Producer: Stanley Kramer
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Writers: Carl Forehan, John W. Cunningham
Runtime: 1 hour 25 minutes
Awards: Four Oscars
Will Kane, the longtime marshal of Hadleyville, New Mexico, has turned in his badge, then marries pacifist Quaker Amy Fowler. Then the town learns that Frank Miller, a murderer whom Kane brought to justice, will arrive on the noon train. Miller and his gange have vowed to get revenge on Will.
Will and Amy leave town, but, fearing that the gang will both hunt him down and also be a danger to the town and its people, Will turns back. He reclaims his badge and scours the town for help, even interrupting Sunday church services, with little success. Will goes to warn Helen Ramírez, a Madame who was first Miller’s lover, then Will’s. Helen is already aware of what Miller will do to her.
Amy, as a pacifist, is opposed to Will’s actions, and gives Will an ultimatum: she is leaving on the noon train, with or without him. So is the judge who sentenced Miller; he encourages Will to do the same.
The marshal who preceded Will supports him, but is too old to help and tells Will to get out of town.
Will tries eliciting help from the locals; no-one will. Many of the townspeople encourage Will to leave, hoping that would defuse the situation.
Finally, Will faces Miller and his gang alone. He guns down two of them, but is wounded in the process. Amy boards the train, but gets off when she hears the sound of gunfire. Amy chooses her husband’s life over her beliefs, shooting Pierce from behind. Miller then takes her hostage, to force Will into the open. However, Amy attacks Miller, giving Will a clear shot, and Will shoots him dead. As the townspeople emerge, Will stares at the crowd, contemptuously throws his marshal’s star in the dirt, and leaves town with Amy.
It is a pity that “High Noon” is not a novel; because it is the quintessential Great American Novel. It represents an essential American characteristic; we tend to be very independent-minded, but in a crisis we will stand and deliver, and damn the rest of the world.
“High Noon” is a tense and gripping tale; we see the clock ticking toward Noon as the plot progresses. While it is not obvious when watching the movie, it occurs in real time; the ninety-minute movie starts at 10:30 AM and ends at noon.
The movie has been remade twice, and while the remakes are good, nothing really improves this mythic tale of a man who realizes, as any true adult person must, that when the chips are down, we are inclined to say, “Here I stand, I can do no other” regardless of the consequences.
The ultimate American Western; the ultimate mythic tale of America.
Was Will justified in killing these men?
Was Amy justified in shooting a man in the back?
Is it ever justified to kill another human being?
Reading Level/Interest Age
Interest Level: Grade school and above