Starring: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell
Director: Fred Zinneman
Marshall Will Kane (Cooper) is a well respected man who has just married Amy (Kelly) and is looking at a comfortable future when he is told that an evil man he put away years ago is heading into town for revenge, and will arrive on the noon train. He suddenly finds himself alone, as the townspeople are too scared to stand with him and his new wife is a pacifist who tells him she will leave him if he goes and fights his enemy.
It’s a very emotive film. Tension and pressure is created as the hour of noon gets closer, and Kane goes from friends and other marshalls to church people, appealing to all the groups of his town for somenoe to stand beside him. All of them refuse to help him, recommending that he just leave town. But Kane has worked hard to make the little town a safe place, and he’s not going to be a coward and let the black hats take back the town. We have all had times in our lives when we have to choose whether to stand up alone, refuse to be bullied, or to run away or say nothing.
This film was particularly poignant in the 50s and many people quote it as a response to the McCarthy era. (A great film if you’d like to know more about this time is Trumbo with Bryan Cranston) When people were often selling out and naming names, others believed in standing up for the truth and for their ideals, those of a fair trial and political freedom. But those who stood up, stood up alone. Even though the parallels are clear, it’s not a preachy film, and without knowing any of the context, it’s a great Western which explores the way people change in troubled times.
The film has a fine turn from Grace Kelly, who some people feel did not belong in a Western. I like the way her character starts out as a beautiful, innocent bride who believes in pacifism, to a woman who understands more about the way in which life can often be more complex than simple ideals. She gains more depth and shows her strength over the course of the film, which I liked as a subplot.
With it’s classic theme Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, and it’s lovely performance from Gary Cooper, it’s a mature film, one that makes you feel and makes you think, and is wonderfully tense and entertaining. It certainly holds up.
See It If: a classic film that challenges some Western genre conventions, this film stands the test of time. A great film if you’ve ever gone through a challenge or change in your life and discovered who your true friends are.