Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

High Noon (1952)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

High Noon (1952)

In Fred Zinnemann's classic and tense black and white Western - linked at the time to the McCarthy hearings (as an allegorical tale about Hollywood's failure to stand up to anti-Communist accusations, and to blacklisting):

  • a masterful portrayal of a deserted, newly-married and retiring Marshal Will Kane (Oscar-winning Gary Cooper) left alone in Hadleyville against vengeful gunslingers led by Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) after his marriage to Quaker bride (Grace Kelly)
  • Kane's agonized wait for the train that arrived at noon - with numerous, repetitive, large closeup views of clocks ticking in 'real time'
  • the scene of Kane's fist-fight in the livery stable with Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges)
  • Kane's beleaguered plea in the local church to enlist deputies and to gain support to help him defend the town against vengeful gunslingers about to arrive: ("It looks like Frank Miller's comin' back on the noon train. I need all the special deputies I can get"); and Mayor Jonas Henderson's (Thomas Mitchell) fears that a violent shoot-out would create a bad image for Hadleyville up North, especially for financial growth and investment support from Northern business interests. But then he concluded by advising Kane to flee town for the good of the local economy: ("He didn't have to come back here today. And for his sake and the sake of this town, I wish he hadn't. Because if he's not here when Miller comes, my hunch is there won't be any trouble, not one bit. Tomorrow, we'll have a new Marshal. And if we can all agree here to offer him our services, I think we can handle anything that comes along. And to me, that makes sense. To me, that's the only way out of this. Will, I think you'd better go while there's still time. It's better for you, and it's better for us")
  • the scene of aging, discarded, arthritic, and embittered ex-marshal Matt Howe (Lon Chaney, Jr.) offering his cynical opinion to Kane about his past profession as a life-long 'tin-star' lawman: ("It's a great life. You risk your skin catchin' killers and the juries turn 'em loose so they can come back and shoot at ya again. If you're honest, you're poor your whole life, and in the end you wind up dyin' all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothin'. For a tin star")
The Ever-Present Clocks Ticking Toward High Noon
The Miller Gang
Kane Writing His Last Will and Testament
  • Kane's writing of a last will and testament
  • the long, upward-moving crane shot that pulled back, revealing the Marshal's forsakenness amidst the storefronts and rooftops of the small community. His tiny figure slowly strode down the middle of the dirt street toward a gripping shootout sequence with the four killers. All alone, he had been utterly betrayed - no one was there to come to his aid: the Judge, his immature deputy, and all his friends and townspeople had turned their backs on him
  • the exciting final shootout (with his wife's aid) against four desperadoes at noon
  • his concluding disavowal of the town by contemptuously throwing his badge into the dirt at his feet, and then riding off in his packed buckboard wagon with Amy; the contemptible crowd that was unwilling to fight to preserve its law and order remained silent as the buckboard went out of view, accompanied by the words of the title song's famous melancholy ballad ("Do not forsake me, oh my darlin'...")

Marriage Ceremony

The Marshal's Plea in the Church

The Response of Mayor Jonas Henderson (Thomas Mitchell)

Matt Howe
(Lon Chaney, Jr.)

Alone For a Final Shootout


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