In this controversial western classic, Gary Cooper as Will Kane must delay his retirement as town marshal on the morning of his wedding to Grace Kelly in order to face outlaws planning to kill him. Three are waiting in and around town for… More In this controversial western classic, Gary Cooper as Will Kane must delay his retirement as town marshal on the morning of his wedding to Grace Kelly in order to face outlaws planning to kill him. Three are waiting in and around town for the noon train that will bring their boss. Taut drama and crisp characterization examine the town's reaction to Kane's dilemma. As noon approaches, his new bride prepares to leave town-and him-based on her Quaker principles of nonviolence. His deputy (Bridges) wants to prove himself without Kane around; his former lover (Jurado), who is now seeing the deputy, was once involved with the leader of the men coming to kill him, and has to make choices of her own. The local pastor offers no advice; the former marshal (Chaney) declines to help. Other men in town refuse to join Kane, and the tension builds with powerful use of the title song in the soundtrack. When the noon train arrives, Kane's bride and his former lover go to the depot together to leave and he prepares to face the outlaws alone in the abandoned streets. During the gunfight, Kane is outnumbered but he is saved at one point when his bride returns from the train, gets a gun, and shoots an outlaw in the back. After Kane finishes off the others, he unpins his badge and drops it on the street among the townspeople who have come out to surround him before driving his bride away in their buckboard. "High Noon" succeeds as a fable with a range of ethical conflicts. The excellent cast gives it life. Appearing in the heart of the McCarthy Era, the film presents a town that hides behind its marshal rather than back him, a bride who violates her own principles to save her husband's life, and a hero who chooses to act alone while everyone who should support him backs away. At the same time, the film fails as realism, given Kane's inexplicable failure to take decisive pre-emptive action against the outlaws waiting for their boss to arrive. Gary Cooper plays a role unusually vulnerable and complex for him, and earned his second Best Actor Oscar in the process. The title song, composed by Dimitri Tiomkin with lyrics by Ned Washington and sung by Tex Ritter, became the first country and western song to win an Oscar. A young Jack Elam, who went on to play villains in countless film and tv westerns for decades, has a very brief role as the town drunk. The film, and especially the final gesture of dropping the badge on the ground, incensed John Wayne, who led a successful political movement to deny residence to the immigrant screenwriter, Carl Foreman. Wayne also later starred in three films, "Rio Bravo," "El Dorado," and "Rio Lobo," that set up a similar main plot with heroes who are more decisive than Cooper's character, but which supplant the ethical conflicts of "High Noon" with a certainty that removes depth and controversy. "High Noon" also provided the template for "Outland," a science fiction film starring Sean Connery.
Consensus: A classic of the Western genre that broke with many of the traditions at the time, High Noon endures -- in no small part thanks to Gary Cooper's defiant, Oscar-winning performance.