Graham, Don. “High Noon.” Western Movies. Eds. William T. Pilkington and Don Graham. Albuquerque: U. of New Mexico Press, 1979. 51-62.
In his essay, Graham begins first with a reaction to the relative lack of critical respect given to High Noon, and continues on to critique a number of interpretations of the film. While accepting the validity of the HUAC interpretation, Graham believes the film remains effective, even after audiences can no longer relate to any early-50s political messages, because of the depth of emotion and the heroism shown by Gary Cooper’s Will Kane. Even though Graham casually mentions the HUAC and thereafter ignores it, he still manages to touch on the general issues raised by Carl Foreman in his provocative script. Graham focuses on two issues that are enduring enough to appeal to an audience unfamiliar with 1950s politics: the “hypocritical community” and “the issue of transfer of authority from one generation to another” (57).
The former issue is much more directly related to the HUAC, although Graham chooses not to emphasize that aspect. Still, the way in which “High Noon mocks and derides the mask of complacent morality” worn by the townspeople is a clear attack on society (56). It takes little imagination to apply the idea of hypocrisy and false morality to the situation of the fervent anti-Communists and those who stood idly by. The idea of a generation gap, manifested in films of the era such as 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause, is only part of a tumultuous social climate that also included the HUAC hearings. Even though the generation gap might be a secondary conflict to the HUAC interpretation, which pervades the film, it still adds to the level of crisis and stress facing both Kane, standing in Foreman’s place, and the townspeople who represent the apathetic American public. Graham’s essay chooses to minimize the HUAC interpretation, but his emphasis on how High Noon revealed social conflicts in America directly relates to the flawed society in which such persecution could occur.
Drummond, Phillip. “Meanings.” High Noon. London: British Film Institute, 1997. 63-81.
Drummond’s chapter on the meanings of High Noon has 5 sections, but only two are particularly relevant to the argument: “Social Allegories” and “Sexual Politics.” Rather than taking his own stances, Drummond compiles the thoughts of other critics of High Noon in his essay. “Social Allegories” therefore features a number of critics’ viewpoints, most of whom analyze the film “less as a contribution to the western genre than in its meaning as a film about the post-war years, as a drama about American society in its national and international relationships” (69). Although the HUAC is never mentioned, Drummond includes views regarding High Noon as a metaphor for domestic left-right conflicts, US-Communist relations (especially regarding Korea), and politician’s foreign policies. “Sexual Politics” also includes other critics’ views, which emphasize the idea of masculinity and Kane’s individualism.
Despite the omission of the HUAC connection, “Social Allegories” still has relevance as part of High Noon’s commentary on postwar America as a whole, since the HUAC was only an example of the general anti-communist paranoia gripping America at the time. Critics saw that “High Noon denounces notions of consensus,” which emphasizes how the film attacked the community as a monolithic, passive bloc. “Sexual Politics” focuses on how High Noon portrays the men of the town as alternatively craven, fearful, and generally not fitting in with the brave, masculine male of the stereotypical western. By portraying the townspeople as cowardly, Foreman shows his clear contempt for those in Hollywood who sided with the HUAC or refused to oppose it out of fear of damage to their careers. Kane, too, is hardly the classic masculine hero, but his mental trials serve to increase the sense of pathos in the film, and helps provide an on-screen representation of the anguish that Foreman surely felt before testifying before the HUAC.
In this chapter Byman effectively argues for High Noon as an allegory for the HUAC and the blacklist, and backs his argument up with a prodigious amount of firsthand sources, mainly writer Carl Foreman’s letters and interviews. Byman traces the course of Foreman’s involvement in the HUAC hearings and the simultaneous production of the film. As his letters show, Foreman explicitly states that he “began to write [High Noon] as a parable of what was happening in Hollywood,” and that “there are scenes in the film that are taken from life” (75). This completely corroborates the idea of High Noon as an allegory for Hollywood. Byman provides Foreman’s inner thoughts from the entire HUAC saga while providing a detailed timeline of both Foreman’s involvement with the hearings and the production of High Noon.
Besides the obvious connection regarding High Noon as an allegory, Byman’s portrayal of Foreman leaves one with a strong impression of Foreman as Kane. Although it can seem at times that Foreman is purposefully making himself out to be the hero (“if there ever was a shadow of a change that I would buy my career or out security at the price of someone else’s it was gone forever”), he was undeniably resolute in the face of the HUAC (73). Byman describes Foreman’s “personal agony,” which mirrors Kane’s agony after being abandoned by the town (76). Byman supports the idea of High Noon as an allegory not only by taking Foreman’s word for it, but also through more direct correlations, such as producer Stanley Kramer as the mayor, since both ultimately turn their backs on the men who they initially supported. Byman’s essay captures the gradual nature of Foreman’s blacklisting, since he only gradually was excluded from Hollywood as deals fell apart, which in many ways mirrors how Kane’s failed recruiting efforts.
“Red Inquiry Hints Probe on Blacklist.” Los Angeles Times 25 Sep. 1951. A1. ProQuest. 6 Apr. 2008. <http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=425264271&sid=3&Fmt=10&clientId=3748&RQT=309&VName=HNP >
This Los Angeles Times article provides a firsthand look at Foreman’s HUAC hearing, although it appears to be from a biased viewpoint. Considering the use of the word “red,” and the somewhat comic treatment given to a witness told to “go back to [Canada],” the article appears to have a generally pro-HUAC tone, which would be fitting with an establishment organization like a major newspaper. The article consists of brief summaries of six entertainment figures’ testimonies, including Foreman, all of whom are fairly uncooperative. Continuing with the theme of humor, the article concludes with a comedic anecdote of a witness’s testimony which portrays the witness as foolish. Foreman’s testimony includes his past denunciation of a loyalty oath for the Screenwriter’s Guild, of which he said, “I feel such oaths smack of a police state.”
This article effectively shows the climate of fear in Hollywood in 1951, and the smug attitude of the Times’ writer mirrors the attitudes of the townspeople in High Noon to the return of Frank Miller. The HUAC members have an air of arrogance and superiority surrounding them in this article, and the confident condescension of their assumptions of guilt following the witnesses’ uses of the Fifth Amendment mirrors the hubris found in many film villains, including Frank Miller. By substantiating Foreman’s negative views of the HUAC, the article supports the interpretation of the HUAC as Miller and the idle bystanders of Hollywood as the townspeople. Foreman’s comments regarding the creation of a police state is similar to the way in which Helen Ramirez in High Noon declares that if Kane dies, the town will die too. Foreman defied the Guild, just as Kane stood up to Frank Miller, out of the belief that acquiescence would mean the creation of an unwelcome, unjust new order.