High Noon and Politics
As a kid watching High Noon, it never dawned on me that there was anything going on ‘behind the scenes’. Lost in the wonder of an epic and heroic tale, I didn’t see it’s (and many Westerns) very strong social and political messages:
Commentaries on the politics behind High Noon:
High Noon, What Happens: Posted by Brent Allard Wednesday, March 28, 2012 http://criminalmovies.blogspot.ca/2012_03_01_archive.html:
“John Wayne (a HUAC supporter – House Un-American Activities Committee) called High Noon Un-American for it’s portrayal of the townspeople and Will Kane’s seeking help and throwing the badge in the dirt. He teamed with Howard Hawks (who called Will Kane “unprofessional”) to make Rio Bravo as a response to the film. In Rio Bravo, Wayne plays a Sheriff who with the help of a only a drunk, a kid, and a crippled man, have to prevent a gang from breaking one of their members out of jail. Wayne’s larger than life enthusiasm, is certainly a sharp contrast to Cooper’s haunted Marshal. Though both films are worth viewing, I find it difficult to side with Wayne’s optimism, although it is a pleasant diversion. Certainly to this day we have arguments about HUAC, but the beauty of western morality plays and film in general is that a good story can transcend the specific events that inspired it. High Noon is a parable for any times, including our own current extremely polarized ones. It’s difficult to live your own life, and its easy to find a justification for any moral position you can think of, or find an opinion from someone else, but ultimately the question it asks is whether or not you can live up to your own code, no matter what it costs, even if no one in the world will stand with you.”
Emanuel Levy: “High Noon: McCarthy and Politics” – http://www.emanuellevy.com/popculture/high-noon-mccarthy-and-politics-9/
“…No matter what perspective one takes, there’s no doubt that High Noon deals with such issues as civic responsibility, active involvement in social causes, and heroic behavior during crises–all problems loaded with political overtones in the early 1950s. Its cynical commentary on the masses’ fear of involvement in controversial issues proved to be prophetic during McCarthy’s political witch hunting. Arguing that people should have nothing but contempt for the cowardice of ordinary folks, the film also spoke for the necessity of joint action, if enemies are to be defeated … ”
MFW: I admit that I am not a John Wayne fan. I acknowledge his undeniable onscreen charisma and that he is among the greatest movie stars of all time. I also acknowledge that he made some important and iconic Westerns. Yet I disliked him as a person and disrespected his politics. I found his ‘over the top’ super patriotism and ‘my country right or wrong’ flag waving to be very distasteful – and dangerous. I also disrespected that he refused to fight in WWII – then became a super patriot out of guilt (as one of his former wives stated). Further, Rio Bravo’s response to High Noon (by Wayne and Hawkes) is very weak. It’s ‘a John Wayne movie’. As a Western it has it’s moments – and a great cast (Wayne, Brennan, Martin, Nelson …) but as a political statement it’s pure hokum. It will not make My Favorite Westerns.
YET … as noted, if we can throw politics to the side, it’s interesting that both films still stand up and are obviously enjoyed without any political notions whatsoever.
Bravo to that … if not Rio.
Cropped screenshot of John Wayne and Angie Dickinson from the trailer for the film Rio Bravo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)