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What is the best western – Watch the movie High Noon (1952)

Whenever I am asked “what is the best western to watch”, I almost always respond, “it’s High Noon from 1952.”

Sometimes their reply is, “why something THAT old” or “I’ve never even heard of that one”. With so many great westerns that have been made, they also say, “what makes this one so special?”

Before I answer that – Consider the competition

Before I attempt to answer that, let me list a few other movies that come pretty close to measuring up:

  • Red River 1948
    • Proved John Wane’s acting ability.
    • The story line was “grown up”
  • Stagecoach 1939
    • This movie made John Wayne a Star.
    • Stagecoach was the first “Adult Western”
  • Rio Bravo 1959
    • Stared John Wayne
    • Introduced Rick Nelson
    • Supporting cast was superb
  • Winchester ’73 1950
    • Showed the acting depth of James Stewart in a western
    • Dan Duryea portrays an awesome villin
  • The Gunfighter 1950
    • Probably Gregory Peck’s finest role in a western.
    • A thought-provoking story about the emotions of a gunfighter
  • The Magnificent Seven 1960
    • Action filled
    • Bravery from unexpected people

High Noon is the best western movie of all time.

As you can see, with so many contenders, there has to be something uniquely outstanding about “High Noon” that makes me say it’s the best western movie of all time.

I know that my opinion is perhaps not held by even close to a majority.

I will attempt to make my case without revealing the story of “High Noon”. Anyone who has seen the movie will appreciate how difficult a task that will be. And, perhaps it requires a synopsis, but I hope it doesn’t. Many of the uniqueness can be addressed without revealing the substance of the plot.

The cast of “High Noon” itself was unique…

Gary Cooper as Marshall Kane

Gary Cooper is Will Kane

The lead role was played by Gary Cooper. He was 51 years old when this movie was made.

Grace kelly as Amy Kane

Grace Kelly is Amy Kane

Grace Kelly was 21 and her character was married to Gary Cooper’s character. There was no dwelling on this age difference. It is worth noting that Will (Cooper) was tough and unpolished, and Amy (Kelly) was prim and propper. The age difference accentuated that distinction.
This was also the first time Kelly had been featured in a movie.

The director, Fred Zinnemann, said that Grace Kelly at that time wasn’t equipped to do very much and she was “very wooden”. That lack of experience and almost clumsy behavior fitted the character of Amy perfectly. Amy, was a prim easterner kind of out of place in a frontier western town.

“High Noon” won many Academy Awards …

  • The Best Actor in a Leading Role
    • Gary Cooper was Marshall Will Kane.
      • Marshall Will Kane (Cooper) was brave although he was convinced that hewould not survive the battle that he had to face. No one could have

        portrayed the emotional turmoil any better than Gary Cooper.

  • Best Film Editing
    • Elmo Willams
    • Harry Gerstad
      • The editing took out an unnecessary sub-plot that would have taken away from the intenseness of the story.
  • The Best Music, Original Song
    • Dimitri Tiomkin (music)
    • Ned Washington (lyrics)
      • “The Ballad of High Noon” was the best original song. It was the first Best Original Song ever that was not from a musical. The melody was haunting and the lyrics actually were an outline of the story. And, it was sung during the opening credits. That was a first as well.
  • The Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
    • Dimitri Tomkin
      • The musical score underscored the drama and tension throughout the film.

My take away from “High Noon” (1952)…

Actually, take always is more accurate.

First of all, bravery is not the absence of fear. But doing what is the right thing to do in spite of fear and the odds being against you.

Facing Potential Death

Although afraid, Will Kane is resolute

Second of all, you don’t need beautiful scenery to make a story sell. Some scenes were shot in color, but the director decided that the starkness of black and white enhanced the story and therefore the color scenes had to be re shot in black and white. There were no computers and digital editing back in the “dark ages” of movie making.

It is Close to High Noon

It’s Almost Time

Thirdly “High Noon” was done in almost real time. The time span that the story covered was an hour and thirty-five minutes. The running time was eighty-four minutes. Clocks were shown throughout, highlighting that time was running out. Later this became known as shooting in real time. Another first!

And last of all, good actors are hard to find these days.

 

 

Dane

Dane

2 Comments

  1. Ok, I got to admit. I’m definitely intrigued by this movie and will have to add it to my list of movies to watch (and find I’m guessing! ha ha ).
    Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Thank you for your interest. You can get a copy of High Noon(1952) here: https://amzn.to/2QduX7c (This is my affiliate link and I will be paid a small commission any sales from it.)
      It’s also available for streaming too. I’m sure you will enjoy the experience.

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