What's so controversial about High Noon (1952)?

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Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Basically I read it was controversial for it's time, and John Wayne called it the most anti-American movie he's ever seen.

But why is that? I thought the movie was really good, and one of the best Westerns I have ever seen in fact.

I'm just surprised it was controversial for it's time, if it was.



Welcome to the human race...
I think it's to do with the idea of a sheriff asking everyone else in town for help with handling a gang of bandits, which has a communist subtext to it (so it would've been considered anti-American by default during the Cold War) and also makes its sheriff seem like a coward instead of the kind of stalwart hero that guys like Wayne think that a sheriff should be. I wouldn't worry too much about what Wayne thought - everything about him indicates that he has a very rigid and simplistic idea of what a Western should be and High Noon is great precisely because it deconstructs the sheriff defending his town.
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I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.



Wayne made many films himself where he plays a sheriff who gets help, the best of them being Rio Bravo.

What Wayne (and Howard Hawks for that matter) didn't like about High Noon, was the fact that the people of the village didn't want to help the sheriff. It felt untruthful to him, that these bold frontier men wouldn't want to help their sheriff fight a bunch of criminals.
He also didn't like the ending of the film, where the sheriff, our hero, kind of gives up on his values (by throwing away his star), because he has lost the belief in the (or at least his) people. Wayne didn't like this kind of dispiriting imagery.

Wayne is a man who loved telling legends and understood their power to lift up people's spirit. According to that world view, stories (even if they are more truthful) that obviously go against the spirit of these legends, are then considered as harmful.

That being said, I myself love both High Noon and many of Wayne's films. It's OK to appreciate both perspectives.
Definitely give Rio Bravo a watch! It's considered as Wayne's (and Hawks') "response" to High Noon and it's a marvelous film!
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Cobpyth's Movie Log ~ 2019



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
I thought the sheriff through away the star at the end, cause he was retiring at that point and only stayed on duty as sheriff for the last gang and that was it? I didn't think it was because he lost belief in the people. He still chose to defend the town one last time before he retired, so at what point did he loose his belief, if he was still willing to do that?

Also I don't see it as a communist subtext. I mean during WWII, and Vietnam for example, the US drafted citizens top help fight the war. They were drafted by law, and a lot of them didn't volunteer, but were legally drafted to. So why is the movie anti-American when America itself, drafts people to fight a war? I guess it feels like the same thing to me.

Now I haven't seen Rio Bravo but I will try to get around to watching it this week then. I read the synopsis though out of curiosity. I don't see how the sheriff in High Noon is any more of a coward than Wayne's character though.

The only difference is, is that when Wayne asks for help, people want to help. But the sheriff is just as brave as Wayne for going up against the bad guys though, isn't he? It's the people that are the cowards in High Noon and not the sheriff. So I don't see why Wayne thinks the sheriff is the coward, if he thought that.

I mean the sheriff in High Noon, unlike Wayne in Rio Bravo, takes all the bad guys on by himself, so doesn't that give Wayne's sheriff a run for his money, it seems?



Now I haven't seen Rio Bravo but I will try to get around to watching it this week then. I read the synopsis though out of curiosity. I don't see how the sheriff in High Noon is any more of a coward than Wayne's character though.
The core criticism by Wayne and Hawks was that the film's spirit was unamerican. The main criticism isn't that the sheriff in High Noon is a coward. It's that the (American) people are portrayed as cowards and that the sheriff, at the end, acknowledges this by throwing away his star. It's a sign that he has lost trust in his people and therefore isn't willing to defend them anymore.

I don't particularly agree with their perspective, but it does make sense when you think of it from their point of view.



Pretty sure it was because it paralleled the HUAC. People not helping their fellow actors, directors, producers, etc who were blacklisted and even in some cases giving them up to prove they weren't communist sympathisers theirself. The writer Carl Foreman was himself blacklisted.



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
But that just seems to prove that High Noon is more American. If the American way at the time was to not help or stand by anyone, who's beliefs you don't share, then it seems High Noon reflected that.



But that just seems to prove that High Noon is more American. If the American way at the time was to not help or stand by anyone, who's beliefs you don't share, then it seems High Noon reflected that.
Exactly, that's what i said. It wasn't just about people whose beliefs you don't share, it was innocent people being accused and no one standing up for their character as well as people being thrown under the bus to save themselves from suspicion.

It's obviously not how John Wayne or anyone similar saw America or the HUAC at the time which is why it was controversial.



I don't know how many of you were alive during the golden age of the western, but I feel that a lot of cultural importance is placed into the TV and movie westerns. Some of this even goes beyond me, however, of the time there were pretty rigid stereotypes that were enforced beyond "yay america, amirite?", a lot of it also fell into the "perfect men, perfectly all the time. 100% respect and charm." and it was a cottage industry (which may rate higher in importance over the patriotic angle). Deviating from this in any way shape or form was a sin, which also made it so appealing to tear into.

Blazing Saddles and Sam Peckinpah movies have distinct criticisms surrounding the golden age of the western, which I believe a lot of reviewers fail to notice now being so far removed from the time.



I don't know how many of you were alive during the golden age of the western, but I feel that a lot of cultural importance is placed into the TV and movie westerns. Some of this even goes beyond me, however, of the time there were pretty rigid stereotypes that were enforced beyond "yay america, amirite?", a lot of it also fell into the "perfect men, perfectly all the time. 100% respect and charm." and it was a cottage industry (which may rate higher in importance over the patriotic angle). Deviating from this in any way shape or form was a sin, which also made it so appealing to tear into.

Blazing Saddles and Sam Peckinpah movies have distinct criticisms surrounding the golden age of the western, which I believe a lot of reviewers fail to notice now being so far removed from the time.
Almost our entire view of the old west has been formed by movies and TV.
There was almost nothing in actual history that resembles the portrayal of the old west in our entertainment.
Most actual "cowboys" (that worked with cattle) were black or Mexican.
The west was not exciting - it can pretty much be summed up in a couple words: complete drudgery and boredom. Although there wasn't much time for boredom - usually after the virtually 24/7 schedule of labor just to stay alive, sleep was the next result.



Almost our entire view of the old west has been formed by movies and TV.
There was almost nothing in actual history that resembles the portrayal of the old west in our entertainment.
Most actual "cowboys" (that worked with cattle) were black or Mexican.
The west was not exciting - it can pretty much be summed up in a couple words: complete drudgery and boredom. Although there wasn't much time for boredom - usually after the virtually 24/7 schedule of labor just to stay alive, sleep was the next result.
Gunfights were awful. Old West guns only went off 2% of the time



Gunfights were awful. Old West guns only went off 2% of the time
Probably one reason that gunfights were actually very rare in the old west (yet they are a staple in our portrayal of the west).



Yep. The gunfight at the ok corral only lasted 30 seconds or something. There was some notorious bandits that often used guns and problem areas where gunfights (or at least shootings) happened not infrequently, but dying by gunfire was certainly not something the average old west person would even think of.



Yep. The gunfight at the ok corral only lasted 30 seconds or something. There was some notorious bandits that often used guns and problem areas where gunfights (or at least shootings) happened not infrequently, but dying by gunfire was certainly not something the average old west person would even think of.
It made me think - what if in 100 years they make movies about life in suburban New Jersey in the early 21st century; and it's always about two guys armed with guns facing off against each other in the streets as the townsfolk watch from their windows? Unless they're depicting Camden, it wouldn't be very accurate!

As an aside, I rate High Noon as one of my two favorite westerns (the other is The Cowboys (1972)). I really don't have any others because I've always despised westerns!



Pretty sure it was because it paralleled the HUAC. People not helping their fellow actors, directors, producers, etc who were blacklisted and even in some cases giving them up to prove they weren't communist sympathisers theirself. The writer Carl Foreman was himself blacklisted.
This certainly could've been an element as well, besides their official criticism. They probably hated the writer for his "communist" sympathies. Hawks and Wayne were staunch anti-communists.



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The truth is in here
Wayne was a bit of loony, so I wouldn't trust him when it comes to politics or "anti-American" messages.



Wayne was a bit of loony, so I wouldn't trust him when it comes to politics or "anti-American" messages.
Why was he a 'looney'? It's fashionable today to criticize John Wayne's political views, but back in the day the fear of communism subverting America though nefarious means was not all that far fetched. Did you ever hear of the Rosenbergs?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius...hel_Rosenberg\



Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Oh okay, thanks for the insight people. The only John Wayne movie I saw from beginning to end, was The Shootist. In that movie, he plays a gunfighter, and everyone is against him, and he must stand alone.

So do you think maybe he opened up his views more in the 70s, since he was willing to play a character who was up against everyone, forced to stand alone?



Wayne died in 1979, here are some thoughts he held in May 1971:

"I believe in white supremacy, until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don't believe giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people ... I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from [the Native Americans] ... Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves." via Wikipedia, verified source Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne, page 289.

Furthermore in the same interview, he states his feelings on welfare:

"I know all about that. In the late Twenties, when I was a sophomore at USC, I was a socialist myself—but not when I left. The average college kid idealistically wishes everybody could have ice cream and cake for every meal. But as he gets older and gives more thought to his and his fellow man's responsibilities, he finds that it can't work out that way—that some people just won't carry their load ... I believe in welfare—a welfare work program. I don't think a fella should be able to sit on his backside and receive welfare. I'd like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living. I'd like to know why they make excuses for cowards who spit in the faces of the police and then run behind the judicial sob sisters. I can't understand these people who carry placards to save the life of some criminal, yet have no thought for the innocent victim." via Wikipedia, verified source Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne, page 32.

https://books.google.com/books?id=A0...page&q&f=false

Please bare in mind that these are some of his musing in his late life. Throughout it, however, he was tolerant and respectful of other peoples views and opinions, once stating of JFK "I didn't vote for him but he's my president, and I hope he does a good job." Also, in spite of being asked repeatedly to run for office, he declined and joked that that he did not believe the public would seriously consider an actor in the White House. He died before he could see Regan become the POTUS in 1981.