Title: High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic
Author: Glenn Frankel
Length: 317 pages (These are ‘readable’ pages discounting notes, etc.)
High Noon is my favorite movie of all time. The story of one man standing alone against all odds while everyone else cowers behind their rationalizations and fear is like poetry to me. When I came across this book completely by chance at a Barnes & Noble near Pittsburgh, I knew that I would be leaving the store with it.
However, the subtitle regarding the Hollywood blacklist concerned me a bit.
How much of the book would cover the movie versus the blacklist? What amazing stories would I hear about Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, and Llyod Bridges in this behind-the-scenes of the greatest movie ever made?
As I eventually found out, the subtitle and main title should probably be reversed. The making of High Noon is highly interwoven with the communist witch hunts of the era, but the making of the film clearly takes a backseat to the political drama. To be fair, Carl Foreman (the primary writer of the film) is thrust into the epicenter of the communist hunt when he testifies before the House Un-American Activities Committee. That being said, I still cannot shake the feeling that the focus is too far off of the movie. A great deal of the writing focuses on how the communist witch hunts destroyed the careers and lives of those affected. It is an admirable and important subject, but I feel like the High Noon title was attached to help sell the book.
The author, Glenn Frankel, does spend a considerable amount of time presenting a short biography of Gary Cooper. The stories regarding Cooper were some of the most interesting parts of the book because, in many ways, Gary Cooper is High Noon. The focus “character” of this book is really Carl Foreman. I should have expected this considering that High Noon was his baby, but I really wanted to hear more about the actors and find out about previously unknown, behind-the-scenes tidbits regarding the making of the film. There is precious little new information regarding the movie itself presented here.
The political drama that destroys the lives of so many good writers and actors for no actual reason is compelling in its own way. I am a huge history buff regarding the Salem Witch Trials, so I do appreciate the parallels here. This messages is especially applicable to today’s political climate in America, but I digress. It’s just that I was in the mood for an intensive study about my favorite movie, and I was given something else instead.
Glenn Frankel is a precise writer and does an admirable job of explaining the web of names and the political situation surrounding the Hollywood blacklist. He could have done more to shed new light on the making of High Noon and to bring more interesting facts, quotes, and interviews from the actors into his narrative. High Noon is an allegory about the blacklist, but it is also so much more. I think that Frankel missed that point.
High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic is an informed and thought-provoking study of the communist witch hunts in Hollywood. Unfortunately, it did not scratch my itch for a “tell-all” about High Noon. My rating reflects this unwelcome subversion of my expectations. I recommend the book, but the reader should be informed of the book’s true focus before picking it up.