A Year: Day to Day Men: 24th of July, Solar Year 2018

The Terrazzo Floor

July 24, 1952 marks the release date in the United States of the classic film “High Noon”.

“High Noon” is a 1952 American western film produced by Stanley Kramer, directed by Fred Zinnemann, and starring Gary Cooper. The plot, depicted in real time, revolves around a town marshal, who must face a gang of killers alone, torn between his sense of duty and love for his new bride. The film was mired in controversy with political overtones at the time of its release.

In 1951, during production of the film, Carl Foreman, the screenwriter of the movie, was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee during its investigation of “Communist propaganda and influence” in the Hollywood motion picture industry. He was labeled an “uncooperative witness” by the committee, making him vulnerable to blacklisting, the practice of denying employment to suspected Communists.

After Carl Foreman’s refusal to name names was made public, Foreman’s production partner Stanley Kramer, the producer of the film, demanded an immediate dissolution of their partnership. As a signatory to the production loan, Foreman remained with the “High Noon” project; but before the film’s release, he sold his partnership share to Kramer and moved to Britain, knowing that he would not find further work in the United States.

Gary Cooper played the lead role of Marshal Will Kane, even doing the fight scenes, despite ongoing problems with his back. He wore no makeup, to emphasize his character’s anguish and fear, which was probably intensified by pain from a recent ulcer surgery. Grace Kelly was given the part of the marshal’s wife, Amy Fowler Kane, despite the thirty-year age disparity with Gary Cooper, after producer Stanley Kramer saw her in an off-Broadway play.

The running time of the story almost precisely parallels the running time of the film itself, an effect heightened by the frequent shots of clocks, to remind the characters, and the audience, that the villain the marshal will have to fight will be arriving on the noon train. Thus the title “High Noon”. Upon its release, critics and audiences expecting chases, fights, spectacular scenery, and other common Western film elements were dismayed to find them largely replaced by emotional and moralistic dialogue until the climactic final scenes.

“High Noon” was criticized in the then Soviet Union as “glorification of the individual”. The American Left lauded it as an allegory against blacklisting and McCarthyism, but it gained respect in the conservative community as well. Now considered a classic western, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four: Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Music Score and Best Music Song. It also won four Golden Globe Awards in the categories of Actor, Supporting Actress, Score, and Black and White Cinematography.

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