend the specific events that inspired it. High Noon is a parable for any times, including our own current extremely polarized ones. It's difficult to live your own life, and its easy to find a justification for any moral position you can think of, or find an opinion from someone else, but ultimately the question it asks is whether or not you can live up to your own code, no matter what it costs, even if no one in the world will stand with you.

4 comments:

Melissa Bradley said...

Great summation, although this film is not one I like. I don't hate it, really, I'm more annoyed by it. Kane is so pure-hearted and in his own way, just as naive and silly as his new bride, whom I wanted to slap several times. He's been marshall in that town, he knows these people. No way could he have logically expected their aid. He knows what kind of crazy Frank is and remembers the aftermath of when he locked him up. The cowardice of these people is palpable before the first five minute are over. The director might as well have had placards after each character's initial shot like a silent movie "This Pell, he is a jealous coward. You will not like him."

For me, a better picture of a man sticking to his beliefs and rising to the occasion is 3:10 to Yuma. Van Heflin's Evans is more layered and more believable than Cooper's Kane. I always thought Gary Cooper was like Captain America, playing these simplistic, naive, pure-hearted roles like Lou Gehrig and Sergeant York. And for the record, I don't buy that Lou or York were that good in real life. Their dirt was covered up for purposes of making them seem golden. Nobody is that pure, show me the mud, make me believe that they are battling themselves to be good, that's what I prefer. The wholesome priest is either eying the altar boys or the deacon's wife. Believe me.

And yet, I like the ending, I'm glad Kane finally wises up and shows his disgust. As you cann probably tell, I don't like morality plays. ;) It's only designed to get you to see a particular side. I prefer to see all sides, then make up my mind. Don't tell me these people are cowards, let me get that for myself. I'm smart, not some stained glass reading, ignorant peasant.

Brent Allard said...

Great points, Melissa. I "like" High Noon very much, but I don't like it, if that makes sense. A lot of it does ring true for me though, although your "placard" suggestion is a perfectly valid point. Kane is an impossible character, but that being said, no one expected Miller to be pardoned, and often people assume that everyone will come to their aid, while hoping they never need it. I don't think Kane could realize that especially since he had help the first time. (For an example, tell random friends that you're moving and you need help.) I don't think Kane is necessarily hyper moral, he's just been zinged in one place where he can't bend. I can appreciate someone reading Kane as foolish or arrogant as well, but it remains a riveting story to me. I like your mention of 3:10 to Yuma, both the original and its recent remake are great and I'll likely do them here one of these days.

Joyce at I Take Off The Mask said...

It's not really easy to live up to one's own moral code, and maybe that's why many people choose to just forget it altogether or pretend it never existed within them. Good review!

Brent Allard said...

Thanks for stopping by, Joyce! THere are certainly moments in life that would test anyone's resolve. While I'd like to think the townspeople's reactions are not realistic, I don't think they're that far off in many cases.