XL Popcorn – High Noon / Little Caesar

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 454/1007Title: High Noon
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Year: 1952
Country: USA

Strange it is to see two films starring Gary Cooper through complete coincidence. The fact that Wings was one of his first film roles and today’s film, High Noon, is probably his most famous role makes this all the weirder.

It is useful though to be able to make such a direct comparison. Whilst I praised Wings for its groundbreaking nature I did feel there were some parts that didn’t quite gel work for me. His role in it was of vital importance even though he did not form part of the traditional love story (although the fraternal love story was by far the more tender of the two).

In High Noon, Gary Cooper is front and centre. He plays the recently married Marshall about to leave town with his new bride (a stunning Grace Kelly whose beauty and youth make it very clear that there is a substantial age gap between the two actors) who has to fight an enemy from his past.

I say has to. He is on his way out of town with his new bride and turns back to face them. Why? He says it is because they would hunt him and his new bride down, but the real answer lays somewhere in the region of pride, honour and obligation. By the end of the film it is pretty clear that whilst the first two hold water (although I hate pride as character motivation) he no longer needs to feel any hint of obligation.

Considering the number of places where I have seen High Noon being referenced there was always going to be a chance that it would never live up to the expectation. Once Upon A Time In The West is one of those films that suffered is fate. To be honest, Hjigh Noon was probably not as good as I expected (The Ox Bow Incident still wears the crown for favourite western) it was still a great watch.

I think the thing that got me most is the fact that it is told in real time. I mean sure, there are some brilliant characters including the Marshall, his former deputy Harvey and local saloon owner Ramirez (a very strong female character), but it is the use of real time that stuck out. It just created the sense of urgency that was needed.

This urgency, however, was continually undermined by the music. Now whilst I understand every Western of that era had a repeating motif, but did it have to appear everywhere? No, it did not. It’s difficult to have a moment of tension when you use the same piece of music as during a hopeful scene. It’s a real pity.

Still, it was a great western. One that would be a good introduction to the genre since it is a little light on a lot of the typical western fare. Although, if I am being honest, I would still use Rio Bravo as a film if only for the surprisingly great turn by Dean Martin.

Title: Little Caesar
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Year: 1931
Country: USA

A shorter write-up for this movie, mainly because there was a whole lot less for me to chew over after watching it. Yes, it is a notable example of an early talkie gangster film. In fact, due to its level of success this is possibly one of the THE most influential gangster movies.

The thing is, it is so very clear that this was an early-ish talkie movie since it used a lot of things that would become pretty much extinct within the next decade. The lingering focus on bar signs and menus to denote a change of settings and the use of intertitles instead of a narrator were two of these relics.

Little Caesar is a short film which is the films main weakness – it is hard to believe that the central character of Rico (aka Little Caesar) would have had such a meteoric rise. It feels too fast, too easy and he’s just not that good at what he does. It was an interesting watch, but not as good as High Noon.

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