GLENN FRANKEL. High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic. Hardcover. Bloomsbury Publishing. Hardcover, 400 pages, $28. www.bloomsbury.com
You may know Glenn Frankel from his previous book The Searchers, which earned praise for its meticulously researched, nuanced account of the real-life 19th-century kidnapping that inspired the 1955 John Wayne film. Now, Frankel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, returns with High Noon which explores the making of the classic Western High Noon and the toxic political climate in which it was created.
High Noon, starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, has become embedded in our culture and our national memory. It is a story that features all the archetypal traits of Western machismo—loyalty, courage, and determination against evil—and it’s one of the best-loved films of Hollywood’s golden age. The lesser known story is that it was written by Carl Foreman, a former Communist who intended it to be a parable about the Hollywood blacklist.
While making the film, Foreman was forced to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities about his former membership in the Communist Party. When he refused to name names of fellow party members, he was fired by his friend and business partner, Stanley Kramer. Gary Cooper tried to come to Foreman’s defense, but the screenwriter was blacklisted and forced into self-imposed exile. John Wayne, one of the leaders of the movement to cleanse Hollywood of purported Communists, later said he would “never regret having helped run Foreman out of this country.”
Ultimately High Noon is the story of some of Hollywood’s most gifted artists—Carl Foreman, Stanley Kramer, director Fred Zinnemann, and Gary Cooper among them—and how their creative partnership was both influenced and crushed by political repression.