With one of the greatest opening sequences in film history, High Noon kicks-off in an outstanding fashion and this 1952 film just gets better and better as it builds towards its climax. Director Fred Zinnemann delivers one of the great westerns of all time with this brilliantly composed piece of commercial cinema.
Gary Cooper has never been better as the lawman waiting to square-off against the villainous Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) and his gang of killers as they move towards the town of Hadleyville in search of revenge. It’s a role that everyone from John Wayne to Charlton Heston turned down and Cooper makes it his own. Grace Kelly is wonderful as his new bride, worried about the potential death of her husband. This is a rarity: a great role for a woman in a ‘cowboy film’ and Kelly makes the most of it, delivering a performance with grit and emotion.
High Noon‘s screenplay from blacklisted writer Carl Foreman packs a tremendous punch and the score from Dimitri Tiomkin is outstanding. The iconic theme from and opening song from Tiomkin and Ned Washington is off-the-chart great and it was a huge hit in the 1950s. Everything is on-point here.
A multi-Oscar winner (Actor, Editing, Music-Score, and Music-Song), High Noon is an outstanding achievement in tension (Peter Hyams would riff on the movie with his ’80s sci-fi thriller Outland). All the elements came together for Zinnemann and his cast and crew, culminating in a western which contains a lot of heart as well as brawn.
High Noon grossed an estimated $3.4 million at the North American box office in 1952.