Legends of Western Cinema Week / / High Noon {1952}

*takes deep breath*  Oh, boy.  This.  Well, folks, I finally watched the classic Western High Noon about a month or two ago.  And…I don't know what I think of it, precisely.

Being well aware that this news may not exactly enhance my popularity in the blogosphere, I give you full permission to not read this review :P  But it's not going to be a negative review, understand--it'll just be a mixed and undecided review, that's all.  I just don't want to be that person who "bashes" someone's favorite movie (even though I have no intention of bashing it).  So…yeah.  Read at your own risk and please don't hate me, what ;)

I enjoyed High Noon--really, I did.  It's just that it had certain, shall we say, quirks.  The cinematography itself was nearly flawless--the camera angles and use of chiaroscuro combined to create a dramatic, edge-of-your-seat sort of effect--and the acting was wonderful, as you'd expect from such a cast.  The problems for me arose within the story itself.

The plot posed several interesting moral conondrums, but only one or two were ever resolved, which left the film with a sort of unfinished, angsty feel.  (In my opinion, that is.)  High Noon is very centered around Gary Cooper's and Grace Kelly's characters.  Grace Kelly's Amy is slightly conflicted, while Gary Cooper's Will is basically perfect, the ultimate self-sacrificing hero who's willing to face his own fear for the greater good--which I respect, truly I do.  It's just that this heroism is achieved by the utter vilification of the entire rest of the townspeople...and it's just no FUN when there is literally only one morally correct, courageous character surrounded by a sea of lily-livered cowards--at least, not to me, not in this story.  On the other hand, though, the starkness of the contrast between Will and the town's men sort of reminded me--in a very, very minimized way--of Jesus, staying true to His merciful purpose  to save those who refused to stand by Him, even when they all deserted Him.  

I keep thinking of this movie in contradictory possibilities.  For instance, the pacing.  There were what seemed like hours of actual screen time leading up to the climactic moment when the gang arrived in town "at high noon," and then when it actually came, it was all over in no more than five minutes.  (Speaking of the gang, what in tarnation was the ever-lovin' deal with Frank Miller?  For the gigantic fuss the man kicked up, he sure went down pretty easy; I'm just sayin'.  Was everyone scared of him because he was mentally unstable?  Or was he usually unstoppable in a fight?  I MUST KNOW.)  So, terribly disproportionate pacing or subtly brilliant depiction of how agonizingly long the build-up to a climax can be in real life, as opposed to how, when the event anticipated happens, it happens seemingly within the blink of an eye?  Irksome spotlight on one flawless character exalted above the common-folk, or powerful and realistic allegory?  I just can't decide.  And I'm really very sorry to have to own that, since I went into this movie  expecting to love it.  Even when watching it--with a quite decidedly unimpressed father and brother--I kept longing to be wowed by it.  I just…wasn't.  But I can still certainly see why it's such a favorite…it's just that for some reason the film didn't jibe all that well with me, which I think is a crying shame, since I really wanted to love it.

For all that, though, there really were moments in this movie that I did enjoy.  I loved that Amy and Mrs. Ramirez became friends despite their initial distaste.  I loved the relationship between Will and Amy, especially the part pictured above--after all that they'd been through together, that wordless hug was just SO DARN SWEET, as was their wedding at the very beginning.  Also, though my aforementioned partners in crime got very tired of how many times the theme song, "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'," played throughout the film, I rather liked it…though I do have to agree that it did play perhaps a bit too often.  

This movie is good…it just didn't floor me like I expected it to, and there were a few things I would have preferred to have been done differently.  But I'd still recommend it--it's definitely an enjoyable experience, and the acting is superb.


  1. Ah! the review I have been waiting for! You know, your reaction to this movie, is practically identical to my reaction to the only John Wayne I have ever seen. It was Louis L'Amour's Hondo.

    Though the plot of is interesting, I don't have an overwhelming desire to watch this movie.

    1. Haha! Oh, dear. I take it Hondo isn't that great, then? I haven't watched it…but I STRONGLY suggest that you give John Wayne movies another chance…I rawther like him, I admit :D

      Yeah. It's fun, it's just not as epic as I expected it to be.

  2. I've not seen this movie . . . but I do know what you mean about stories that make the hero SO good at the expense of literally everybody else. Because I know there are real-life situations like that, of course--but honestly, how common are they, really? Usually, it's a lot more mixed; I mean, most of the time, there's definitely more than one "good guy," and even the bad guys are a LITTLE bit good. (And the good guys, conversely, are just a little bit bad.)

    Also, from reading the summary, I wish they hadn't put in that conflict with his wife . . . I mean, it kind of sounds like it was included mostly so they could say to the audience, "Look, even his WIFE is against him!! Isn't that sad?" But I don't think that's really fair to her, using her as a sort of "backdrop" against which to highlight the hero's heroic-ness. Does that make sense? Maybe I'm just being way too harsh against the film; after all, I've not seen it yet . . . What do you think?

    1. EXACTLY! It's VERY seldom so black-and-white (ha) in real life. Eloquently put, m'dear :)

      Yes. Yes, I agree. *nods head* Amy seems way too negatively reactive to Will's plight of conscience--like, over-the-top opposed heart and soul. But the filmmakers do give her the courtesy of explaining her objections eventually, and she does have a good excuse. (Plus, *SPOILERS* she comes around in the end anyway. *END OF SPOILERS*)

      The more I thought about the movie, the more I started to have unsettling suspicions as to the motives behind the role-play in this film…but it could all have been my imagination. I don't know :)

  3. Well, I haven't seen this movie, so I can't really comment much on it. But I do understand the uncertain feeling as to what you think of something. I recently watched a movie, called "Rear Window" with Grace Kelly and James Stewart in it, and a close friend of ours loves it... I still don't know what I think of it. :P I liked it, but I didn't love it. It's so weird, and I wouldn't watch it again in a few years, but I wouldn't go and bash it. It had its good points and its low points, that's all. :P

    ~Miss Meg

    1. Oh, I've seen pictures of Rear Window! I'm sorry to hear it's rather an oddball, though…what about it didn't sit well with you, if you don't mind my asking? I may want to watch it someday :D It's a Hitchcock, isn't it? The only Hitchcock I've seen is Spellbound, which I watched solely for Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. The sacrifices I make for these people…

      "It had its good points and its low points, that's all." SAAAAME ;)

    2. Oh, it wasn't bad, that's for sure! It just dragged on needlessly in some places and the climax was very disappointing and the ending was shockingly abrupt. (Basically, we were all expecting some interesting, big twist at the end and there was no such thing at all, so that was disappointing. And then it was suspense for the ENTIRE movie and the climax was over in one minute flat. And then BOOM. THE END. Ohhh... okay...) But yeah, besides that, I really liked James Stewart and I really liked Grace Kelly (also, her wardrobe!!! I'd basically rewatch it for THAT!) and it WAS quite clever, considering most of the movie is shot in the exact same place. And yes, it's a Hitchcock movie.
      I've not seen Spellbound, but I like Gregory and Ingrid... did you not like it? ;)

      ~Miss Meg

  4. Your review is SO WELL DONE. I think I can understand what you're talking about, how it didn't affect you like you thought it would....that was me with Tombstone, sort of. Everybody LOVES it and when I watched it I wasn't near as impressed as I thought I'd be. It can be awkward. But you did so well putting it into words!

    I still want to watch High Noon, just cuz. ;-P

    1. Awwwww! *blushes* THAAAAAANKS ;) You're a dear. "It can be awkward"--to say the least! Like, "Oh, I finally get to watch this, this'll be great!" but then "Oh…well…hmm…I will totally alienate half of the blogosphere if I admit I didn't like this so much…" Daww, you're too kind!

      *nods* I suggest it. Even if just for the experience of watching High Noon. You know ;-P

  5. Olivia, you're not alone! :P

    My family and I watched this some years ago, and I think you basically put our feelings into words. It wasn't a BAD movie, but none of us really cared for it. As you said, it kind of dragged on and on only to have everything resolved quite easily and quickly at the end. I wouldn't be adverse to watching it again (especially to see if my opinion changes) but it simply didn't blow me away. :/

    ps. I loved your use of "chiaroscuro". ;)

    1. Haha, I'm so glad! (The thought did occur to me, I admit :P)

      Yeah, same here. It's just that we went into it expecting it to knock our socks off, but instead our socks remained securely on our feet…to coin a phrase xD

      p.s. Thank you! I love that word. Because of The Tale of Despereaux, but also just in its own right :D

  6. Okay, so here's something that I think will help you understand this movie better, because it really helped me want to see it again. You know that book I reviewed here for the LOWCW this year, Sixguns and Society, and how it broke down western films into sort of 4 categories as far as plot? And one plot, the one that shows up the least often, the author called the Transition Plot because it sort of transitions between the Classic plot that was super popular in the '30s and '40s and into the '50s, and the Professional plot that was super popular in the late '50s and beyond. And High Noon is a Transition western. In the Classic westerns, society is good, but weak, and the hero comes from outside society, defends society from the villain, and becomes accepted by society. But in the Transition plot, society is not only weak, but it's also downright antagonistic toward the hero, who comes from within society, but has to fight not only the villain, but society as well. And in the end of a Transition western, the hero does defeat the villain, but he can't defeat society, and realizes he wants no part of the society, so he and his woman or sidekick go away to create a new world of their own.

    Sound familiar?

    And I really dislike Transition westerns, I've discovered! I want my Classic theme, where the hero gets embraced by a good society, or I want the Vengeance variation, where the hero realizes that vengeance isn't as important as doing the right thing and becoming part of society, or I want my Professional theme, where society doesn't figure into the story in a meaningful way at all. I do not like an antagonistic or bad society in my westerns.

    Which, I suspect, is why I haven't liked High Noon for many years now, though, to be fair, I haven't watched it in like 20 years. But the last time I watched it, I got mad at those stupid townspeople and wanted Will to just leave them to their doom if they were going to be so horrid to him. Grrr, it makes me mad even now!

    I've read many places that director Howard Hawks really disliked High Noon because he thought a real hero wouldn't go crawling around to a bunch of weak and unhelpful townspeople asking for help, but should just go do what needed to be done. So he made Rio Bravo, which was one of the earliest Professional Plot westerns, and one of my absolute favorites.

    Another movie that feels a little like this in some ways, but has a good town instead, is The Fastest Gun Alive starring Glenn Ford. I highly recommend it.


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