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USA 1952
Directed by
Fred Zinneman
84 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

High Noon

With its celebration of the lone outsider hero, this iconic but somewhat over-rated Western, scripted by Carl Foreman is, like its star, Gary Cooper, stylishly lean but light-on for dramatic dynamics, characters entering and leaving like mechanized toys.

Gregory Peck had been originally offered the role of the inflexibly honourable marshall up against the scum-bag Miller boys and with his softer more intelligent demeanour he may have been more effective than the over-age Cooper who picked up the Best Actor Oscar for being as stiff as a board and under no circumstances deserved to have Grace Kelly as his new bride. Although the tension builds well with a nearly-in-real-time unfolding and it has empathetic cinematography by Floyd Crosby (who had won an Oscar in 1931 for Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, the outcome is anti-climactic with the final showdown indifferently, if not outright badly (in terms of modern day action standards at least), handled by Zinneman.

The film also picked up Oscars for editing and the Dimitri Tiomkin-Ned Washington song, Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'. The device, which runs through most of the film, of the three gunmen waiting for the noon train was used in the final story of How The West Was Won, 1962, and more famously as the stunning opening piece to Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West,1968 (the main baddie in that sequence being Jack Elam who has a small role in the Zinneman film as Charlie, the town drunk, whilst Lee Van Cleef who has a minor role here most famously reappeared in Leone's For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, both 1966)




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