Few Westerns are spoken about with such hushed reverence as High Noon. Originally released on July 24, 1952, the film has gone on to become the high-water mark of the genre — earning not only critical acclaim (it won four Academy Awards, including a second Best Actor Oscar for star Gary Cooper) but also holding an esteemed place in the hearts of film lovers everywhere. On the surface, the plot seems deceptively simple: Cooper portrays Will Kane, a recently married frontier marshal on the verge of retirement whose past returns to haunt him in the form of a brutal outlaw he once sent to jail (portrayed with panache by Ian MacDonald) who has come to town seeking revenge. Without the support of his townspeople, Kane must stand alone. A showdown is set at, you guessed it, high noon, and the courageous Kane embarks on his date with destiny.
The film deftly plays with issues of loyalty, sacrifice and mob mentality, but never in a way that becomes heavy handed. This is largely thanks to a tight script by Carl Foreman (based on the John W. Cunningham short story The Tin Star), superb directing by Fred Zinnemann and a fantastic supporting cast that includes Grace Kelly as Kane’s new Quaker wife who finds her long-held religious beliefs challenged, along with Lloyd Bridges and Katy Jurado. The original theatrical trailer for this classic is featured above, illustrating once more how High Noon stands shoulders above the typical sagebrush saga.
This article originally ran last March and is being reprinted today as this week’s Flashback Friday post.