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The Vault: High Noon (1952)

Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) just hung up the badge and the gun belt and got happily married to a beautiful bride (Grace Kelly) when their honeymoon plans get jolted with horrible news. Frank Miller, a madman criminal that Kane himself put behind bars, has been pardoned.

To make it even worse, Miller threatened to murder Kane for what he did and it seems that Miller is planning to follow through on that threat. All of Miller's old gang is waiting at the station for him to arrive on the noon train. The friends of Kane urge him to leave while he still has a chance, and Will and his wife get out of town before Will turns the wagon around. 

You can run away from the problem, however long you can stay in front of it, but you can't run away from your conscience.

The town however, as well as his newly-wed wife don't agree with Will. The town is too cowardly to act and ignored the marshal's appeals for help. His wife was going to board the same train that could bring Will's death if he did not change his mind, but he was stubborn and noble.

As time clicked away on the clock, all there was left to do was prepare for Frank Miller and his gang, load the guns, and do what was right, no matter what it might mean.

This film is great. One of the best westerns of all time.  Not surprisingly, some people say that it's just a black and white "good versus evil" flick that was flabby and full of itself. Howard Hawks and John Wayne called it un-American.

Wrong. Completely wrong. First things first, Marshal Kane wasn't perfect. He had a slightly scandalous past that he had put behind him, true, and he's moved on, true, but that didn't make him pure. As for being un-American, well, it's the most watched film by the Presidents of the United States, so that doesn't make sense to me at all.

As far as I'm concerned he was the right man for the wrong job in the wrong town. Part of what makes High Noon so good is that it's not like other westerns. The ungrateful townspeople does not band together behind their marshal for one thing. If fact, a lot of the town wants Frank Miller back— he was good for business.

The emphasis on time is especially artful by director Fred Zinneman.  Constantly, the presence of clocks is emphasized, ticking down the time until Frank Miller's train rolls into town.  There’s also the frenetic theme of solidarity that is cringe-worthy.

This film is about the tension, the drama, the build up, and the determination to stick up for your principles against all odds.  Fred Zinneman was a wizard at that— the clocks, time, time, time; the camera shots of the long empty railroad tracks; Marshal Kane's look of anguish; and the one shot of the chair when Kane's talking with the judge that sentenced Miller...

"Why must you be so stupid? Have you forgotten what he is? Have you forgotten what he's done to people? Have your forgotten that he's crazy? Don't you remember when he sat in that chair and said, 'You'll never hang me. I'll come back. I'll kill you, Will Kane. I swear it, I'll kill you.'"

It's scenes like that that make a great film, along with great actors. Gary Cooper was fantastic as Marshal Will Kane, and he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for this performance. Grace Kelly was very dainty as Mrs. Kane... and it seems that the problem about Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly being very old and very young didn't really matter in the long run.  An especially great performance was by Katy Jurado as Mrs. Helen Ramirez, the ex-girlfriend of Kane.  Plus there was the little sneak Harvey, the power hungry former-deputy played by Lloyd Bridges.

This movie won four Academy Awards after its six nominations. The Oscar went to High Noon for...

-Best Actor: Gary Cooper
-Best Song: Dimitri Tiomkin's "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'" sung by Tex Ritter (a reoccuring tune)
-Best Dramatic Score and
-Best Film Editing

A lot of people say that it was a mistake that "High Noon" didn't win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Instead it went to The Greatest Show on Earth (which surprisingly, I'd never heard of before doing this review.) It would figure— but still High Noon is an immortal classic.

5 out of 5 stars

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