Courage under the gun, in both art and life.
In this history, Pulitzer Prize winner Frankel (The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, 2013, etc.) tells the story of the well-known 1952 Western that became virtually an allegory of its own making. High Noon, in which Gary Cooper plays a lawman who has to face a gang of killers alone after he is deserted by his friends and town folk, was made in the thick of the Hollywood blacklisting era, when former or current Communists were dragged before the House Un-American Activities Committee and forced to choose between naming names or kissing their careers goodbye. High Noon entered this fray as kind of an ideological Trojan horse, a story of integrity under assault, written, produced, and directed by a team of socially committed liberals and starring the staunchly Republican Cooper. The book’s key figure is writer Carl Foreman, who at the time of production was under fire for his refusal to play ball with HUAC, a standoff that would last until well after the film was finished. At its heart, the book is the story, through one man’s experience, of how HUAC shaped destinies, as Foreman’s contretemps with HUAC threatened production and fractured his relationships with director Fred Zinnemann, producer Stanley Kramer, and numerous associates. (Cooper, to his credit, rarely let politics get in the way of his friendship with Foreman or with making a good movie.) Besides the macro picture of Hollywood in its darkest era, Frankel is excellent at capturing the micro aspects as well, fascinatingly weaving in multiple and competing accounts of how the film was pieced together in the editing room. The author is occasionally overly worshipful, as well as repetitious, in his appraisal of the film, but he can’t be faulted for lack of thoroughness or research.
A comprehensive guide to both a classic film and the era that created it.