Monday, June 4, 2012

High Noon


High Noon (Two-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition)

#33 (1998) and #27 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 Movies List

High Noon is a 1952 American Western film directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly. The film tells in real time the story of a town marshal forced to face a gang of killers by himself. The screenplay was written by Carl Foreman.

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 latter's first year of existence. The film is #27 on the American Film Institute's 2007 list of great films.

* Gary Cooper as Marshal Will Kane

There was some controversy over the casting of Cooper as the lead: at 50, nearly 30 years older than co-star Kelly, he was considered too old for the role.

* Thomas Mitchell as Mayor Jonas Henderson
* Lloyd Bridges as Deputy Sheriff Harvey Pell
* Katy Jurado as Helen Ramirez
* Grace Kelly as Amy (Fowler) Kane
* Otto Kruger as Judge Percy Mettrick
* Lon Chaney, Jr. as Martin Howe (as Lon Chaney)
* Harry Morgan as Sam Fuller (as Henry Morgan)
* Ian MacDonald as Frank Miller
* Eve McVeagh as Mildred Fuller
* Morgan Farley as Dr. Mahin, minister
* Harry Shannon as Cooper
* Lee Van Cleef as Jack Colby
* Robert J. Wilke as Pierce (as Robert Wilke)
* Sheb Wooley as Ben Miller
* Jack Elam as Charlie the Drunkard (uncredited)

According to the 2002 documentary Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents, written, produced, and directed by Lionel Chetwynd, Foreman's role in the creation and production of High Noon has over the years been unfairly downplayed in favor of Foreman's former partner and producer, Stanley Kramer. 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. 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). 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. By the time the documentary aired, most of those immediately involved were dead, including Kramer, Foreman, Fred Zinnemann, and Gary 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."

The film's production and release also intersected with the second Red Scare and the Korean War. Writer, producer, and partner Carl Foreman was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) while he was writing the film. Foreman had not been in the Communist Party for almost ten years, but he declined to name names and was considered an "uncooperative witness" by the HUAC. When Stanley Kramer found out some of this, he forced Foreman to sell his part of their company, and tried to get him kicked off the making of the picture. Fred Zinnemann, Gary Cooper, and Bruce Church intervened. There was also a problem with the Bank of America loan, as Foreman had not yet signed certain papers. Thus, Foreman remained on the production but moved to England before it was released nationally, as he knew he would never be allowed to work in America.

Kramer claimed he had not stood up for Foreman partly because Foreman was threatening, dishonestly, to name Kramer as a Communist. 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 plead his Fifth Amendment rights. Foreman was eventually blacklisted by the Hollywood companies. There had also been pressure against Foreman by, among others, Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures (Kramer's brand new boss at the time), John Wayne of the MPA, and Hedda Hopper of the Los Angeles Times. Cast and crew members were also affected. Howland Chamberlin was blacklisted while Floyd Crosby and Lloyd Bridges were "graylisted."

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