High Noon

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For other uses, see High Noon (disambiguation).
High Noon
High Noon poster.jpg
1952 theatrical poster
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Screenplay by Carl Foreman
Based on "The Tin Star"
by John W. Cunningham
Starring Gary Cooper
Thomas Mitchell
Lloyd Bridges
Katy Jurado
Grace Kelly
Otto Kruger
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Harry Morgan
Eve McVeagh
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Floyd Crosby, A.S.C.
Edited by Elmo Williams
Harry W. Gerstad
Stanley Kramer Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • July 24, 1952 (1952-07-24) (New York City)
  • July 30, 1952 (1952-07-30) (United States)
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $730,000[1]
Box office $12 million[2]

High Noon is a 1952 American Western film directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper. In nearly real time, the film tells the story of a town marshal forced to face a gang of killers by himself. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman. The film won four Academy Awards (Actor, Editing, Music-Score, Music-Song)[3] and four Golden Globe Awards (Actor, Supporting Actress, Score, Cinematography-Black and White).[4] The award-winning score was written by Russian-born composer Dimitri Tiomkin.

In 1989, High Noon was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", entering the registry during the NFR's first year of existence.

In Chapter XXXV of The Virginian by Owen Wister, there is a description of a very similar incident. Trampas (a villain) calls out the Virginian, who has a new bride waiting whom he might lose if he goes ahead with the gunfight. High Noon has even been described as a "straight remake" of the 1929 film version of The Virginian.[5]


In Hadleyville, a small town in New Mexico Territory, Marshal Will Kane (Cooper), newly married to Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly), is preparing to turn in his badge. The happy couple is departing for a new life, raising a family and running a store in another town; but word arrives that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), a vicious outlaw who Kane sent to jail, has been released, and is arriving on the noon train. Miller's gang—his younger brother Ben (Sheb Wooley), Jack Colby (Lee Van Cleef), and Jim Pierce (Robert J. Wilke)—await his arrival at the train station; it is clear that Miller intends to exact revenge.

For Amy, a devout Quaker and pacifist, the solution is simple—leave town before Miller arrives; but Kane's commitment to duty is strong. Besides, he knows that Miller and his gang will wreak havoc on Hadleyville, and then hunt him down anyway. Amy gives Kane an ultimatum: She is leaving on the noon train, with or without him. While waiting at the hotel for the train, she meets Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado), who was once Miller's lover, and then Kane's, and is leaving as well. Amy understands why Helen is fleeing, but the reverse is not true: Helen tells Amy that if Kane were her man, she would not abandon him in his hour of need.

Kane endeavors to round up deputies for the imminent confrontation, without success. His predecessor, Marshal Howe (Lon Chaney Jr.) is too old; Judge Percy Mettrick (Otto Kruger), who sentenced Miller, is leaving along with Helen; the one-eyed town drunk (Jack Elam) offers his services, but Kane turns him down. The tavern and the church yield no volunteers. Many townspeople believe that Kane's departure would defuse the situation; a gunfight in the streets would be bad for the town's reputation, and the new marshal, once he arrives, could handle Miller. Others are Miller's friends, and resent that Kane cleaned up the town in the first place. Kane's friend Sam Fuller (Harry Morgan) finally agrees to help, but backs out when he realizes he is the only volunteer. Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges), Kane's former deputy, who resigned after Kane would not recommend him as his successor, agrees to stand with Kane in exchange for that recommendation. Kane rejects the quid pro quo.

Kane writes out his will as the clock in his office ticks toward high noon. He discusses the situation again with Pell at the stables. Their conversation becomes an argument, and then a fist fight. Kane finally knocks his former deputy and friend senseless, then goes into the street to face Miller and his gang. In one of the most iconic shots in film history, the camera rises and widens to show Kane standing alone on a deserted street in a deserted town. The outlaws approach and the gunfight begins. Kane guns down Ben Miller and Colby, but is wounded in the process. As the train leaves the station, Amy hears the gunfire, leaps off, and runs back to town. Choosing her husband's life over her religious beliefs, she shoots Pierce from behind, leaving only Frank Miller, who grabs Amy as a shield to force Kane into the open. Amy claws Miller's face and he pushes her away, giving Kane a clear shot, and he shoots Miller dead.

The gunsmoke clears and the townspeople begin to emerge; Kane glares at them with contempt, throws his marshal's star in the dirt, and departs with Amy on their wagon.


Grace Kelly as Amy Fowler Kane
Will Kane and Amy Fowler meet in the Marshal's office
Katy Jurado as Helen Ramírez

Uncredited Cast


The creation and release of High Noon intersected with the second Red Scare and the Korean War. In 1947, while Carl Foreman was writing the screenplay, he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during its investigation of "Communist propaganda and influence" in the Hollywood motion picture industry. Foreman had once been a member of the Communist Party, but he declined to identify fellow members, or anyone he suspected of current membership. As a result, he was labeled an "uncooperative witness" by the committee, making him vulnerable to blacklisting.[6] After his refusal to name names was made public, Foreman's production partner Stanley Kramer demanded an immediate dissolution of their partnership. As a signatory to the production loan, Foreman remained with the High Noon project; but before the film's release, he sold his partnership share to Kramer and moved to Britain, knowing that he would not find further work in the United States.[6]

Kramer later asserted that he ended their partnership because Foreman had threatened to falsely name him to HUAC as a Communist. Foreman said that Kramer feared damage to his own career due to "guilt by association". Foreman was indeed blacklisted by the Hollywood studios due to the "uncooperative witness" label and additional pressure from Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn, MPA president John Wayne, and Los Angeles Times gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, among others.[6]

Wayne was originally offered the lead role in the film, but turned it down because he felt that Foreman's story was an obvious allegory against blacklisting, which he actively supported. Later, he told an interviewer that he would "never regret having helped run [Foreman] out of the country".[7] Gary Cooper shared Wayne's conservative political views, and had been a "friendly witness" before HUAC; but he did not implicate anyone as a suspected Communist, and later became a vigorous opponent of blacklisting.[8]

According to Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents—a 2002 documentary based in part on a lengthy 1952 letter from Foreman to film critic Bosley Crowther—Foreman's role in the creation and production of High Noon has been unfairly downplayed over the years in favor of Kramer's. Foreman told Crowther that the film originated from a four-page plot outline he wrote that turned out to be very similar to a short story by John W. Cunningham called "The Tin Star". Foreman purchased the film rights to Cunningham's story and wrote the screenplay. By the time the documentary aired, most of the principals were dead, including Kramer, Foreman, Zinnemann, and Cooper. Victor Navasky, author of Naming Names, a definitive account of the Hollywood blacklist, told a reporter that, based on his interviews with Kramer's widow and others, the documentary seemed "one-sided, and the problem is it makes a villain out of Stanley Kramer, when it was more complicated than that".[9]


After Wayne declined the Will Kane role, Kramer offered it to Gregory Peck, who turned it down because he felt it was too similar to his role in The Gunfighter (1950). Peck—a Democrat and strongly opposed to blacklisting—later said it was the biggest regret of his career, but added that he didn't think he could have played Kane as well as Cooper did.

Grace Kelly was cast as Will Kane's wife after Kramer saw her in an off-Broadway play. He arranged a meeting with her and cast her on the spot, despite Cooper and Kelly's substantial age disparity (50 and 21, respectively). Rumors of an affair between Cooper and Kelly remain unsubstantiated. Kelly biographer Donald Spoto wrote that there was no evidence of a romance, aside from tabloid gossip;[10] but biographer Gina McKinnon speculated that “there might well have been a roll or two in the hay bales,” based on a remark by Kelly’s sister Lizanne that Kelly was "infatuated" with Cooper.[11]

Lee Van Cleef debuted in this film as Jack Colby, one of the members of the Miller gang. He was originally cast as Deputy Harvey Pell, but Kramer decided that his nose was too "hooked", which made him look like a villain, and told him to get it fixed. Lee Van Cleef laid out a few angry cuss words for the insult and was cast as Jack Colby. Bridges eventually landed the Pell role, thanks to Cooper.[citation needed]


High Noon was filmed in the late summer/early fall of 1951 in several locations in California.[12] Opening scenes were shot at Iverson Movie Ranch. A rural road east of Oakdale was the setting for the Hadleyville train depot. Columbia Ranch and Columbia State Historic Park were both used for the town of Hadleyville itself. St. Joseph's Church in Tuolumne City was used for exterior shots of the Hadleyville church. Sierra No. 3, the "movie star locomotive", pulled the arriving train.

Zinnemann wanted a hot, stark look to the film. Cinematographer Floyd Crosby achieved this by not filtering the sky and having the prints made a few points lighter than normal. Zinnemann said that the black smoke billowing from the train is a sign that the brakes were failing. He and the cameraman didn't know it at the time, and barely got out of the way. The camera tripod snagged itself on the track and fell over, smashing the camera, but the film survived and is in the movie.[citation needed]

Cooper was reluctant to film the fight scene with Bridges due to ongoing problems with his back, but did, without the use of a stunt double. He wore no makeup, to emphasize his character's anguish and fear, which was probably intensified by pain from recent surgery to remove a bleeding ulcer.[13]

The running time of the story almost precisely parallels the running time of the film itself—an effect heightened by frequent shots of clocks, to remind the characters (and the audience) that the villain will be arriving on the noon train.[14]


The film earned an estimated $3.4 million at the North American box office in 1952.[15]

Upon its release, critics and audiences expecting chases, fights, spectacular scenery, and other common Western film elements were dismayed to find them largely replaced by emotional and moralistic dialogue until the climactic final scenes.[16] Some critics scoffed at the unorthodox rescue of the hero by the heroine.[17][18] David Bishop argued that pacifist Amy's detached and abstract decision to shoot a man in the back "pulls pacifism toward apollonian decadence".[18] Alfred Hitchcock thought Kelly's performance "rather mousy" and lacking in animation; only in later films, he said, did she show her true star quality.[19][20]

The film was criticized in the Soviet Union as "glorification of the individual".[6] The American Left lauded it as an allegory against blacklisting and McCarthyism, but it gained respect in the conservative community as well. Dwight Eisenhower screened the film at the White House, as did other American presidents.[6] Bill Clinton hosted a record 17 White House screenings.[21] Ronald Reagan cited High Noon as his favorite film, due to the protagonist's strong commitment to duty and the law.[22]

By contrast, John Wayne told an interviewer that he considered High Noon "the most un-American thing I've ever seen in my whole life",[23] and later teamed with director Howard Hawks to make Rio Bravo in response. "I made Rio Bravo because I didn't like High Noon," Hawks explained. "Neither did Duke [Wayne]. I didn't think a good town marshal was going to run around town like a chicken with his head cut off asking everyone to help. And who saves him? His Quaker wife. That isn't my idea of a good Western."[24]

Zinnemann responded, "I admire Hawks very much. I only wish he'd leave my films alone!"[25] In a 1973 interview, he added, "I'm rather surprised at [Hawks' and Wayne's] thinking. Sheriffs are people and no two people are alike. The story of High Noon takes place in the Old West but it is really a story about a man's conflict of conscience. In this sense it is a cousin to A Man for All Seasons. In any event, respect for the Western hero has not been diminished by High Noon."[26]


High Noon received seven Academy Award nominations:

Category Film Result
Best Actor in a Leading Role Gary Cooper Won
Best Film Editing Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad [27] Won
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture Dimitri Tiomkin Won
Best Music, Song Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'", sung by Tex Ritter. Won
Best Director Fred Zinnemann Nominated
Best Picture Stanley Kramer Nominated
Best Writing, Screenplay. Carl Foreman Nominated

Entertainment Weekly ranked Will Kane on their list of The 20 All Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture.[28]

Mexican actress Katy Jurado won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Helen Ramírez, becoming the first Mexican actress to receive the award.

American Film Institute recognition

Cultural influence[edit]

"At High Noon, June 4, 1989". Polish political poster featuring Gary Cooper to encourage votes for the Solidarity party in the 1989 elections.

In 1989, 22-year-old Polish graphic designer Tomasz Sarnecki transformed Marian Stachurski's 1959 Polish variant of the High Noon poster into a Solidarity election poster for the first partially free elections in communist Poland. The poster, which was displayed all over Poland, shows Cooper armed with a folded ballot saying "Wybory" (i.e., elections) in his right hand while the Solidarity logo is pinned to his vest above the sheriff's badge. The message at the bottom of the poster reads: "W samo południe: 4 czerwca 1989," which translates to "High Noon: 4 June 1989."

In 2004 former Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa wrote:[29]

Under the headline "At High Noon" runs the red Solidarity banner and the date—June 4, 1989—of the poll. It was a simple but effective gimmick that, at the time, was misunderstood by the Communists. They, in fact, tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the "Wild" West, especially the U.S. But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys in Western clothes had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom, both physical and spiritual. Solidarity trounced the Communists in that election, paving the way for a democratic government in Poland. It is always so touching when people bring this poster up to me to autograph it. They have cherished it for so many years and it has become the emblem of the battle that we all fought together.

According to an English professor at Yeshiva University,[30] High Noon is the film most requested for viewing by U.S. presidents. It has been cited as the favorite film of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower,[22] Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.[22][31]

The conflict of the role of the Western hero is ironically portrayed in the film Die Hard. The German-born antagonist, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) confuses John Wayne as the hero walking off into the sunset with Grace Kelly, only to be corrected by the protagonist, John McClane (Bruce Willis).

High Noon is referenced several times on the award-winning HBO drama series The Sopranos. Tony Soprano, the main character, believes that Gary Cooper's character is the best archetype for what a man should be, mentally tough and stoic. He frequently laments, "Whatever happened to Gary Cooper?" and refers to his character in the film as the "strong, silent type". The famous ending of the film is shown on a television during an extended dream sequence in the fifth season episode "The Test Dream".

High Noon inspired the 2008 hip-hop song of the same name by rap artist Kinetics. In the song, Kinetics mentions High Noon and several other classic Western films and draws comparisons between rap battles and Western-style street showdowns.[32]

"High Noon" is the name of a Gunblade stance mod in Digital Extremes' game, Warframe.

"It's high noon" is a phrase uttered by Blizzard-Activision's Overwatch game character McCree, a cowboy based on Wild West stereotypes, whenever he activates his ultimate attack. Upon using the ultimate, he looks at the ground, pulls out a gun, and shoots everyone in his sight.

The plot of High Noon is spoofed in the 1993 comic album "Les Dalton à la noce" (The Daltons at a Wedding) of the Franco-Belgian series Lucky Luke.[33] In the album the series' main antagonists, the Daltons, seek to take revenge on the old sheriff of Hadley City on his wedding day and only Lucky Luke comes to his support.

Remakes and sequel[edit]

  • In 1966, Four Star Television produced a High Noon television pilot. The 30-minute pilot was called "The Clock Strikes Noon Again" and was set 20 years after the original movie. Peter Fonda played Will Kane Jr., who goes to Hadleyville after Frank Miller's son kills his father (the Gary Cooper character). His mother (the Grace Kelly character) dies shortly after from grief. In Hadleyville, Will Kane Jr. meets Helen Ramirez, played by Katy Jurado (who had played the same character in the original movie). Helen returned to town and was now running a hotel/restaurant. The script was written by James Warner Bellah. No series came from this unsold TV pilot.
  • A made-for-TV sequel, High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane was produced in 1980, 28 years after the original movie was released. Lee Majors and Katherine Cannon played the Cooper and Kelly roles. Elmore Leonard wrote the original screenplay. CBS ran this in a two-hour time slot on November 15, 1980.
  • The 1981 science fiction film Outland borrowed from the story of High Noon for its plot. The movie starred Sean Connery.
  • In 2000, High Noon was entirely reworked as a TV movie of the same name for the cable channel TBS, with Tom Skerritt in the lead role.

Other appearances[edit]

  • In 2002, The Simpsons 13th season finale "Poppa's Got a Brand New Badge" draws inspiration from both High Noon and The Sopranos when Homer, in charge of Spring Shield Security, has to face by himself the revenge of Fat Tony, whose operations Homer had disrupted.
  • Gary Cooper has a cameo as his High Noon character Will Kane in the 1959 Bob Hope film Alias Jesse James. After shooting a villain, Kane, wearing his High Noon tin star, speaks his only line in the film—"Yup."


  1. ^ Champlin, C. (1966, Oct 10). Foreman hopes to reverse runaway. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/155553672?accountid=13902
  2. ^ Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 47
  3. ^ List of the 25th Academy Awards Winners.
  4. ^ IMDB List of nominations and awards for High Noon.
  5. ^ Wills, Garry (1998). John Wayne's America (1st Touchstone ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 274. ISBN 9780684838830. Retrieved 15 February 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Byman, Jeremy (2004). Showdown at High Noon: Witch-hunts, Critics, and the End of the Western. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4998-4. 
  7. ^ John Wayne: Playboy Interview / MAY 1971. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  8. ^ Meyer, Jeffrey Gary Cooper: American Hero (1998), p. 144
  9. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (April 18, 2002). "'High Noon,' High Dudgeon". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ Spoto, D. High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly. Crown Archetype (2009), pp. 67-9. ISBN 0307395618
  11. ^ McKinnon, G. What Would Grace Do?: How to Live Life in Style Like the Princess of Hollywood. Gotham (2013), p. 145. ISBN 1592408281
  12. ^ "High Noon". MovieLocations.com. 
  13. ^ Hyams, J. The Life and Times of the Western Movie. Gallery Books (1984), pp. 113-5.
  14. ^ Elmo Williams, Oscar-Winning Film Editor on 'High Noon,' Dies at 102. The Hollywood Reporter (November 25, 2015), retrieved August 12, 2016.
  15. ^ 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
  16. ^ The Making of High Noon, hosted by Leonard Maltin, 1992. Available on the Region 1 DVD from Artisan Entertainment.
  17. ^ DiMare, Philip C. (17 June 2011). Movies in American History: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 411. ISBN 978-1-59884-297-5. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Bishop, David (1 August 2006). The Wheel of Ideals. Lulu.com. p. 289. ISBN 978-1-84728-535-5. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Mcclure, Hal Hays (30 July 2012). Adventuring: My Life As a Pilot, Foreign Correspondent and Travel Adventure Filmmaker. AuthorHouse. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-4685-9812-4. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  20. ^ Fawell, John (2004). Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-made Film. SIU Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-8093-8970-4. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  21. ^ Review © 2004 Branislav L. Slantchev
  22. ^ a b c DVD documentary Inside High Noon, John Mulholland.
  23. ^ John Wayne: Playboy Interview / MAY 1971. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  24. ^ Michael Munn (2005). John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth. Penguin. p. 148. ISBN 0-451-21414-5. 
  25. ^ Fred Zinnemann: interviews - Fred Zinnemann, Gabriel Miller - Google Books
  26. ^ Gabriel Miller, ed. (2005). Fred Zinnemann: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 44. ISBN 1-57806-698-0. 
  27. ^ Elmo Williams has said that Gerstad's editing was nominal and he apparently protested Gerstad's inclusion on the Academy Award at the time. See Williams, Elmo (2006), Elmo Williams: A Hollywood Memoir (McFarland), p. 86. ISBN 0-7864-2621-7.
  28. ^ "Entertainment Weekly's 20 All Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  29. ^ Lech Walesa. "In Solidarity." The Wall Street Journal. 11 June 2004. Accessed 15 March 2007.
  30. ^ Manfred Weidhorn. "High Noon." Bright Lights Film Journal. February 2005. Accessed 12 February 2008.
  31. ^ Clinton, Bill (June 22, 2004). My Life. Knopf. p. 21. 
  32. ^ "Rap Genius: Lyrics and Explanations for the Kinetics song "High Noon"". 
  33. ^ fr:Les Dalton à la noce

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]