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Olive Signature series makes an impressive debut with one of the classics: “High Noon”

Updated: Feb 20, 2023


Gary Cooper won the Academy Award for Best Actor as Marshal Will Kane.

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Blu-ray full-frame, 1952, unrated

Best extra: "Ulcers and Oscars: The Production History" featurette

ITS NEARLY high noon and Marshal Will Kane is alone.

Amy (Grace Kelly), his bride of less than 90 minutes, has abandoned him; so has the town he's served for years. Gary Cooper ("Sergeant York," "The Pride of the Yankees") could hardly play Kane with more conviction as he walks the dusty streets of Hadleyville, N.M., just before an appointed gunfight with the killer Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) and his three gunslingers.

Five years earlier, Kane sent Miller to prison for murder, and he was supposed to hang. The town folk are shocked when a telegram arrives this Sunday morning at 10:40 a.m. -- Miller is a free man and he's arriving on the noon train.

Kane had just turned in his tin star and six-shooter to start a new life with his young Quaker wife. Friends at the wedding convinced the newlyweds to leave before it's too late, but halfway out of town, he turns the horse buggy around.

"It's no good," Kane says. "I've got to go back, Amy. They're makin' me run. I've never run from anybody before." Amy, who witnessed the death of her brothers and father, wants nothing to do with his heroics. "I'm not trying to be a hero," he says. "If you think I like this, you're crazy."

(1) "High Noon" was filmed in the summer and fall of 1951 in several locations in California. The production was under the direction of producer Stanley Kramer, screenwriter Carl Foreman and director Fred Zinnemann. (2) On Sunday morning, the three outlaws, Jack Colby, Ben Miller and James Pierce ride into the town of Hadleyville. (3) Marshal Will Kane (Gary Cooper) marries Quaker Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly). (4) Businesswoman Helen Ramirez (Katy Jurado) and lover Deputy Marshal Harvey Pell (Lloyd Bridges). Helen was once Frank Miller's girlfriend and Kane's lover.

Will Kane hands over his tin star before he and Amy start a new life. Left, Co-stars Lon Chaney Jr., Thomas Mitchell and Frank Morgan.

Kane planned to deputize a posse, but was only met with "hypocrisy, recalcitrance and cowardice," writes Sight & Sound editor Nick James in the enclosed booklet. Even the judge who sentenced Miller "folded his stars and stripes and packed away his scales of justice." The judge reminds Kane what Miller said: "You'll never hang me. I'll come back. I'll kill you, Will Kane. I swear it. I'll kill you."

A simple Western filmed in stark black and white, "High Noon" is regarded as one of cinema's finest. Named twice as one of the American Film Institute's 100 Greatest Films of All Time, it's biggest fans have included Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. No movie has been screened more at the White House.

It received seven Oscar nominations, but, in one of the biggest upsets in Academy Awards history, lost Best Picture to "The Greatest Show on Earth." Cooper won his second Best Actor statue, which gave the 50-year-old Montana native a real shot in the arm after back-to-back flops. He suffered stomach ulcers during the production, adding to his onscreen anguish.

At 85 minutes, "High Noon" is masterfully paced: It was one of the first dramas filmed in real time. Director Fred Zimmemann ("From Here to Eternity," "The Day of the Jackal") used three icons - a ticking clock, empty railroad tracks and Kane's constant movement - to amplify suspense. Editors Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad won Oscars.

But when it bombed at its sneak preview, producer Stanley Kramer had composer Dimitri Tiomkin and lyricist Ned Washington write a song, with longtime cowboy/actor Tex Ritter providing the vocals. "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'" won the Oscar for Best Original Song. Its heartbeat tempo mirrored the film's real-time tension.

The excellent supporting cast included Lloyd Bridges as the vengeful deputy, Katy Jurado as Kane's ex-lover, Lon Chaney Jr. as the ex-marshal and Lee Van Cleef as gunslinger Jack Colby.

Will turns the wagon around and heads back to Hadleyville to face Frank Miller. "I expect he'll come looking for me," he tells Amy.

Amy threatens to leave on the noon train whether or not he accompanies her.

Judge Percy Mettrick (Otto Kruger), who had sentenced Miller to be hanged, packs his American flag and belongings and flees before the noon train rolls into town.

The disc's four new featurettes cover much of the same territory as the three previous DVDs and Blu-ray. The most interesting is about the fractured relationship between Kramer and longtime friend and screenwriting partner Carl Foreman.

During the filming of "High Noon," Foreman was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. When he refused to name names, he was blacklisted and moved to England. Foreman never told Kramer about his short-term membership in the Communist Party during the Depression. They never spoke again and Kramer removed Foreman's name as co-producer.

A new 4K master was struck from the original camera negative, and, right off the bat, you'll notice a more balanced gray-scale compared to the 60th Anniversary Edition. The highlights are especially more controlled, extracting detail and texture from Amy's modest, light-colored wedding dress. Plus, the film grain has an enhanced, realistic look; an odd grain pattern popped up at times on the 2012 Blu-ray. The closer you examine this restoration, the more delighted you'll become.

Keep an eye out for more Olive Signature Blu-rays: "Johnny Guitar" (released this week), "The Quiet Man," "The Night of the Grizzly," "Macbeth" and "Hannie Caulder" all feature new 4K and 2K masters and new extras.

This series is going to give the Criterion Collection some competition.

— Bill Kelley III, High-def Watch producer

Will interrupts the church service seeking volunteers to be to deputized to take on Miller and his gang.

"High Noon" won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing for Elmo Williams and Harry W. Gerstad.

The streets of Hadleyville are empty as Marshal Will Kane prepares to go it alone.

Shoot-out in Hadleyville

The gun battle sequence was filmed on the Columbia/Warner Bros. western street in Burbank, Calif.


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