A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In this classic 1950s Western, Marshall Will Kane (Gary Cooper) marries Amy (Grace Kelly) and turns in his badge. She is a Quaker, and he has promised her to hang up his gun and become a shopkeeper. But they get word that Frank Miller is coming to town on the noon train. Kane arrested Miller and sent him to jail, and Miller swore he would come back and kill him. Will and Amy leave town quickly. But he knows that wherever they go, Miller will follow them. And he has a duty to the town. Their new marshal does not arrive until the next day. Will seeks help from everyone. but is turned down over and over again. Amy says she will leave on the noon train and the one man who promised to help backs out when he finds out that no one else will join them. The only others who offer to help are a disabled man and a young boy. Will must face Miller and his three henchmen alone. At noon, Frank Miller gets off the train. The four men come into town. Will is able to defeat them, with Amy's unexpected help. As the townsfolk gather, Will throws his badge in the dust, and they ride off.
Is it any good?
This outstanding drama ticks by in real time, only 84 tense minutes long. Will gets the message about Frank Miller at 10:40, and we feel the same time pressure he does, as he tries to find someone to help him. We see and hear clocks throughout the movie, and as noon approaches, the clock looms larger and larger, the pendulum swinging like an executioner's axe. In the brilliant score by Dimitri Tiomkin (sung by Tex Ritter) the sound of the beat suggests both the train's approach and the passage of time.
HIGH NOON is like a grown-up Little Red Hen story. Will cannot find anyone to help him protect the town. Everyone seems to think it is someone else's problem (or fault). Teenagers may be interested to know that many people consider this film an analogy for the political problems of the McCarthy era. It was written during the height of the Hollywood "red scare." After completing this screenplay, the writer, an "unfriendly witness" before the House Un-American Activities Committee, was blacklisted. But this unforgettable drama of a man who will not run from his enemy, or his own fears, transcends all times and circumstances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how everyone seems to have a different reason for not helping Will. How many can you identify? Which reasons seem the best to you? Which seem the worst? What makes Amy change her mind? Why does Will throw his badge in the dirt? Do you think the screenwriter chose the name "Will" for any special reason? How do you decide when to stay and fight and when to run? How do you evaluate the risks? What should the law be?