Filmed in California and released in 1952, High Noon is one of the great Western movies of that era and, almost 70 years on, is regarded as a ‘classic’ by many people all around the world. Based on a screenplay by Carl Foreman, produced by Stanley Kramer and directed by Fred Zinnemann, it was one of the first movies to be filmed in real-time. However, what’s notable about High Noon is that it strayed from the typical storylines of the genre.
It features very little action, a hero who admits fear and self-doubt, and townspeople who are too scared to defend themselves – and as a result, as well as multiple Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards, it received a lot of criticism. High Noon was marred in controversy from the moment it appeared in movie theatres, but there are several little-known facts about its creation, production, and release. So, without further ado, here are the five most interesting.
Most people think that Carl Foreman wrote High Noon based on The Tin Star by John W. Cunningham. However, it actually wasn’t that straightforward. In a letter to Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, Foreman said he came up with the idea and wrote a four-page plot outline, then noticed similarities to The Tin Star afterward.
Although Foreman bought the film rights to the short story, it became an issue later when he accused producer Stanley Kramer of taking too much credit away from him as the originator of the plot. Unfortunately for Foreman, Kramer’s cutting reply was: “What are you talking about? You adapted someone else’s story.”
High Noon was shot in 1952, by which time movies were beginning to be made in color rather than black and white. At the start of production, Zinnemann decided to film using color to keep up with the latest ‘trend’ sweeping through Hollywood, as well as the rest of the world.
However, after the first few scenes, Zinnemann decided he didn’t like the way that it looked in color. Kramer agreed with him, so filming started over again, but this time in black and white. As it turned out, both the director and the producers were happy with the result and always upheld that their decision not to use color was the right one.
Although High Noon won multiple awards and is still considered by many to be a ‘classic’ almost 70 years on, there was a lot of criticism when it was first released. Among its most famous critics were John Wayne, who called it “the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” and director Howard Hawks.
Consequently, Wayne and Hawks teamed to make Rio Bravo, a movie with a similar story to High Noon but featuring a braver, more confident sheriff. Hawks said: “I made Rio Bravo because I didn’t like High Noon … I didn’t think a good town marshal was going to run around town like a chicken with his head cut off asking everyone to help. And who saves him? His Quaker wife. That isn’t my idea of a good Western.”
High Noon was filmed in only four weeks, but in that short amount of time, there were multiple romantic liaisons reported to have occurred. Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, who played the lead male and female roles, had an affair – one which had to be hidden from Cooper’s girlfriend, Patricia Neal, when she visited the set.
Grace Kelly didn’t stop there. However – she was also reported to have had an affair with director Zinnemann during the shoot. Lastly, screenwriter Carl Foreman and supporting actress Katy Jurado also had an affair. It makes you wonder just how many other liaisons took place during those four weeks – although it’s likely that, all these years later, that will remain a mystery.
Grace Kelly had found fame in 1951 after she featured in Fourteen Hours. Gary Cooper suggested her to Kramer for High Noon, and the producer hired Kelly to play Amy without even a meeting, let alone an audition. He’d only seen a photograph and heard Cooper’s testimony, but that was apparently enough for him to make this poignant decision.
Unfortunately, however, when filming was over, and the movie had been released, Kramer regretted this move, wishing instead that he’d cast the main role with a little more consideration. He said of Kelly: “She was miscast. She was just too young for Cooper. She didn’t believe she did well in the role, and I didn’t think so, either.”