High Noon is an iconic western movie that starred Montana’s own Gary Cooper. It was filmed in 1951 during the height of the Red Scare and the blacklisting of American Communist Party members in Hollywood
For Pulitzer Prize winning author Glenn Frankel, the movie was the perfect blend of Hollywood and politics of the 1950s and how the tumultuous time played a role in this great Western.
His new book, High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic focuses on the movie’s screenwriter, Carl Foreman, a member of the American Communist Party in Hollywood in the late 1930s and early ‘40s.
Foreman’s old friends and business partners are kind of peeling away from him in 1951, and with the subtle pressure being applied he begins to write a little bit of that into the script.
He is putting the finishing touches on the screenplay in June, 1951, when he gets his subpoena to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
“He begins to identify with the marshal, Will Kane, the lawman played by Gary Cooper, who we recall is about to face four bad guys who are coming to this small town to kill him,” said Frankel. “And Carl sees the House Committee as basically those bad guys and he sees himself as the marshal facing this terrible dilemma of whether to run and get away from these guys or whether to stand up and face them.”
What has intrigued Frankel is how strong the Hollywood blacklisting was and what a challenge it was for our Democracy.
“We think of our Democracy as a pretty strong vibrant thing and it is certainly," Frankel said. “But at the same time there have been moments in our history where it’s really been challenged and where sometimes it hasn’t quite lived up to our expectations. I don’t know if we’re in a moment like that now but I see some echoes back and forth.”
The movie starred Grace Kelly in her first major starring role, and Helena-born Gary Cooper, who won an Academy Award for best actor for his role in the movie. Cooper arrives in Hollywood at age 24 as an authentic cowboy because he can ride and shoot.
“He does very well, very quickly because he has an authenticity about him and a charm that I think comes a lot from his background in Montana,” said Frankel. "That helps him become a big star within a matter of three years, and he stays a star for more than 30 years.”
Frankel will share his thoughts on the movie and those times in Hollywood at a talk Wednesday, March 29, 2017, at 7:00 pm at the Montana Historical Society in Helena, Thursday night, March 30, 2017, 7:00 pm at Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, and Friday night, March 31, 2017, 6:00 pm, Western Heritage Center in Billings.
Frankel’s tour in Montana is sponsored by the Montana Historical Society.