AFInity: High Noon
By Kim Hollis
October 16, 2009
We're a list society. From Casey Kasem and the American Top 40 to 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die to BOP's very own Best Horror Films (one of our most popular features ever), people love to talk about lists. They love to debate the merits of the "winners" and bemoan the exclusions, and start the whole process again when a new list captures pop culture fancy.
Perhaps one of the best-known, most widely discussed lists is the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Movies. A non-profit organization known for its efforts at film restoration and screen education, the AFI list of the 100 best American movies was chosen by 1,500 leaders in the movie industry and announced in its first version in 1998. Since then, the 100 Years... 100 Movies list has proven to be so popular that the AFI came forth with a 10th anniversary edition in 2007, along with other series such as 100 Heroes and Villains, 100 Musicals, 100 Laughs and 100 Thrills.
In addition to talking about which films are deserving of being on the list and bitterly shaking our fists because a beloved film was left out, we also love to brag about the number of movies we've seen. As I was looking over the 100 Years... 100 Movies list recently, I realized that I've seen 47 - less than half. As a lover of film and writer/editor for a movie site, this seemed like a wrong that needed to remedied. And so an idea was born. I would watch all 100 movies on the 2007 10th Anniversary list - some of them for the first time in as much as 20 or more years - and ponder their relevance, worthiness and influence on today's film industry. With luck, I'll even discover a few new favorites along the way.
#27: High Noon
I'd been putting off watching High Noon. Even though I'd recorded it on the TiVo a month or two ago, I just couldn't get excited about watching an old western. I didn't really know much about the film, other than a vague recollection that Grace Kelly (whom I love) is in it. It holds a pretty high position on the 100 Years... 100 Movies list, and the AFI named it the #2 Western Film. Clearly, High Noon is well-regarded amongst cinephiles. Is this acclamation deserved for a 57-year-old film set in an Old West that is more fantasy than reality in this modern world?
In fact, High Noon was an engaging and fascinating movie from its opening frames. The haunting tune "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin'" plays over the credits, and surprisingly (though I didn't realize it until further into the movie), that song tells the movie's entire story in its lyrics. As the song plays, three pretty rotten-looking guys swing through a town in the Old West, and the audience can quickly surmise that the denizens of Hadleyville know that something wicked is coming their way.