High Noon (1952). A masterpiece western which I must admit, I appreciate more on viewing this time round than the first. It may be one of two reasons: 1) the fact that I know what it is about and so can concentrate on other aspects or 2) the fact that I viewed it with a focus on Grace Kelly for the Grace Kelly Blogathon. Either way, it is still a brilliant movie that has more to it than first meets the eye. But, that’s a topic for another time. Grace Kelly is the star for now (minus all the gossip that surrounds this movie).
Beautiful Grace Kelly plays devout Quaker Amy Fowler Kane, newly wed to Will Kane (Gary Cooper). And I mean newly, newly wed…as in the wedding takes place in the first few minutes of the movie. It is at this point that Will Kane hands in his marshal badge and intends to live quietly with his new bride. However, it is not meant to be…you see, the noon train is expected to bring Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) to town. The problem? Will Kane had put this dangerous outlaw behind bars. Waiting at the station are Miller‘s gang (played by Lee Van Cleef, Robert J. Wilke and Sheb Wooley) setting up wonderful tension by simply “hanging around”. Kane feels responsible for the situation that will undoubtedly arise and cannot just ride away.
Amy, is expecting a quiet, peaceful life with her new husband so desperately wants Kane to get out of town, leaving it all to the new marshal (who is only due to arrive the next morning). She can’t understand why Kane won’t run. At one point she tells Kane “Don’t try to be a hero! You don’t have to be a hero, not for me!”. The thing is, if he does back down, he won’t be able to live with himself and there will probably always be some sort of animosity towards Amy. It really is a tricky situation but personally, he has to do what he does. It is at this time that one already wonders why these two are together. They seem so different. I just don’t understand why Amy doesn’t support her husband. Surely, being married, they are now a team? Instead, she takes the easy option out and buys a ticket on that very same dreaded noon train that is bringing in Miller. To me, Amy becomes as much an antagonist as Miller. She’s a problem (among others) that Kane shouldn’t have to deal with at this perilous time. I’m not sure Amy is quite convinced about her actions. Yes, she decides to wait in the town hotel because she’s nervous of the gang waiting at the station. But, I think her heart isn’t totally in it. She’s hoping he will change his mind but also, giving her the benefit of the doubt, she’s not ready to abandon Kane just yet.
There’s a part of her that is intrigued by her husband hence she keeps asking the hotel clerk about him, hoping for more information than he gives. Clearly she doesn’t really know Kane as well as we’d expect (and we never get any insight into their relationship before the wedding). This is also confirmed when she goes to see Kane‘s former girlfriend Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado) who tells Amy that if she doesn’t know Kane, she doesn’t know her husband. That she asks around confirms that she does care about him. If she didn’t ask at all, I’d say she was indifferent and probably not worth Kane‘s hand. It also shows that she isn’t just the helpless damsel. That she does actually have some oomph as it must take quite some courage to face your husband’s former lover on your own.
This courage shows itself when she finally helps her husband (and so, in my opinion, she redeems herself). In fact, she’s the only one in the entire town who comes to his aid. She does the unexpected (I won’t reveal) which symbolises to me that she is, after all, committed to the relationship which one questions during the rest of the movie, especially when she steps onto the that dreaded noon train.
I’m not big on finding hidden meaning in movies but it seems fitting to me that Grace Kelly is always in her white dress when everyone else is darkly dressed (Kane has a mix of white and black and I think this shows his inner torment). It is very interesting how at the end, as the show-down is about to begin, both Amy and Helen, one dressed in white, the other in black are side-by-side in the carriage going to the station. It is almost like good and bad, right and wrong being represented. The angel and the devil sitting on Kane‘s shoulder. In the same way we have both Amy and the outlaws waiting for the same train.
Directed by Fred Zinnemann, High Noon was nominated for 7 Oscars and won 4 (Best Actor in Leading Role, Best Film Editing, Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture), Best Music (Song)).