My father and I used to watch old black and white movies on the weekends he was home. It was either westerns or musicals and one of them was High Noon starring Gary Cooper. I had no idea of any of the underlying politics back then when I was a little girl enjoying a movie with my dad. In watching it again as an adult it was a different movie.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Searchers, the revelatory story behind the classic movie High Noon and the toxic political climate in which it was created.
It’s one of the most revered movies of Hollywood’s golden era. Starring screen legend Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly in her first significant film role, High Noon was shot on a lean budget over just thirty-two days but achieved instant box-office and critical success. It won four Academy Awards in 1953, including a best actor win for Cooper. And it became a cultural touchstone, often cited by politicians as a favorite film, celebrating moral fortitude.
Yet what has been often overlooked is that High Noon was made during the height of the Hollywood blacklist, a time of political inquisition and personal betrayal. In the middle of the film shoot, screenwriter Carl Foreman was forced to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about his former membership in the Communist Party. Refusing to name names, he was eventually blacklisted and fled the United States. (His co-authored screenplay for another classic, The Bridge on the River Kwai, went uncredited in 1957.) Examined in light of Foreman’s testimony, High Noon‘s emphasis on courage and loyalty takes on deeper meaning and importance.
In this book, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Frankel tells the story of the making of a great American Western, exploring how Carl Foreman’s concept of High Noon evolved from idea to first draft to final script, taking on allegorical weight. Both the classic film and its turbulent political times emerge newly illuminated.
About the Author:
Glenn Frankel is an author and journalist, based in Arlington Virginia. His most recent position was director of the School of Journalism and G.B. Dealey Regents Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and he also spent four years as a visiting journalism professor at Stanford University. He was a longtime Washington Post reporter, editor and bureau chief in London, Southern Africa and Jerusalem, where he won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for “balanced and sensitive reporting” of Israel and the first Palestinian uprising. He later served as editor of the Washington Post Magazine.
Mr. Frankel has been a Professional Journalism Fellow at Stanford and an Alicia Patterson Fellow. His first book, Beyond the Promised Land: Jews and Arabs on the Hard Road to a New Israel, won the National Jewish Book Award. The second, Rivonia’s Children: Three Families and the Cost of Conscience in White South Africa, was a finalist for the Alan Paton Award, South Africa’s most prestigious literary prize. His latest, The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend, published by Bloomsbury, was a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller and a Library Journal Top Ten book for 2013. His new book explores the Hollywood blacklist and the making of the classic western High Noon.
Please visit glennfrankel.com where you will find info on Mr. Frankel’s
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I don’t tend to read a lot of non-fiction so the subject matter really needs to appeal to me and in the case of High Noon – it did. It’s got Hollywood, politicians behaving badly and a movie I remember watching with my father when I was a child. One of the first things I did after finishing the book was to go back and watch the movie again. It would have been nice to have had my father here to watch it with me again but I’m sure he was with me in spirit.
The book focuses on the movie High Noon but it’s really the retelling of how the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) went on its witch hunt throughout Hollywood to route out members of the Communist Party. Many had joined not out of any deep seated loyalty to Russia or “the Party” but rather as a rejection of policies that didn’t favor the working man. Many drifted out of the party without giving it a second thought not realizing the impact it would have on them later.
Then the Cold War politics of fear began and as history tells us common sense went out the window. In Hollywood the HUAC started calling in people to testify and they had limited choices if they wanted to keep working; admit they were once in a member of the Party, say they no longer were and name the names of others they knew. It was a system that survived on fear; the fear of being called, the fear of having to name the names and the fear of being named. It was a horrifying time in American history. There were no checks and balances. Even the press failed to provide a counter; the journalists of the time went along with whatever the Committee put out.
From the initial concept to the final cut I found the story of the making of High Noon to be fascinating. It almost didn’t get made and it changed as the screenwriter, Carl Foreman felt the impacts of the HUAC on his life and on Hollywood overall. He was a man committed to his ideals in a very difficult time.
Mr. Frankel’s writing style is very easy to read and I never felt like I was in a textbook. It is deeply researched and footnoted. I think it’s an important book to read so we don’t forget what can happen when things get out of control. Anyone who loves movies and is interested in the political history of the country will find this to be a fascinating book.
My High Noon Odyssey: