22 year old Grace Kelly and 51 year old Gary Cooper in High Noon
High Noon is such a well received, reviewed and remembered film that I hoped to have enjoyed it better than I did. Do not get me wrong, this movie is very well made but the entire theme is that of a man having a very stressful morning. I watch movies to escape my stressful day, not to be reminded of it.
The great Gary Cooper plays Marshal Will Kane on his wedding day and his last as town Marshal. His bride, Amy, played by Grace Kelly, looks far too young for him. Her flawless youthful complexion is in complete opposition to his weathered, craggy, saddle bag of a face. When they share a scene together, she does not just look like his daughter, but granddaughter. They are supposedly leaving to start a store somewhere. Cooper looks more like he is ready to retire than start a business and family.
The film almost plays out in real time. As Will and Amy are getting married, some cowboys arrive in town to meet a former foe of Wills at the train station, who is seeking revenge on Will. Word reaches Will quickly that he is coming. Will seeks help from the town but almost everyone refuses to help him. Will quickly learns that he was not as well liked in town as he may have thought. Amy wants him to run away with her and avoid the inevitable show down. Will however, knows he cannot run away from his problems.
Here is the greatness of High Noon. Will could easily run off with his beautiful young wife and have a great honeymoon and a bright future. He even risks his marriage by refusing to leave with her right off. Will tells her to stay in the hotel while he goes to take care of business. She however, refuses, "I mean it! If you won't go with me now, I'll be on that train when it leaves here."
Will Kane is a man of honor. He knows he has to stay and face a man he once put away. It may cost him his marriage and the town does not even appreciate him, but he knows it is the right thing to do. As Will says, "I've got to, that's the whole thing." Will Kane is a character we do not always see in more recent Hollywood films. Sean Penn tried to turn Christopher McCandless, who ran away from his problems, into a hero in Into the Wild (2007). Will was a man who stood up to a situation that he helped to create. McCandless would have ran off with Kelly without a second thought, except running a store would have likely been too much for him as well.
High Noon is a great film that earned Cooper an Academy Award and he completely deserved it. It has been written that the script is an allegory for the black listing going on in Hollywood at the time. Will represents a screenwriter that no one else in Hollywood is supporting. As well made as this movie is, it is not a light piece of entertainment. It is a four star film but it is not the kind of film I will want to watch again any time soon.
Photos © Copyright United Artists (1952)