The film “High Noon” has been singled out as being the best Western film ever made. Produced by Stanley Kramer, it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four of those, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Gary Cooper’s performance, and Best Song - “High Noon,” sung by Tex Ritter with the familiar refrain, even to this day, of “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling.” The film was adapted from a story which appeared in Colliers Magazine in 1947, entitled “The Tin Star” written by John Cunningham.
Gary Cooper - Wikimedia
Will Kane (Gary Cooper) had just recently retired from his long career as the Marshall of Hadleyville, New Mexico in the 1870’s. He removed his badge symbolically and pinned it to his holster. Friends gathered in the Marshall’s office to witness Judge Percy Pettrick (Otto Kruger) officiate at the marriage of Will Kane and Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly). Amy has had a strict Quaker upbringing which has taught her to abhor violence. She and Will plan to leave Hadleyville for another town where they will operate a small store.
A Murderer is Paroled
Right after the wedding ceremony, the train stationmaster rushed in with a telegram for Will Kane. Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), a murderer whom Will and Judge Percy had sent to prison five years ago had been paroled, and was on his way to Hadleyville on the 12 noon train to keep his promise to seek revenge on Will Kane and the Judge. Mayor Jonas Henderson (Thomas Mitchell) advised Will to leave town immediately, for the sake of the town as well as for Will and his new bride.
While they were riding out of town, Will had second thoughts about leaving. The new Marshall would not arrive until the next day. Will’s Deputy Marshall, Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges) was a young, precipitous, inexperienced deputy whom Will was certain would not be able to handle the situation.
Grace Kelly as Amy Fowler - Wikimedia
Will Postpones Their Honeymoon
Against Amy’s will, her husband turned the carriage around and headed back to town. Amy was upset that their honeymoon would have to be postponed, and that Will could possibly be facing danger. She insisted that the responsibility was not his since he had already retired. Will knew that Frank Miller would come after them, and he wanted to face him now rather than later. He planned to enlist some townsmen as deputies who would help him in his showdown with Miller. Amy said that she would take the noon train out of Hadleyville whether Will was with her or not. Will pinned his Tin Star back on his chest.
The Ex-Con Will Arrive at Noon
As the couple pulled into town, the tower clock registered the time as 10:35 a.m. They spotted three renegade citizens in the heart of town who were known troublemakers. They were Frank Miller’s brother Ben (Sheb Wooley), James Pierce (Bob Wilke), and Jack Colby (Lee Van Cleef). They were obviously awaiting the arrival of Frank Miller on the 12 o’clock train.
Twelve O'Clock - Wikimedia
Will’s Deputy Quits
Back at the Marshall’s office, Will had a confrontation with his deputy, Harvey Pell. Harvey was jealous of the Marshall’s authority and was highly disappointed that Will had not recommended him for the top job. He removed his badge and his holster. He went to have breakfast with Helen Ramirez (Katy Jurado) who owned the Ramirez Saloon in town. Helen told him he wasn’t half the man that Will Kane was. Helen had been romantically involved with Will Kane a year ago, and also with Frank Miller before that. Helen was bent on leaving town also, and was in the process of selling her stake in her saloon to its co-owner, Ed Weaver.
Amy had gone to the train station to buy her ticket to St. Louis. Ben Miller and his cronies were there, looking at her in a lewd manner. The clerk advised her to wait at the hotel in town instead. The clock registered 11:05 a.m. On her way back, she met Will who thought she had changed her mind, and Will thought that Amy had changed her mind. Both were mistaken.
Amy is Curious About Helen Ramirez
Amy waited in the hotel lobby and overheard the desk clerk refer to Helen Ramirez as a friend of Will’s. Will came down from the second floor where Helen lived. He had come to warn her of Frank’s arrival. She already knew it and was packing to leave. She advised him that he should take his new bride and leave also.
A bit later, Amy went upstairs to talk with Helen, who admitted that she and Will had been close friends. She advised Amy to stay with her man. It was obvious that Helen still had feelings for Will. The two women liked each other and decided to share a carriage to meet the noon train which both were taking.
Lloyd Bridges - Wikimedia
Will Seeks Deputies to no Avail
Will went to see Judge Percy Mettrick only to find out that the judge was leaving town rather than staying around when Frank Miller arrived. He reminded Will of that day in court when Frank Miller was sentenced, that he threatened to return to Hadleyville and kill both Will and the judge.
Will was intent on finding special deputies among the townsmen to help him in the upcoming crisis. He stopped in the saloon to seek some recruits. On his way in, he overheard the bartender say “Kane will be dead five minutes after Frank gets off the train.” He slugged the bartender and asked if any of the patrons would agree to be deputized. They all laughed; none came forward, and he left.
Will then went to the house of his good friend, Sam Fuller. Sam’s wife claimed he was not home, although Sam was hiding in a back room.
The Reputation of the Town is at Stake
Will went to the local church and interrupted a service to ask for help. There was a great debate pro and con among the congregation. The minister stated that he could not condone the violence that would transpire. Mayor Henderson praised Will for his long service to the community but stated that the town would soon be coming into some money to put up stores and to build factories. It would mean a lot to the town. But if the authorities heard about shooting and killing in the streets, they would renege on their promise. It would set the town back five years. The Mayor advised Kane to leave town for the good of the economy.
The clock was inching closer to 12 noon. Kane walked back to the Marshall’s office all alone. Throughout the film, the song “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling” played in the background. It was most poignant at this moment.
Tex Ritter sings "High Noon" - Wikimedia
The Expected Shootout
Yes, the shootout occurred, and yes, Kane managed to outgun three of the four of the desperados. Amy, his non-violent wife, picked off Jim Pierce from her perch on the second floor of a building. She was then taken as a hostage by Frank Miller, and he was able to use her as a shield as he moved in closer to Kane. When she clawed at his face, he threw her to the ground, which enabled Kane to finish him off with two shots.
When the townspeople came out from their hiding places, Kane took his Tin Star off and threw it to the ground. Without saying goodbye to anyone, they left Hadleyville.
The film was great entertainment, even for those like myself who are not addicted to Westerns. I have one criticism, though. At the time of this film, Gary Cooper was 51 years old. He looked entirely too old for his new bride, played by Grace Kelly who was 23 years at the time. True, Gary Cooper was so well-loved by his fans that this incongruence probably had no effect on their enjoyment of the film. Sixty years later, however, such a pairing is open to blunt criticism.
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