Friday, June 25, 2010

More Top Films: High Noon


There is a story that says John Wayne hated High Noon so much he went and made Rio Bravo with Howard Hawks as a more “American” version of the story. Seems he felt that High Noon’s portrayal of America was too weak and liberal and pessimistic. That may be so, but High Noon is still a great movie. (And perhaps a more appropriate vision of America today.)

First and foremost, the story must be seen as an example of human nature and not specifically of American culture. In High Noon we see a society that has become so comfortable and complacent that they will let anyone run their lives and tell them what to do as long as they aren’t made too uncomfortable. Comfort has superseded freedom as a value. Freedom is too hard to maintain and protect. It requires work and sacrifice. It requires for people to fight in order to keep it. It is easy to see how most cultures in the world do not value freedom. They prefer relative safety, security and a guarantee of a little rather than potential with risk.

In High Noon, we see a town that has freedom, but are unwilling to fight to keep it. And since the western is an American genre, we are safe in assuming that the story here is indeed about America. The idea was that Americans had become too comfortable and were content to let one man fight and sacrifice himself for their freedom. That is what offended Wayne. He saw an America that was full of many people willing to fight for freedom and their rights. In 1952 he was probably right.

Today not so much. You can be sure that a culture is in trouble when the people ask not for leaders with vision and values, but handouts. In America today comfort has replaced freedom as the main value. Not only do we not have a Gary Cooper willing to fight for us and then despise what we have become, we have turned the country over to people who use the threats coming our way to advance their own selfish agendas. They have sold out to the bandits coming our way and use the very threat of those bandits to gain more power at the expense of our rights.

Maybe this movie isn’t so much an insult as a warning.

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