movie film review | chris tookey

High Noon

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  High Noon Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
9.81 /10
Gary Cooper , Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell
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Directed by: Fred Zinnemann
Written by: Carl Foreman from John W. Cunningham's story The Tin Star

Released: 1952
Origin: US
Length: 85

A marshall (Gary Cooper, pictured) who wishes only to leave town and start a peaceful life on a ranch with his new Quaker bride (Grace Kelly) gets no support from the local citizens as he awaits the arrival of killers swearing vengeance.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Now, it's the most critically acclaimed western of all time; but contemporary reviewers were less impressed. Many wondered how a town of pioneer frontiersmen had suddenly turned into a community of cowards; John Wayne and Howard Hawks's Rio Bravo (1959) was in part an attempt to counterbalance this "unAmerican" image. The truth was, of course, that the film was a metaphor for the craven way that Hollywood and America as a whole had bowed to the demands of the House Un-American Activities Committee (which later repaid the non-compliment by blacklisting writer Carl Foreman). The failure of the writer to explain how the characters had ended up so pusillanimous is the film's one real weakness.

The film's greatest strength, simplicity, was mistakenly construed as triteness. At 51 years old, Cooper was deemed insufficiently romantic a lead - whereas his haggard, leathery countenance actually helps to give much greater weight to his lonely stand; this is his finest performance. Grace Kelly, in her first starring role is slightly colourless as Cooper's pacifist bride, but Katy Jurado is excellent as the marshal's ex-girlfriend. Zinnemann's direction is a masterpiece of economy, and his greatest talent - drawing performances from actors - is obvious throughout.

Floyd Crosby's high-contrast cinematography (borrowing copiously from film noir) is outstanding, as is the Oscar-winning ballad by Dimitri Tiomkin (properly called High Noon, it's better known as Do Not Forsake Me). The Oscar-winning editing by Elmo Williams and Harry Gerstad is unsurpassed in the creation of suspense; and, although High Noon is a great western, it is equally effective as a thriller.

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