|First appearance||High Noon|
|Portrayed by||Gary Cooper (in High Noon)
Lee Majors (in made-for-TV sequel)
Tom Skerritt (in made-for-TV remake)
William "Will" Kane is the protagonist of the film High Noon (1952). He is first played by Gary Cooper, then by Lee Majors in a made-for-TV sequel, High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane (1980), and by Tom Skerritt in 2000's High Noon, which was a complete re-working for cable television.
In High Noon, Will Kane is a town marshal of the fictional Hadleyville. It is both his wedding day and his last day as a marshal. He is about to leave town with his bride, Amy, to start a new life as a store clerk when the clerk of the telegraph office brings bad news: a man he sent to prison some years earlier, Frank Miller, has been released from prison and is arriving on the noon train. Kane, and the townsfolk who remember Miller, know Miller's visit is for one reason: revenge. Upon his conviction years earlier, Miller swore he would kill Will Kane. Kane's friends tell him to leave town, which he does briefly, but he feels that running away is not a solution, so he returns to face Miller and the gang. Will tries to find support from his friends and others, but none wants to help - they all tell him to leave town or offer reasons why they can't (or won't) help. Will chooses to stand up against this gang alone, even though it could result in his own death. After a brief gun fight in town, Kane kills the four men. Amy also saves his life by giving up her pacifist religion to kill one of the men. As townspeople come out to offer congratulations, Kane takes off his tin star and throws it in the dirt. Contrary to popular myth, he does not step on it. The movie ends with Kane and his bride driving out of town to destinations unknown. Throughout the movie we see Kane's emotions range from the joy of his wedding, to concern, disappointment, anger, fear and even his own mortality as he writes out his will before the noon train arrives.
Despite the iconic portrayal of the character by Gary Cooper (see below), "Cooper was not producer Stanley Kramer's first choice to play Marshal Will Kane." Nevertheless, Will Kane is "one of Cooper's most famous roles." Lee Majors explained that he accepted the role in the sequel, because "I've always admired Gary Cooper. And I wanted to do a Western again." Ron Hardy, who directed the recent remake, argued that Tom Skerrit was an ideal actor to take over the role in the remake. Hardy explained that like "Cooper, he is Mr. Everyday. People know who Tom Skerritt is. They don't treat him like a superstar. They feel he's approachable."
While The Washington Post refers to the character as "A Classic Role," Entertainment Weekly ranked the character fourteenth on its list of the top twenty "All-Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture" in April 2009. The magazine included him on its list because in "High Noon, Gary Cooper's retiring lawman faces down a killer and his goons despite being deserted by the rest of the town." Entertainment Weekly went on to cite his most heroic move as when "Kane's last ally gets cold feet, he tells him to go to his family, and then refuses the help of a teenager." Kane was also ranked by the American Film Institute as the fifth greatest movie hero of all time.
Nevertheless, although Cooper's performance has received considerable praise as indicated above, Majors and Skerritt's performances have not been so positively received. The New York Daily News referred to Lee Majors as "sadly miscast" as Kane in the sequel. Entertainment Weekly also contrasted Cooper with Skerritt to Skerritt's disadvantage. Reviewer Ken Tucker reminisces upon "the all-purpose image of Cooper that's taken hold in the popular imagination: the gaunt, chiseled stone face, a stoic deadpan that rendered Cooper the leading-man, romantic-actor equivalent of Buster Keaton....By contrast, Skerritt saunters through the new Noon as if he were still the easygoing, ironic lawman of Picket Fences."
- Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter nation: the myth of the frontier in twentieth-century America (University of Oklahoma Press, 1998), 391.
- Jeremy Byman, Showdown at High Noon: Witch-hunts, Critics, and the End of the Western (Scarecrow Press, 2004), 7.
- Howard Hughes, Stagecoach to Tombstone: The Filmgoers' Guide to Great Westerns (I.B.Tauris, 2008), 42.
- Susan Doll and Christopher Lyon, The Macmillan dictionary of films and filmmakers (Macmillan, 1984), 197.
- "Actor Tom Skerritt plays Kane in 'High Noon' remake," The Dailer Courier (Sunday, August 13, 2000): 8C.
- "Lee Majors plays 'High Noon'," The Virgin Islands Daily News (November 8, 1980): 8.
- Pat Browne, The guide to United States popular culture (Popular Press, 2001), 201.
- Michael E. Hill, "Western Showdown; Tom Skerritt Takes on A Classic Role," The Washington Post (Aug 20, 2000).
- "The Top 20 Heroes," Entertainment Weekly 1041 (April 3, 2009): 36.
- "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains" (PDF). afi.com. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
- ERIC MINK, "IT'S 'NOON' TIME AGAIN, BUT THE AIM IS TOO HIGH," New York Daily News (August 18th 2000).
- Ken Tucker, "TV Review of High Noon," (Aug 18, 2000).
- "Marshal Will Kane (Character) from High Noon (1952)," The Internet Movie Database