West and the Movies
06 March 2011
The western genre during the 1950's was making a transformation of a simple tale of good versus evil to one of more complexity in exploring the hero's depth of character and moralities. Two good examples of this one extreme to another were The Searchers and High Noon. Both movies were entertaining to me, but I really enjoyed The Searcher because of its willingness to explore the human factor, such as romance and justice mixed in with revenge and hate. The movie High Noon did not explore all the complexities that come with being a human being. It was a simple tale of good versus evil. None the less both movies I found entertaining, but only one of the movie did I see an exploration into the intricacy of the human psyche.
The movie High Noon starring Gary Cooper was a simple tale of good versus evil. Will Kane was the Marshall of his simple town. The movie opens with 3 men meeting up just outside of town and headed towards the train station within the town. Will Kane was getting married this very same day to a Quaker woman. His service as town Marshall was up on his wedding day to start a new life as a married man. The three men that roamed into town were not strangers. They were there to meet up Frank
Miller on the noon train. Frank Miller had a vendetta to settle with Kane since it was Kane who sent him to prison to hang. Somehow Frank Miller got out of a hanging as well as got a pardon. It seems that our justice system has not change much from those days with so many violent criminals that are let back into society to this day. The towns' people wanted Will Kane to leave and enjoy himself as married man. Kane could not leave despite the people's unwillingness to help out Kane fight off Frank Miller. Not even his wife would support him and could not understand why he could not leave this problem unsettled. My only clue to not wanting to leave was that he did not want to have to look over his shoulder for the rest of his life. He was just like most western heroes that I have seen up that point, to not be a yellow belly and face your enemy in a gunfight. Certainly there were times when this movie made an attempt to explore Kane's character in more depth, such as when he saw his wife at the hotel and they both had the notions that they change their minds. His wife thought Kane would leave with her and Kane thought his wife stayed in town to support him. It did not turn out that way. Kane's only reaction was that he could not back away from a fight and then there was silence. If it were me I would have left town with my new wife, especially since the town was unwilling to help Kane.
My only assumption of why Kane stayed to fight was a masculinity thing of bravery. I had to assume this because Kane's only response to his wife and the towns' folk was that he could not run from a fight. Bravery is a rare quality, but so often have I seen bravery get a person killed. I am the type of person that tries to avoid trouble as best as I can unless I have no other options. Certainly Kane had this opportunity to start
a new life as a married man. A memorable line in the movie is when the town justice of the peace asked Kane to leave town and again Kane's response was he can't and doesn't say any more than that. Jane Tompkins' who wrote West of Everything talks about this. She states "Control is the keyword here. Not speaking demonstrates control not only over feelings but over one's physical boundaries as well."(Tompkins, 56). The justice of the peace last words to Kane was, "what a waste" before leaving town. Luckily for Kane he was a smarter, luckier, and a more determined gun fighter than his opponent.
The movie The Searchers starring John Wayne was