review for High Noon on AllMovie

High Noon (1952)
by Bruce Eder review

Fred Zinnemann's High Noon was described by John Wayne as the most un-American movie he'd ever seen. It offered an in-your-face story about responsibility, private and public, and some truths about the archetypal American community that would have been unpleasant in any era, but were even more so during the Red Scare of the early 1950s: the spectacle of town marshal Wil Kane (played by a too-old Gary Cooper), abandoned by his friends and neighbors and having to face down outlaws alone, was a pretty raw statement about where some people (including liberal producer Stanley Kramer) feared we were heading in 1952. It was the soundtrack, completed by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington with a song sung by an off-screen Tex Ritter, that helped turn the movie into a huge box office hit. This was a double irony, and an indicator of just what a miraculous conjuring trick Kramer and Zinnemann and screenwriter Carl Foreman had pulled off: Ritter was a reactionary Republican, Cooper an avowed anti-communist, Foreman an avowed Communist sympathizer (who left Hollywood before the movie was released), the movie had two blacklistees in major roles (Lloyd Bridges and Howland Chamberlain), and Kramer was Hollywood's one respected liberal voice. They came up with a film that opened the way for a generation of serious westerns, including The Bravados, The Big Country, and The Searchers.