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High Noon, Hollywood’s greatest Western, directed by Fred Zinnemann, written by Carl Foreman, and produced by Stanley Kramer was released on this date in 1952, one day after Foreman’s 38th birthday. The film, ranked number 27 on the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of great films, tells the story of a newly married U.S. marshal (Gary Cooper) facing a vengeful group of gunmen on the day of his retirement who is abandoned, one by one, by allies and friends until he is forced to stand up alone for himself and for his town. Many took the film to be a criticism of McCarthyism, which was testing the loyalties and the courage of leftwing Americans, including in the film industry; yet High Noon was the favorite film of Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton, who screened it seventeen times in the White House. In fact, screenwriter Foreman had been a member of the Communist Party and was called before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee while he was writing the screenplay. He declined to “name names” and was blacklisted from the film industry after the release of High Noon. In 1956, living in Great Britain, Foreman co-wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay for The Bridge on the River Kwai, but his name was not added to the prize until 1984, the year of his death. To see the trailer for the film, look below.
“It’s the most un-American thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life. The last thing in the picture is ol’ Coop putting the United States marshal’s badge under his foot and stepping on it. I’ll never regret having helped run Foreman out of this country.” —John Wayne