High Noon

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High Noon
High Noon poster.jpg
1952 theatrical poster
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Carl Foreman (uncredited)
Screenplay by Carl Foreman
Story 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, ASC
Edited by Elmo Williams
Harry W. Gerstad
Stanley Kramer Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • July 24, 1952 (1952-07-24) (New York)
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $730,000[1]
Box office $12,000,000[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 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.[5] The film is #27 on the American Film Institute's 2007 list of great films.[citation needed]


Will Kane (Gary Cooper), the longtime marshal of Hadleyville, New Mexico Territory, has just married pacifist Quaker Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly) and turned in his badge. He intends to become a storekeeper elsewhere. Suddenly, the town learns that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), a criminal whom Kane brought to justice, is due to arrive on the noon train.

Miller had been sentenced to hang, but was pardoned on an unspecified legal technicality. In court, he had vowed to get revenge on Will and anyone else who got in the way. Miller's gang - his younger brother Ben (Sheb Wooley), Jack Colby (Lee Van Cleef), and Jim Pierce (Robert J. Wilke) - wait for him at the station.

Will Kane and Amy Fowler meet in Marshal's office

Will and Amy leave town, but fearing that the gang will both hunt him down and also be a danger to the town and its people, Will turns back. His deputy, Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges), resigns because Will did not recommend him as the new marshal. Harvey agrees to stay if Will will support him, but Will refuses to buy his assistance. Will goes to warn Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado), first Miller’s lover, then Will's, and now Harvey's. Helen is already aware of what Miller will do to her if he finds her and has sold her business. She prepares to leave town to avoid Miller, but also to avoid seeing Kane killed.

Amy gives Will an ultimatum: she is leaving on the noon train, with or without him.

The judge who sentenced Miller is leaving and encourages Will to do the same. Will reclaims his badge and scours the town for help, with little success. The marshal who preceded Will wants to help, but is too old; he tells Will to get out of town. Will tries eliciting help at a bar and then the church. Nobody volunteers. Some even desire to see Kane dead. Many of the townspeople encourage Will to leave, hoping that would defuse the situation. Even Will's good friends the Fullers are at odds about how to deal with the situation. Mildred Fuller (Eve McVeagh) wants her husband Sam (Harry Morgan) to speak with Will when he comes to their home, but he makes her claim he is not home while he hides in another room.

To make matters worse for Will, he goes down to the stables and considers leaving. Harvey turns up and encourages Will to go through with it, but Will refuses. Their argument turns into a full blown fist fight, ending with Will knocking out his former deputy and friend.

In the end, Will faces Miller and his gang alone. Kane guns down Ben Miller and Colby, but is wounded in the process. Helen and Amy both board the train, but Amy gets off when she hears the sound of gunfire. Amy chooses her new husband's life over her religious beliefs, shooting Pierce from behind. Miller then takes her hostage to force Will into the open. However, Amy suddenly attacks Miller, giving Will a clear shot, and Will shoots Miller dead. As the townspeople emerge, Will stares at the crowd, contemptuously throws his marshal's star in the dirt, and leaves town with Amy.

The events occur in approximate real time.


Grace Kelly as Amy Fowler Kane
Katy Jurado as Helen Ramírez

Uncredited Cast


According to the 2002 documentary Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents, written, produced, and directed by Lionel Chetwynd, Carl Foreman's role in the creation and production of High Noon has been unfairly downplayed over the years in favor of Foreman's former partner and producer, Stanley Kramer.[6] The documentary was prompted by and based in part on a single-spaced 11-page letter that Foreman wrote to film critic Bosley Crowther in April 1952.[6] In the letter, Foreman asserts that the film began as a four-page plot outline about "aggression in a western background" and "telling a motion picture story in the exact time required for the events of the story itself" (a device used in High Noon).[6] An associate of Foreman pointed out similarities between Foreman's outline and the short story "The Tin Star" by John W. Cunningham, which led Foreman to purchase the rights to Cunningham's story and proceed with the original outline.[6] By the time the documentary aired, most of those immediately involved were dead, including Kramer, Foreman, Fred Zinnemann, and Cooper. Kramer's widow rebuts Foreman's contentions; Victor Navasky, author of Naming Names and familiar with some of the circumstances surrounding High Noon because of interviews with Kramer's widow, among others, said the documentary seemed "one-sided, and the problem is it makes a villain out of Stanley Kramer, when it was more complicated than that".[6]

The film's production and release also intersected with the second Red Scare and the Korean War. Foreman, a one-time Communist Party member, was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) while he was writing the film. Forman had left the Party almost ten years previously, and declined to name any fellow members, or anyone that he thought might be a current member; he was labeled an "uncooperative witness" by the committee.[7] When Kramer learned this, he forced Foreman to sell his part of their company. When he also tried to have the studio remove Foreman from the production of High Noon, Zinnemann, Cooper, and Bruce Church intervened. Foreman's continued involvement was necessary in any case, because he had not yet signed the production loan papers. Thus, Foreman remained on the project, but moved to Britain before the film was released nationally, as he knew he would be blacklisted and would not find further work in America.[7]

Kramer claimed he had not stood up for Foreman partly because Foreman was threatening, dishonestly, to name Kramer as a Communist.[7] Foreman said that Kramer was afraid of what would happen to him and his career if Kramer did not cooperate with the Committee. Kramer wanted Foreman to name names and not exercise his Fifth Amendment rights.[7] Foreman was indeed blacklisted by the Hollywood studios. There had also been pressure against Foreman by Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures (Kramer's new boss at the time), John Wayne, president of the MPA, and Hedda Hopper of the Los Angeles Times, among others.[7] Cast and crew members were also affected: Howland Chamberlin was also blacklisted, and Floyd Crosby and Lloyd Bridges were "graylisted".[7]

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. In a 1971 interview Wayne said he considered High Noon "the most un-American thing I've ever seen in my whole life", and that he would "never regret having helped run [Foreman] out of the country".[8] 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.[9]


Producer Stanley Kramer first offered the role of Will Kane to Gregory Peck, who turned it down because he felt it was too similar to his role in The Gunfighter (1950). Peck, who was a Democrat and strongly opposed blacklisting, later said that turning down this film was the biggest regret of his career, although he modestly added that he didn't think he could have played the lead character as well as Cooper did. Other actors who turned the lead role included Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Burt Lancaster.[citation needed]

Grace Kelly was cast as Will Kane's religious wife after Kramer saw her in an off-Broadway play. He arranged a meeting with her and cast her on the spot. During filming, Kelly and Cooper had an affair.[citation needed] There was some question as to the casting of Cooper and Kelly, since he was 50 and Kelly was 21.

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 the studio decided that his nose was too "hooked", which made him look like a villain, and told him to get it fixed. 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.[10] Opening scenes were shot at Iverson Movie Ranch. A rural road east of Oakdale, CA 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, California, was used for exterior shots of the church where Kane solicits help from the townspeople. Sierra No. 3, the "movie star locomotive", brought villain Frank Miller into Hadleyville after his release from prison.

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 had several health problems during filming. These problems included a bleeding ulcer and pain in the back. Due to his bad back, he was reluctant on doing the big fight scene with Bridges, but eventually did it without the use of a stunt double. No makeup was used for Cooper, in order to show his lines and his look of concern. Between takes, Cooper would chat with the crew or snooze underneath a tree.[citation needed]


The film earned an estimated $3.4 million at the North American box office in 1952.[11]

Upon its release, the film was criticized by audiences, as it did not contain such expected Western elements as chases, fights, and picture-postcard scenery. Rather, it presented emotional and moralistic dialogue throughout most of the film; with the exception of a minor fistfight, there is only action in the climax.[12] Some critics scoffed at the conclusion of the film in which Cooper's character has to be saved by Kelly.[13][14] David Bishop argues that her pacifist character, killing a man who is about to shoot her husband was cold and abstract, saying that it "pulls pacifism toward apollonian decadence."[14] Alfred Hitchcock described Kelly's performance as "rather mousy" and stated that it lacked animation, and said that it was only in the later films that she "really blossomed" and showed her true star quality.[15][16]

In the Soviet Union the film was criticized as "a glorification of the individual."[7] The American Left appreciated the film for what they believed was an allegory of people (Hollywood people, in particular) who were afraid to stand up to HUAC. However, the film eventually gained the respect of people with conservative/anti-communist views. Ronald Reagan, a conservative and fervent anti-Communist, said he appreciated the film because the main character had a strong dedication to duty, law, and the well-being of the town despite the refusal of the townspeople to help. Dwight Eisenhower loved the film and frequently screened it in the White House, as did many other American presidents.[7] Bill Clinton cited High Noon as his favorite film and screened it a record 17 times at the White House.[17]

In 1959, Wayne teamed up with director Howard Hawks to make Rio Bravo as a conservative response. Hawks explained: "I made Rio Bravo because I didn't like High Noon. Neither did Duke. 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."[18]

Irritated by Hawks's criticisms, director Fred Zinnemann responded: "I admire Hawks very much. I only wish he'd leave my films alone!"[19] Zinnemann later said in a 1973 interview: "I'm told that Howard Hawks has said on various occasions that he made Rio Bravo as a kind of answer to High Noon, because he didn't believe that a good sheriff would go running around town asking for other people's help to do his job. I'm rather surprised at this kind of 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."[20]


The movie won Academy Awards for:

The film was nominated for Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing, Screenplay. Many movie historians believe that High Noon lost out for the 1952 Best Picture Award to The Greatest Show on Earth because the initial release of High Noon bared a panoramic view of modern downtown Los Angeles.[22]

Entertainment Weekly ranked Will Kane on their list of The 20 All Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture.[23]

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:[24]

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,[25] 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,[26] Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.[26][27]

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.[28]

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.[29] 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. ^ "NATIONAL FILM REGISTRY TITLES of the U.S. LIBRARY of CONGRESS". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Weinraub, Bernard (April 18, 2002). "'High Noon,' High Dudgeon". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Byman, Jeremy (2004). Showdown at High Noon: Witch-hunts, Critics, and the End of the Western. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4998-4. 
  8. ^ John Wayne: Playboy Interview / MAY 1971. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  9. ^ Meyer, Jeffrey Gary Cooper: American Hero (1998), p. 144
  10. ^ "High Noon". MovieLocations.com. 
  11. ^ 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
  12. ^ The Making of High Noon, hosted by Leonard Maltin, 1992. Available on the Region 1 DVD from Artisan Entertainment.
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Review © 2004 Branislav L. Slantchev
  18. ^ Michael Munn (2005). John Wayne: The Man Behind the Myth. Penguin. p. 148. ISBN 0-451-21414-5. 
  19. ^ Fred Zinnemann: interviews - Fred Zinnemann, Gabriel Miller - Google Books
  20. ^ Gabriel Miller, ed. (2005). Fred Zinnemann: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 44. ISBN 1-57806-698-0. 
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Wiley, Mason, Bona, Damien (1987). Inside Oscar: The Unofficial History of the Academy Awards. Burns & Oates. ISBN 0-345-34453-7.
  23. ^ "Entertainment Weekly's 20 All Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  24. ^ Lech Walesa. "In Solidarity." The Wall Street Journal. 11 June 2004. Accessed 15 March 2007.
  25. ^ Manfred Weidhorn. "High Noon." Bright Lights Film Journal. February 2005. Accessed 12 February 2008.
  26. ^ a b DVD documentary Inside High Noon, John Mulholland.
  27. ^ Clinton, Bill (June 22, 2004). My Life. Knopf. p. 21. 
  28. ^ "Rap Genius: Lyrics and Explanations for the Kinetics song "High Noon"". 
  29. ^ fr:Les Dalton à la noce

External links[edit]