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HIGH NOON (1952) ****

Gary Cooper stars in his all time best role as Will Kane, a lawman who gets married to the beautiful Quaker chick (Grace Kelly) on the day he retires.  As he’s about to leave for his honeymoon, he learns that the mad dog killer he put away five years ago is returning to town on the noon train.  Kane decides to stick around to fend off the no-good varmint and his gang of thugs.  He figures he can’t do it alone though, so he goes around town asking the men folk to join his posse and help defend the town.  Trouble is; everyone in town is either yellow or worthless.  With no one to aid him, Kane is left to fight the nefarious gunmen alone.

 

I need to ask myself a question here:  Why did it take me so long to see this movie?  I love movies and I love westerns but I have never seen this movie before.  High Noon is not only one of the best westerns ever made, it’s one of the best films ever made.  Again:  Why did it take me so long to see this movie?

 

High Noon is filled with tension and suspense stemming from the arrival of the imminent bad guys but the thing that makes it a classic is the performance of Gary Cooper.  He ranks right up there with John Wayne in Rio Bravo, Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars, and Alan Ladd in Shane as one of the greatest western performances ever.  What makes his character Will Kane different is that he’s not a hero in the traditional western sense.  He’s not a cowboy filled with swagger and bravado like Wayne and unlike Eastwood he isn’t a steely-eyed badass.  Cooper is an everyman.  He’s scared just like the civilians he’s been hired to protect.  What makes him a hero is his willingness to do the right thing when no one else will.  Cooper is a man of few words and when he doesn’t speak, his sorrowful eyes say everything.  He deservedly won an Oscar for his stellar work. 

 

Then there’s the supporting cast.  Kelly is dazzling as Kane’s resentful wife.  She’s also one of the hottest Quaker chicks I’ve ever seen.  Lloyd Bridges also does a fine job as Kane’s uppity deputy and Lon Chaney Jr. and Harry Morgan put in excellent turns as cowardly townsfolk.

 

Fred (The Day of the Jackal) Zinnemann’s direction is flawless.  He wrings every bit of suspense possible from the film.  Everything is expertly paced (the flick is filmed in “real time” more or less), every second counts; and as a result, there is not an ounce of fat on this bad boy.  The cinematography by Floyd Crosby is some of the best you’ll ever see and it’s bewildering to think that this is the same guy who shot Attack of the Crab Monsters, Reform School Girl, and The Screaming Skull just a few years later.  

 

High Noon is Number 1 with a bullet on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of 1952, sitting pretty on top of The Quiet Man.

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