High Noon: A metaphor for life of some people like me II

Continuing with the plot of that marvellous film, High Noon in my attempt to demonstrate an allegory of how all those we make all attempts to help, even gambling on our life and reputation, suddenly display their disinclination to come to our aid when we most need them or even anyone. At best, they are markedly indifferent or can just offer useless advice. And at the worst, they bring out old resentments or slights – real or imagined but tending more towards the latter – or even hostility.

Let me prove it through the medium of this film.

Will visits his old flame, businesswoman Helen Ramirez (Katy Jurado), who had formerly been Miller‘s mistress. Will warns Helen about Frank, and she admits that she has sold her store and plans to depart on the noon train. In the saloon, men who enjoyed the rowdy times when Frank and his henchmen controlled the town celebrate his imminent return and refuse Will’s request for help. Will then visits the home of his friend, Sam Fuller (Henry ‘Harry’ Morgan), but as Sam listens from the next room, his wife tells Will that he is not at home.

Next, Will interrupts the church service to ask for deputies. Although several of the townspeople proclaim that it is Will who has made their town safe and decent, many of them also argue that Miller‘s impending arrival is not their problem.

Dr. Mahin, Minister (Morgan Farley): The commandments say ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ but we hire men to go out and do it for us. The right and the wrong seem pretty clear here. But if you’re asking me to tell my people to go out and kill and maybe get themselves killed, I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.

Finally, Mayor Jonas Henderson (Thomas Mitchell) declares that a gunfight would hurt the town’s image and that Will should have left when he had the chance. Stunned, Will leaves the church and asks his mentor, Martin Howe (Lon Chaney Jr), for help. Howe, once the marshal himself, has become cynical, however, and after Will exits his home, he mumbles, “It’s all for nothing, Will.”

Martin: You risk your skin catching killers and the juries turn them loose so they can come back and shoot at you again. If you’re honest you’re poor your whole life and in the end you wind up dying all alone on some dirty street. For what? For nothing. For a tin star.

Martin: People gotta talk themselves into law and order before they do anything about it. Maybe because down deep they don’t care. They just don’t care.

(First of my interjections….. As the sordid saga continues, the frequent shots of various clocks with the hands approaching noon and still shots of those involved, heighten the tension).

Harvey, now drunk, tries to force Will to leave town, but Will refuses, and the two men fight until the marshal knocks his former deputy unconscious. As noon approaches, Amy visits Helen, who assures her that there is no longer anything between herself and Will. She also reproaches the young wife for not defending her husband, but softens after Amy reveals that both her father and brother were killed in a gunfight.

In Will’s office, the only citizen – the baker, Herb (James Millican) who had willingly pinned on a deputy’s badge now backs out and goes home, leaving the marshal utterly alone.

Herb: Time’s gettin’ pretty short.
Kane: It sure is.
Herb: When are the other boys gonna get here? We gotta make plans.
Kane: The other boys? There aren’t any other boys, Herb. It’s just you and me.
Herb: [nervously smiles and chuckles] You’re jokin’.
Kane: No, I couldn’t get anybody.
Herb: I don’t believe it. This town ain’t that low.
Kane: I couldn’t get anybody.
Herb: Then it’s just you and me.
Kane: I guess so.
Herb: You and me against Miller and all the rest of them?
Kane: That’s right. Do you want out, Herb?
Herb: Well, it isn’t that I want out, no. You see. Look, I’ll tell ya the truth. I didn’t figure on anything like this, Will.
Kane: Neither did I.
Herb: I volunteered. You know I did. You didn’t have to come to me. I was ready. Sure, I’m ready now – but this is different, Will. This ain’t like what you said it was gonna be. This is just plain committing suicide and for what? Why me? I’m no lawman. I just live here. I got nothin’ personal against nobody. I got no stake in this.
Kane: I guess not.
Herb: There’s a limit how much you can ask a man. I got a wife and kids. What about my kids?
Kane: Go on home to your kids, Herb.

Will writes his last will and testament, then enters the deserted street – this was another unforgettable moment immortalised by the crane shot. The shot backs up and rises, and we see Will totally alone and isolated on the street – deserted by the entire town, not to mention his wife too? – as Amy and Helen drive a wagon toward the train station. The train arrives, and as Miller disembarks, the two women get on board.

To be continued….


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