Movie buffs know about the 1952 film, High Noon, a classic American Western depicting a gunfight between a beleaguered town marshal (Gary Cooper) and four outlaws intend on killing him as revenge for the arrest and conviction of their gang leader. What many viewers do not now recognize is the film’s commentary on the House Committee on Un-American Activities work on identifying Communist sympathizers, a topic of particular relevance today in the continuing debate about Russian influences on our 2016 elections and possible collusion between Trump supporters and that country. Cooper’s character, having cleaned up the town’s lawlessness, now finds himself abandoned by the town’s residents, reflecting those individuals who were naming names as a means to protect their own careers or not supporting those who were unjustly identified. Filmed in real time as the events unfold, the film is taut and suspenseful (something I confirmed by re-watching the film as I read the book).
Glenn Frankel’s High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017) provides an excellent examination of what was going on in the country and Hollywood during those years, focusing on the roles of the film’s principal figures – mainly filmmaker Carl Foreman, who was blacklisted, and actor Gary Cooper. The book is based on extensive archival materials and interviews, and it has a lot to merit its reading by both film buffs and those interested in the turbulent political times of yesteryear (reminding us that what we are experiencing today has counterparts to earlier periods and events). I selected this book as a diversion from the present, and then finding it directly related to current events. I recommend the book highly (as I do Frankel’s earlier book on The Searchers, another classic Western).
These days anything we can read, making us reflect about free speech and freedom of the press, is critically important. More about this in future postings.