Making the Grades
The job of a US Marshal is a thankless one. But Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is about to put that behind him. As a married man for mere minutes, he turns over his badge to the town officials. Then he discovers Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), an ex-con, is arriving on the noon train. And the convicted gunslinger’s only intent is to exact revenge on the lawman that sent him to prison.
Will’s new bride Amy (Grace Kelly) begs her husband to leave with her. But he refuses to run—choosing instead to protect the citizens of Hadleyville even though he is officially retired.
The tension builds in this black and white film as Frank’s friends wait at the station drinking liquor and smoking cigarettes to pass the time. Meanwhile, Will goes from the saloon dwellers to the church folk looking for volunteers to stand with him. However, the criminal gang’s reputation as cold-blooded killers leaves Will on his own to face them.
This 1952 script covers only a few hours from start to finish and revolves around the marshal’s disillusionment as he looks for even one supporter. In this sense, the film differs from the typical posse chase scenes and shoot ‘em up action that were popular in Western movies of the era. While alcohol and smoking are depicted, the violence in this film comes mainly from the foreboding sense of doom for the marshal and a few scuffles that prelude the final gunfight on the deserted street of the New Mexico Territory whistle-stop.
Gary Cooper earned a Best Actor Oscar for his role as the resolute man behind the badge. The film also won three other Academy Awards including one for the song “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’”. Cited as one of the American Film Institute’s Top 10 Westerns, this tale brings to the screen a more brooding perspective on the life of a frontier lawman. Suitable for teens and adults, High Noon should be high on your family’s list of film classics to enjoy together.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about High Noon.
Frank goes free because of a jury’s decision. How is the work of police officers stymied when a criminal is released back to the streets rather than sentenced to do time for his or her crime? How can different levels of the justice system work together effectively?
Why does Will’s wife detest violence? How does that affect her religious choices? Do you agree with Will’s decision to put his job (even though he is officially retired) above his commitment to his new bride?
Why are the townsfolk so reluctant to stand up to Frank and his gang? Does this kind of fear allow bullies to continue in their ways? Why does Will choose to stand up to Frank even when no one will join him?