Loy, R. Philip. “Friendly Neighbors All Around.” Westerns and American Culture, 1930-1955. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001. 121-151.
In his essay, Loy focuses primarily on the B westerns which typically define the genre, and as stated in his title, these westerns generally present a positive view of the community, with High Noon as “a dramatic departure from the typical B western” (126). As many sources emphasize, the townspeople in westerns were generally marginalized, with the plot focusing mainly on the hero and villain. While accepting this viewpoint, Loy brings up multiple instances of when towns band together, especially in the form of “community associations” (127), which were essentially posses. Although Loy emphasizes how B westerns focused on community, he still acknowledges that “bigger-budget westerns [High Noon included]… were films most likely to focus on the individualist aspect of American beliefs” (148).
Notably, although the townspeople now refuse to stand behind Kane, when Frank Miller was first arrested five years before, it was by Kane along with a large posse, implying a shift in the town’s attitude. It is hardly a stretch of the imagination to think back little over five years before High Noon was released to WWII, which represents for many the pinnacle of American unity. Foreman could therefore be drawing a contrast to a previous stand against fascism and oppression five years before, but a current unwillingness by the townspeople, and implicitly the American people, to stand against a new injustice. By showing how typical westerns featured a supportive town, Loy’s essay brings the townspeople’s cowardly behavior into even starker relief. At the same time, the individualist attitudes of bigger-budget westerns allow for the independence and non-conformist attitude displayed by Kane. Therefore, it is only Kane’s “big-budget” individualism that allows him to overcome the constraints of the unsupportive community.
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.