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.
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.