Review of High Noon – A Classic Western

High Noon was a classic American Western film in 1952 that was directed by Fred Zinneman. The film was produced by Stanley Kramer from a screenplay by Carol Foreman. It starred Gary Cooper who played as a town marshal named Will Kane who was torn between his sense of duty and love for his new bride and who must face a gang of killers alone. The film was released on July 24, 1952.

The film revolves around the life of Marshal Will Kane in Hadleyville which is a small town in New Mexico territory. He was newly married to Amy Fowler and was preparing to retire. They were planning to depart for a new life to raise a family and run a store in another town. However, a news came that Frank Miller, a vicious outlaw who was sent to jail by Kane has been released and will arrive on the noon train. Miller’s gang which includes Ben, Jack Colby, and Jim Pierce wait for Frank’s arrival at the train station and it is clear that Miller intends to exact revenge.

At the time of High Noon’s release, it was mired in controversy with political overtones. But despite those controversies, it was still nominated for seven Academy Awards and it won four, as well as four Golden Globe Awards including its award-winning score written by Dimitri Tiomkin, a Russian-born composer.In 1989, High Noon was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the United States National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Compare a movie like High Noon to today’s high-powered sci-fi and fantasy flicks like the Avengers series and Wonder Woman, etc. a quick watch of this simple movie is refreshing.  It’s a break from the assault on the senses and the focus on one man and his struggle to do the right thing.

High Noon Cast

  • Gary Cooper – Marshal Will Kane
  • Thomas Mitchell– Mayor Jonas Henderson
  • Lloyd Bridges– Deputy Marshal Harvey Pell
  • Katy Jurado – Helen Ramírez
  • Grace Kelly– Amy Fowler Kane
  • Otto Kruger– Judge Percy Mettrick
  • Lon Chaney Jr.– Martin Howe, the former marshal
  • Ian MacDonald– Frank Miller
  • Eve McVeagh– Mildred Fuller
  • Harry Morgan– Sam Fuller
  • Morgan Farley– Dr. Mahin, minister
  • Harry Shannon– Cooper
  • Lee Van Cleef– Jack Colby
  • Robert J. Wilke– Jim Pierce
  • Sheb Wooley– Ben Miller

The lead role in the film was originally offered to John Wayne but he turned it down because he felt that the story of the movie was an obvious allegory against blacklisting which he supported actively. After he turned down the Will Kane role, it was then offered to Gregory Peck who also declined because he felt that it was similar to his role in The Gunfighter. Some other stars who declined the role were Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando, and Montgomery Clift.

Grace Kelly who played Kane’s bride was discovered in an off-Broadway play by Kramer. She was then cast in the movie even though she and Cooper has substantial age disparity. The film was also Lee Van Cleef’s, who played Jack Colby, film debut. However, it was the only role of his career without a single line of dialog.


High Noon was filmed in several locations in California in the late summer and early fall of 1951. Its opening scenes were shot near Los Angeles at Iverson Movie Ranch. A few of its town scenes were shot in Columbia State Historic Park which is a preserved Gold Rush mining town near Sonora. Most of the film’s street scenes were shot on the Columbia lot in Burbank while St. Joseph’s Church in Tuolomne City was used for exterior shots of the Hadleyville church.

The railroad on the movie was the old Sierra Railroad in Jamestown. It is now known as Railtown 1897 State Historic Park or “the movie railroad” because it’s often used in films and TV shows. There were also fight scene with Bridges that Cooper was reluctant to film because of his ongoing back problems during those times but he still did it without any stunt double.

General Reception

High Noon earned an estimated $3.4 million in 1952 at the North American box office. However, people who watched the release of the film, including critics, expected chases, fights, spectacular scenery and other common Western film elements but they were dismayed to find that the film was largely focused on emotional and moralistic dialogue until the climactic final scenes.

The Soviet Union criticized the film as “glorification of the individual”. It was lauded by the American Left as an allegory against blacklisting and McCarthyism but it also gained respect in the conservative community. High Noon was cited as a favorite by several U.S. presidents including Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton. In fact, they hosted several screenings of the film in the White House.

High Noon’s character, Will Kane was alsoincluded in Entertainment Weekly’s list of The 20 All Time Coolest Heroes in Pop Culture. Katy Jurado who plated Helen Ramirez won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, which made her the first Mexican actress to receive the award. High Noon’s cinematographer Floyd Crosby also won a Golden Globe Award for his work on the film.

Sequels and Remakes

There was a television sequel for High Noon which was produced in 1980. It was called High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane which screenplay was written by Elmore Leonard. It aired on CBS in November 1980. The Cooper and Kelly roles were played by Lee Majors and Katherine Cannon.

In 2000, the film was remade as a TV movie for TBS Superstation and Tom Skerritt played the lead role. In 2018, High Noon has been purchased by Classical Entertainment for a feature film remake. This was announced by producer Thomas Olaimey and writer-director David L. Hunt on November 14, 2018.