High Noon (1952)
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Starring: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly
At the peak of Westerns came this small gem, High Noon. This film was daring to take a popular genre of the time and made it unconventional. It didn’t have horse-chases, bar fights, scene-after-scene of gun-slinging and violence. Instead, it relied heavily on dialogue and emotion. The end result was one of the most memorable Westerns in history.
The story is simple. The longtime marshal of Hadleyville, Will Kane (Cooper) just got married to the beautiful Amy (Kelly). They leave town for their honeymoon when the word got out that the newly-released criminal, Frank Miller, is coming to town on the noon train for revenge against Kane (who brought him in years ago). Kane returns to town to rally up deputies and volunteers to help him fight Miller and his gang, but on his quest he finds that the grateful town isn’t willing to defend their retired marshal.
There is something great about Westerns that keeps me coming back to them, and that is the greater-than-life protagonist in each and every one of them. Kane doesn’t speak much but he represents the man of morals and stands up for them even though it seems like suicide. He’s betrayed by the people he protected, but doesn’t allow it to derail his intentions. It might be stubbornness, but it’s a macho trait that those heroes have on the screen.
And there is more at stake than just hurt feelings. Amy is trying to run from a life of violence and deaths of her loved ones. It takes Kane’s former lover to get through to Amy that there’s no changing the man, instead she should support him and stick up for what he believes in. This is old-fashioned thinking that changed through the years, but it’s still relevant today.
High Noon is a great example of sticking up for what you think is right even though no one is there to stay by your side. In the end, you can always count on your loved ones to bail you out of a shady situation.