High Noon was the film we discussed yesterday in a philosophy and film class. I must have seen it back in the early '50s when it was made and of course I've been aware it's considered an icon ... but really I didn't know why. With 60 years of education under my belt, I suddenly appreciate this film enormously although I found the dialog a little too stilted even for the somewhat grim Will Cain (Gary Cooper very much deserved the Oscar he was given as best actor).
Probably I remembered the stark scenes because I was accustomed the the standard B level Westerns which were full of constant action and, at the time, mostly in color. The discussion of the McCarthy era clarified SO much. The screenwriter, Carl Forman, had left the US for England by the time this movie was shown. For those who don't remember or haven't seen the movie for a while (you can watch it any time on the Internet) Kane is a marshal in a western town, married in the first scene to Grace Kelly, a Quaker woman. He's about to be replaced by another marshal and to go away and settle elsewhere with his wife. BUT word comes that a convicted killer has been let out of a jail "in the north" and will be arriving in town on the noon train. Three of his cohorts have gathered at the station to meet him. He has sworn to kill Kane who sent him to jail.
Kane starts out of town, but returns, knowing he'll be chased whereever he goes. Everyone in town know this too. Kane tries to enlist a posse of deputies but absolutely no one will join him. He is left alone to face not one, but four men out to kill him. Nothing much happens until the final minutes of the film when Kane fights for his life - and his new wife shoots one of the "bad guys". He is the one sane, moral person in a town of conformists and cowards against evil. It is America in the 1950s -- in black and white with the relentless song, "Do not forsake me, oh, my darling....?" sung by Tex Ritter, with the clocks moving toward high noon, all is gray, no color. It is not a Western at all, it as an allegory.
And it is talking about the fear that gripped the US in the 1950s (thanks to Joseph McCarthy), and it is about the fear that grips many parts of American today with the rants against immigrants, against terrorists, with the incessant shootings. America is a country that has been both energized and paralyzed by fear most of its history--a country that has not yet come to grips with the fact that immigrants on this continent killed it's natives, brought in thousands of slaves, and continues to pillage, pollute and devastate it's natural resources. No the movie doesn't say all that; but extrapolating ... where are the people who are willing to help the moral few who will not run from the evil that the sane among us recognize?
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!