I finally saw “High Noon” with Gary Cooper, a movie that I’d heard of forever, but for whatever reason, never had a chance to view. Finally, last Fourth of July, I had the opportunity to watch this classic.
The lessons of this movie are worth reflection, since the movie captured some of the most basic universal, timeless human traits. Set in the western genre, Gary Cooper (Cain) is getting married to a Quaker woman, and therefore resigning as marshal of this small town. His resignation is occurring just one day before the new marshal is set to arrive. This means there will be no marshal for one day.
Coincidentally, three “bad guys” show up in town, awaiting a train that’s due to arrive at high noon. On board the train is Frank Miller. Apparently, it was because of Cain that Miller was sent to prison, and Miller is coming to seek revenge.
But Cain just got married, and was heading out of town. He could just walk away from it all. He no longer has any legal responsibilities to the small town. But his personal ethics compel him to go back to the town.
Some time earlier, Cain and company had managed to drive all the bad elements from the town, and turned the town into the sort of place where people would want to come to in order to work and to live a good life.
There’s also another woman (isn’t there always?) and a cast of characters all caught up in the pettiness of their own lives.
As we watch the clock tick down to noon, Cain attempts to round up some men and deputize them in order to fight back Miller and his gang of three.
But it turned out that Miller and gang had many passive supporters in the town, those who liked the wild days before Cain got Miller sent to prison. You’d think that the whole town would rally behind Cain, but each one had their own fears, their own doubts, and their own excuses.
The movie is a fantastic study in human character. The basic “good vs. evil” drama is depicted here, which reminded me of the “Lord of the Flies” where the two sides set against one another. Pleasure vs. discipline. Freedom vs. control. Do what you want vs. do what is right.
In the end, Cain does his duty and gets some unanticipated assistance. Duty done, he finally tosses his brass badge in the dust and departs that little town that offered no help.
This is a movie worth taking the time to watch, and having a discussion afterwards. It makes you realize that with all our modern trappings today, we are no better and no different than the parochial folks in that little isolated town, who – like us – get to look in the mirror every day, and must accept the consequences of our choices.