Thursday, April 29, 2021

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling-Or Political Liberty Either-Grace Kelly And Gary Cooper’s “High Noon” (1952)-A Film Review

Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling-Or Political Liberty Either-Grace Kelly And Gary Cooper’s “High Noon” (1952)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Si Lannon

High Noon, starring Grace Kelly, Gary Cooper, 1952

Sometimes in life, sometimes in the publishing business might be a more appropriate way of putting the matter, you get handed gratis something like the assignment of this film under review High Noon you would have given your eye teeth to get hold of. The way this one played out was recently added stringer Sarah Lemoyne, who apparently as she has advertised is indeed a quick learner, had been assigned the classic Technicolor Western Johnny Guitar starring an over the hill Joan Crawford and getting there Sterling Hayden despite the fact that she knew nothing, hated even, the genre. Her smart move was to attach that gripe to her review which while site manager Greg Green, the guy who hands out the assignments these days, called it a very good one from an unseasoned and unversed critic in the genre the rest of us, and maybe Sarah too, knew was a dog. Showed those tell-tale signs of somebody going through the motions. The fact of putting her gripe in a review left Greg kind of in a box when he wanted her to do this review, another Western, after she said no mas. So, to keep the inmates from getting restless he assigned this iconic beauty to me. Apparently in the back and forth over the issue it became clear to Greg that Sarah really was clueless about how important this film was cinematically and politically. Too young to know of red scares and such.

The reason that I would have been willing to give my eye teeth to review this film though has nothing to do with cinema or politics but my boyhood (and now still) “crush” on “the girl next door” Grace Kelly. I never tire of telling all who will listen the remark made by Seth Garth when I think he was reviewing Ms. Kelly and Cary Grant’s To Catch A Thief and he was so struck by her form of beauty that he could understand why her husband Prince Rainier of Monaco, a man not known for public displays of emotion openly wept at Princess Grace’s funeral after she was killed in a car accident. I could have told Seth that as well ever since my boyhood infatuation.

Now to the story and to the politics which are intertwined with what the creators, or one of the creators of the story line was attempting to do back in 1952 when the height of
the Senator Joe McCarthy-led red scare was hitting full stride and Hollywood was continually in the direct line of fire for alleged “communist influence” and as a hotbed of mostly former Communist Party members and fellow travelers as they were called then. People were forced, maybe against their better judgments to “snitch”, “fink,”  “rat out” their fellows who were under the Red Scare microscope but they still did it to their every lasting shame which hopefully caused more than a few sleepless nights when they “named names” to cover their own asses. Worse let the night-takers have their way without uttering a whisper against the madness. Would not stand up for the innocent, or the guilty if such a word is appropriate in this context. Cowards and other words I would rather no use here but which we used all the time in the old neighborhood when something smelled rotten.             

And that same understanding propels the action in this film where Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper, soon to be ex-Marshall of a Western town which he did much to make hospitable for ordinary folks and taking action against the wild boys who ruled the roost previously. Leaving the profession, the job since he was now married to lovely Quaker convert Amy, played by Ms. Kelly and she insisted they move away and start a new less dangerous life. All well and god except the leader of the bad guys whom he had sent to prison for life had been pardoned and was heading back to town to seek his revenge against Will. Headed back to town on that regularly scheduled noon train which will get plenty of play via many shots of the endless railroad tracks, the ticking clocks and the bad guys waiting for their boss to come back to begin the slaughter. The question is put point blank-can Will leave where danger is afoot and all that he stands for is threatened.

Of course not everybody saw the question in that same way, didn’t see that he was a standup guy and could do no other.  Including Amy who was ready to leave town-with or without him. The story unravels around the fact that friend or foe, upstanding citizens or not, fearless or fearful not one goddam bastard was ready to stand up to the bad guys back in those late 19th century days when the West was being tamed. Just like standup people were scarce as hen’s teeth when the deal went down in the Cold War red scare night. In the end Will stood down the bad guys alone, well almost alone because his sweetie Amy came through in the end. Best of all after the bad guys were no more and Will gave his fierce look of scorn and contempt on the scurrying town  rats after the dust had settled he and Amy wordlessly left town. Nice.

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