High Noon 1952I am supposed to write a film analysis of “High Noon” (1952). I know it basically condemned the anticommunist fervor and McCarthyism and the notion of “not naming names.” It...

High Noon 1952

I am supposed to write a film analysis of “High Noon” (1952). I know it basically condemned the anticommunist fervor and McCarthyism and the notion of “not naming names.” It also speaks to the fact that most people just stood by and did nothing.   Do think there is some merit to the thought that the film pointed out the fact that most people only do the right thing when it easy, but if doing what is right is hard or involves risk it is easy it find an excuse to opt out. I get the connection with the McCarthyism fervor and blacklisting but it just seems like the film involves more than that.

Sometimes the obvious symbolism (viewed from hindsight) was never intended is an example of us finding what we want to find. Most of my classmates and professor went on and on about all the McCarthyism symbolism but at times I thought they were stretching it. Also why would John Wayne refer to this movie as “un-American” and is it really?

How does it differ from other westerns?

The story is universal.... It could taker place anywhere and time...some of the same features as Greek tragedies I think (yes or know)? There must be a more universal message here, whether it be about morality, doing the right thing, ect.


Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In some ways, High Noon attacks the pacifism of Grace Kelly's character as a Quaker. For, she wants Gary Cooper's character to wash his hands of the old conflict and forget about being the marshal to just be her bridegroom. However, she understands finally that defending her husband takes precedence over her impractical religious beliefs.

That she can assert herself and defend her husband when the people who owe him their safety do not, bespeaks of what is certainly "unAmerican" in the days of the Old West.  The breed of men who populated the western towns in the nineteen hundreds were courageous, not pusillanimous as they are portrayed. At any rate there is no real comparison between the stock character of a Western and the screenwriters, producers, actors of Hollywood. This is why John Wayne disliked the film; it lacked verisimilitude.  The meek Quaker girl becomes stronger than the Western men who must have fought off others who would exploit their town.  While all the townspeople may not have come to Marshal Kane's assistance, there would be some who certainly would.

While the film does possess some universality, it has a large Western credibility gap.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I wonder if Wayne disliked the fact that so many people turned out to be cowards in this film. He may have prefered to see the community defined along more postive lines. Perhaps the tendency toward heroism was too rare in this film for Wayne to agree that it represented his ideals and his view of America.

However, I also would want to know more about John Wayne's film theory/aesthetic before interpreting his comments on this film. He may have meant something very specific and even non-political when he called HIGH NOON un-American.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Apparently John Wayne really didn't care for the film. To the extent that the film was an attack on anti-communism, Wayne's reaction is easy to understand in light of his own anti-communist views.  On the other hand, Ronald Reagan, a famously fervent anti-communist, apparently admired the film. I'm inclined to agree with you that any work of art, to be truly effective and memorable, has to draw on archetypes that go far deeper than any particular contemporary issue.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think the film differs from other westerns in that it had a specific allegorical and political purpose. In addition to the condemnation of communist sentiments mentioned here, it can also serve as a larger allegory of our civilization, then and now.